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The best beaches along the French Riviera.

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The best beaches to visit in the French Riviera

With 75 miles of coastline and more than 25 miles of beaches, the Côte d’Azur is a perennial favourite cruising ground for the superyacht crowd. But while most tourists flock to the beaches in Cannes and Nice, some strands of sand still remain overlooked and known only to the cognoscenti. Drop anchor and take the tender ashore to experience the real charm of the glorious French Riviera.

Portet Cove, Sainte Marguerite, Iles de Lérins

The small beach in Portet Cove is just one of the pretty beaches that can be found tucked into the coastline around Saint Marguerite – the small island lying opposite Cannes.

Access to the island is exclusively for the waterborne, so the beaches away from the main port, like Portet on the south coast, are uncrowded.


Portet Cove is the furthest beach and remains the least frequented by day tourists arriving by ferry. Backed by sweet-smelling pine forests and lapped by waters teeming with marine life, the beach itself is pebble stone (beach shoes are highly recommended).

Recommended – A floating beach bar is generally here serving ice cold refreshment and is well worth a visit.

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Plage de la Bocca, Cannes

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Lying just outside of Cannes, Plage de la Bocca is a quieter alternative to the bustling Cannes Croisette.

Littered with the large red rocks of the Estérel Massif, which forms a backdrop, it is a perfect vantage point to view the yachts anchored in the bay of Cannes and over to the Iles de Lérins.
 

Recommended – As the sun begins to lower in the sky, tender back to your yacht and look back to the beach and the Estérel Massif behind.

The red rocks light up as the sun sets, providing a stunning show as they seemingly disappear into the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Plage Mala, Cap d’Ail

One of the most beautiful beaches, and easily the most stylish of hideaways along the French Riviera, is Plage Mala. This stretch of golden sand is tucked away beneath the cliffs below the railway.

Despite its proximity to Monaco, the public beach areas remain relatively quiet, even in the height of summer, due to its very limited access via the tricky downhill approach from Avenue Princesse Grace.

It rarely gets very busy and is therefore perfect for the waterborne arriving by tender.
 

Recommended – Lunch at La Réserve de la Mala beneath the linen-shaded booths on the sun deck. As cool as they come.

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Plage Notre Dame, Porquerolles

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Lapped by transparent azure waters and framed by pine forests, the beach of Notre Dame on the island of Porquerolles is widely considered to be one of the finest in the whole of the Western Med.

Its isolated location and distance from the island’s main port ensures that it escapes the crowds that arrive by ferry from the mainland.

The beach itself is a mix of pebbles and sand, but a sandbank lies just a few feet from the shoreline, making it perfect for young children to play in the shallows.
 

Recommended – Arrive mid-afternoon and you might be lucky enough to have the beach to yourself as most of the visitors take the 30-minute hike to catch their ferry back to the mainland.

Plage de la Réserve, Nice

While berthed in the Port of Nice, take a stroll to the town’s small beaches Bains Militaires, Coco Beach, and in between Plage de la Réserve, just visible bottom right in this photo.

The latter is a small pebble beach with views over the Cap de Nice – a great place to enjoy an early morning coffee and enjoy a slice of Niçoise life (locals come for an early morning swim from the tiny beach) as the yachts and boats (and Corsica ferries) come and go.


Recommended – Make reservations for dinner at the iconic Le Plongeoir which hovers on the coastline's most famous pillar of rock. The unique setting first opened as a restaurant in the late 19th century, and has had many faces, including a diving platform. Today the diving boards remain as a symbol of its heritage, while the restaurant gives this stunning setting a new lease of life.

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Paloma Beach, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

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Set on the exclusive Cap Ferrat peninsula, Paloma Beach and the beach club of the same name has long been a favourite choice for the yachting crowd. Cruise from Monaco, admiring the beauty of the French Riviera villas and gardens as you head for the prestigious anchorage.

In keeping with the old school Riviera chic that goes hand in hand with this location (think Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat 1950s glamour), the family-owned Paloma Beach club is an elegant restaurant serving fresh fish and fabulous salads, and very popular with locals and Monégasque residents.
 

Recommended – Discover La Cave de Sophie in Saint-Jean run by French vintner Bruno, and select some of the best wines of the region to enjoy back on board.

Plage des Marinieres, Villefranche

The wide expanse of tiny pebbles at Plage des Marinieres, seen in the foreground here, are far more welcoming than the skimpy strip of sand on Villefranche’s main beach.

Although the beach can be busy during peak season, its sheltered setting protects it from blustery winds, and provides a spot to tender ashore from a stunning anchorage in the bay.
 

Recommended – Active charterers can take the footpath around the peninsula past some of Europe’s most impressive homes.

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Plage de Passable, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

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Nestling into the rockface on the north-west side of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, and looking out to Villefranche, Plage de Passable is a small golden crescent of lightly pebbled sand.

The shallow crystal waters that lap the beach are perfect for snorkelling, while the beach slopes gently, allowing for safe swimming for families with younger children. Slightly off the beaten track, the beach is not visible from the road and so remains relatively quiet.
 

Recommended – Spend a few hours walking the footpath around the Cap, locally known as ‘Le Tour du Cap’. From the port, you pas the Grand Hotel and then walk past Paloma Beach to the lighthouse and around to Passable before returning to the village of Cap Ferrat.

Plage de la Garoupe, Cap d’Antibes

A short hop along from the exclusive Cap d’Antibes, the perfect bay of La Garoupe has some of the finest sand to be found along the coastline. Boasting more history than many of its neighbouring stretches of sand, the beach was first cleaned up in the 1920s by an American socialite couple in order to attract the wealthy to its shores. It is said that Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Picasso were just a few of the famous people who came to attend glittering parties and enjoy the beach with its charming outlook.

Today it is busy during peak season, with small boats and large yachts anchored in the crystal-clear waters, while ashore a number of sophisticated beach clubs spill onto the sand, their private piers welcoming well-heeled guests to enjoy a long lazy lunch ashore.
 

Recommended – Reserve a table at Plage Keller in La Garoupe and enjoy a long, lazy lunch on the beach.

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