With 75 miles of coastline and more than 25 miles of beaches, the French Riviera 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 - indeed some are so secret that photography is hard to find. 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 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 pebblestone (beach shoes are highly recommended).
Recommended – A floating beach bar is generally here serving ice cold refreshment and is well worth a visit.
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. 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.
Plage Notre Dame, Porquerolles
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.
Paloma Beach, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat
Located on the Mediterranean’s most affluent spit of land with nothing but palatial villas perched above it, this tree-dappled stretch of sand attracts the superyacht set during the summer months. Anchor just 100 metres offshore and jump into the crystal clear waters here that are great for snorkelling. Then take the tender in to the shallow waters for lunch at the Paloma Beach Club – the perfect setting for lunch under the parasols.
Recommended – Stretch your legs after lunch by navigating the footpath that leads around the rocky cap of Paloma Point and circles back to the beach.
Plage de Passable, Villefranche
The wide expanse of tiny pebbles at Plage de Passable 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.
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.