The South of France is both sensational and world-renowned when it comes to luxurious, fabulous beaches. Thanks to Brigitte Bardot, the rich and famous have made the French Riviera their playground, with places such as Cannes and St Tropez gaining iconic status.
The South of France beaches don’t just look incredible. They put relaxation front and central, through balmy breezes, near-guaranteed sun in the summer months, and outstanding facilities. The Côte d’Azur is where you’ll find the best beaches in the South of France. But all in all, there are thousands of kilometres of coastline and beaches to explore here. So, assuming you don’t have months in which to explore them all, which are the best beaches in the South of France?
Grab your SPF, roll up your beach towel, and head out to one of these fabulous South of France beaches:
1. Grande Plage, Hendaye
Let the gentle waves crash as you enjoy taking glorious photos of the impressive Twin Rock outcrops jutting up just out from the shore.
The Grande Plage at Hendaye is, as its name suggests, big. Indeed, it’s 3km of blissfully sandy beach nestling up towards the Spanish border in the South West of France. It’s a gentle and relaxing beach with lots of wide open space – perfect for a leisurely stroll, a game of Frisbee with the family, or simply ensuring you have plenty of space from your beach neighbours!
There’s a gentle slope to the sea and as such there are some waves here, making it perfect for bodyboarding and surfing. It’s a clean, friendly and lifeguarded beach, but do be aware that there’s a nudist spot (quite near the Twin Rocks)!
Nearby are lots of facilities including restaurants and cafes. You can even hop over the border (well, take the ferry) to Hondarribia on the Spanish side for a spot of lunch.
How to get there: There’s a car park right at the end of Boulevard de la Mar next to the Port. This positions you at the far end of the beach. There are also other options along the seafront. There are good bus services here too.
2. Plage de Portissol, Sanary-sur-Mer
I’ve got to be honest; this is a busy beach if you pick a weekend or holiday. But it’s really worth including because it is so beautiful. You can avoid the crowds by coming later in the day for a sundowner, or picking a day slightly out of season if you get lucky with the weather.
The Plage de Portissol is probably everything you imagine with South of France beaches. The natural bay, which you’ll find to the west of Toulon, has a sparkly dazzling sea. Here, nature is working as intended, and the natural sea grasses snuggle up alongside the sand. It’s all very picturesque and ideal for snorkelling. Bear in mind it’s pebbly!
If you’re after a little bit of fun amidst your sun worshipping, there’s a diving board which means you can leap into the sea at its deepest point.
How to get there: You can wander down to the beach from the harbour in Sanary (where there are lots of restaurants to choose from) following the Avenue de Portissol. It gets busy, so get there early, but there’s also a free car park above the beach.
3. Valras Plage, near Béziers
For wide open sandy expanses, you can’t go wrong with Valras Plage. It’s huge, so although it’s popular, you can handle the crowds here and still find plenty of space.
This is definitely a family friendly beach, but also very popular with older teens and twenty-somethings. There’s a summer amusement park alongside which of course draws the crowds, as do the plentiful bars and restaurants. The facilities here are top-notch, as you’d expect from such a popular beach.
How to get there: The beach is 4km long, with various access points from the town.
4. Plage de Sylvabelle, La Croix Valmer
A picturesque balance of sand and pebbles, with the fabulous backdrop of an ochre headland, you’ll really love Plage de Sylvabelle.
Because it’s not the easiest beach to get to (you need to be able to navigate some steep rocky steps), it means it never gets too crowded. It’s perfect for those of us who can pack up everything needed for a day at the beach into a simple tote and just get on with the job of relaxing.
There are pebbles here, but there is also plenty of sand and it is fine sand too. There aren’t any facilities, but that could be just what you’re looking for!
How to get there: In La Croix Valmer find the car park by the roundabout (there’s a pizzeria right there). Here you can find a dirt track that heads towards the beach. You’ll then need to walk down the steep rocky steps (the view is worth it!).
5. Plage des Marinières, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Everyone loves this beach because it’s sandy, it’s beautiful and it’s easy to get to. The beach follows the curve of the bay and you’ll spend your entire visit scanning the bay commenting on how lovely it is!
The entire beach is public and really accessible. It’s quite narrow which means the chances of losing children are low! There are lifeguards on duty too. The sea laps in on a shallow drop off making it perfect for paddling, but you can wade out for a swim if you’re feeling more ambitious.
Many people head here to avoid the intensity of Nice, but realistically you’ll get some crowds here too. It’s not hugely peaceful, as the mainline train going from Nice to Italy runs past, but there’s a good vibe and it’s lively and fun.
How to get here: The train line is great for access to the beach as there’s the Villefranche-sur-Mer stop right next to the beach, so you won’t need your own transport. However, if you come by car, there’s a road which is closed off and used for parking between the station and the beach.
6. Plage Rayol-Canadel
If you come to Plage Rayol-Canadel I wholeheartedly recommend you visit in the evening to bask in the glorious sunset panoramas of Cap Nègre. This peninsula is the visual focus of the beach. This beach provides the golden sands of the South of France that you’ve dreamed of.
If you feel inclined, you can hire a sun lounger at the Club Tropicana, which is as vibrant and buzzy as its name sounds. Plenty of cocktails to choose from here! Alternatively, you’re able to simply lay out your towel and get your tan on.
How to get there: There’s not much parking, and if you fancy a drink then it’s easier to take public transport anyway. There are buses along the D559 coastal road. When you arrive, follow the signs to Club Tropicana – you’ll walk down a steep hill and finish up at the beach.
7. Paloma Beach, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Paloma Beach, which sits between Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer to the east of Nice, is exactly what you are looking for when you come to the South of France in search of Riviera beaches.
Paloma Beach is a beach club frequented by exclusive and prestigious residents. It’s awash with luxury properties and definitely a spot for people watching. Owing to its location, you’ll find a number of the day trippers have simply hopped on their yacht and come over from Monaco!
The astounding views, and the decadent vibe, make a trip to Paloma worth it. What’s more, you aren’t only able to visit if you’re accessing the beach club. There’s half of the beach left for the rest of us. Bear in mind though, this is a place to splash your cash! Even hiring a sunbed is a tad pricey!
How to get there: You can catch the number 15 bus, or MR04 train, both of which bring you close to Paloma. Of course, a yacht would be the preferred transportation!
8. Baie de Paulilles, Port-Vendres
You won’t find golden sands here, but you will find beautiful scenery and one other huge draw: fabulous snorkelling. Rarely is there a crowd here and that makes this a super-attractive beach in my book.
The sea life here is the huge draw and that’s why, when you get here, you’ll find that everyone is in the sea with their snorkel on. You’ll find it hard to pull yourself away for drinks, lunch, and the end of the day!
How to get here: The easiest place to park is actually at Bernadi beach. Then follow the coastal path along towards Cape Béar. For an easier option, the local bus actually stops right next to the beach.
9. Calanque D’En Vau, Cassis
Ok, so this one’s a bit of a secret and I’m passing it on because it’s just fabulous. Calanque D’En Vau is a rocky little cove that nestles in between these impressive limestone cliffs. The sea here is unbelievably beautiful with an intense turquoise shade (thanks to the limestone!). It’s astoundingly beautiful, you won’t be battling with the crowds, but there’s a catch: it’s difficult to get to!
How to get there: There’s a really lovely and relaxing hike which takes around 1h 30 min along the coast to get here. An alternative is to hire a kayak from Cassis and paddle in. The views, as you can imagine, are worth the extra effort.
10. Argelès North, Argelès
Are you looking for a sweeping sandy beach that’s vast and open with stunning scenery? Argelès North is it! It’s a simple, natural, and beautiful beach without airs and graces close to the seaside resorts of Collioure and Perpignan. It’s family-friendly, relaxed, and just a wonderful place to be.
Unsurprisingly, lots of people dub this beach their favourite in the whole of the area. The water here is generally crystal clear, the sand slides between your toes, and there are even views out over the Pyrenees.
I highly recommend walking a little beyond the main thoroughfare to set up camp for the day and you’ll get the beauty of this wonderful beach without the crowds.
How to get there: Argelès North is a 10 minute drive from Collioure. I recommend arriving by car as the train station is 2km from the beach, which is a long walk at the end of a beach day! In summer there are five different car parks all situated along the seafront that you pay for. There are a further 15-odd car parks that are free, but obviously trickier to get into!
11. Gruissan Plage, Narbonne
Golden sands, huge expanses, and a wonderful quaint fishing village backdrop make Gruissan Plage one of the best beaches in the South of France. Gruissan Plage sits within a regional park and is overlooked by a fantastic medieval tower adding to the atmosphere.
The beach, of course, is the main draw, but the beach isn’t complete without the picturesque marinas of Gruissan and the iconic 1300 chalets on stilts! There are lots of opportunities for water sports here, if you can drag yourself away from the sand.
Gruissan is particularly lively in May when there is a three day festival – expect brass bands, parties and concerts. All year around there’s plenty of nightlife here too. This is also the perfect spot to enjoy some seafood delicacies, such as mussels and sardines.
How to get there: From the Narbonne-Est motorway exit you need to head 14km to Narbonne. From the A9 take the D168 then D32 right into Gruissan. There are signs to Gruissan Plage.
12. Plage Notre-Dame, Porquerolles
It’s another slightly tricky one to get to, but the astoundingly beautiful island of Porquerolles and its equally beautiful Plage Notre-Dame, is worthy of the effort.
The glorious cove feels cosy and exclusive, especially as you won’t be battling with the crowds. Fortunately, this wonderful spot has various preservation orders in place, keeping it as natural as can be. That’s why there’s no development or cars here!
Make sure you bring your snorkelling gear because this place isn’t just a paradise on the land. Leisurely swim out a little and you’ll have a snorkelling feast for the eyes just beneath the surface of the azure waters.
As you’d expect, there aren’t any facilities here, so come fully prepared with everything you need.
How to get there: At the ferry point on Porquerolles you can hire a bike and enjoy a cycle over the island to Plage Notre-Dame. You can get a ferry to the island from La Croix Valmer, Cavalaire-sur-Mer, Le Lavandou, and Hyères.
So there you have it – my recommendations for the best beaches in South of France. Do you have any favourites? Let me know in the comments or on social media!