If you’ve spent anytime at all in the Cote d’Azur, you will know that the beautiful beaches and crystal clear seas stretch for miles. There are no shortages of places to sunbathe, swim or snorkel. When Chris and I lived in the Loire, we spent our days off exploring as many of the local Chateaux as we possibly could. When we first arrived in the Cote d’Azur, I thought we would spend our days off similarly exploring local towns, museums and places of interest. While we have done a little bit of that, we have also spent many of our days off exploring the local beaches.
The best advice for anyone wanting to explore the beaches here is to pack a picnic, hop in your car or on your bike and head down the coastal road (D559) that goes from Bormes-les-Mimosas to Cannes and beyond. The drive along this road is a pleasure as the scenery is incredible. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road! Then, simply pull over as and when a spot takes your fancy. One thing that has surprised me about this area is that many of the beaches have free parking. Although it may be tricky to find a parking spot in August, the rest of the time you should have no problem at all.
I adore beach life and want to offer full disclosure that this post is very much a work in progress. If you disagree with anything I’ve said, please feel free to let me know as I am always open to trying out new beaches! I fully intend to add to this post in future, but for now here are some of my suggestions of the best beaches in and around the Gulf of St Tropez.
Best Beach For Snorkelling
Plage de Bonporteau, Cavalaire-sur-Mer
Situated in the pretty town of Cavalaire-sur-Mer, this small beach is perfect for snorkelling. Positioned between two outcrops of rock, it feels slightly like a private beach. The water here is calm with plenty of interesting fish and sealife, particularly around the outcrops of rock, making it ideal for both swimming and snorkelling. It’s slightly hidden away, down a steep footpath, but worth the short walk from the main road. The only facilities on the beach are a free public toilet and an ice-cream & doughnut stand, which make you feel a little like you’ve managed to escape the major tourist traps. Park for free at the side of the road, just by the campsite, Camping Bonporteau. Just a little side note, I was advised that Plage de l’Escalet in Ramatuelle is also great for snorkelling, however I didn’t love this beach and probably won’t go back. It was incredibly busy and we had to park quite a way from the actual beach because the car park was completely full. It wasn’t a windy day, but the water was very rough and as there are many outcrops of rocks, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable swimming in the sea, even though I am a pretty strong swimmer.
Best Beach for People Watching
Plage de Pampelonne, Ramatuelle
I know that there is absolutely no originality in including Pampelonne Beach here, but there is a reason why this place is so popular. I absolutely love this beach and plan to go back many more times before the season ends! The sand is soft and golden and the water is crystal clear, but it is also very still most of the time, making it ideal for swimming. One of my favourite things about this beach is that it, unsurprisingly, doesn’t feel pretentious at all. Yes, many people arrive at this beach by yacht or helicopter and spend hundreds of euros on lunch. However, you can also turn up with a towel and picnic and feel completely at home. If you aren’t arriving by yacht, I’d advise driving to the beach and parking at Boulevard Patch. It’s just €4.50 euros per day to park and the car park is right next to the famous Club 55, with it’s own boat service to collect customers that arrive by yacht. This is the ideal spot for people watching and, if you’re lucky, celeb spotting.
Best Beaches To Avoid The Crowds
Private Beaches, Plage de la Nartelle, Sainte Maxime
There are a whole host of private beach bars just outside Sainte Maxime as you head towards Les Issambres. As you have to pay to use some parts of the beach, they are understandably, a little quieter than most. I wasn’t expecting to be impressed, but I really enjoyed going to a beach that wasn’t overly crowded in August. We went to Buddha Beach and paid €22 each for the whole day. For that price, you get a sunlounger, parasol and table. I am not usually a fan of private beaches, preferring to just rock up with a towel, but my husband isn’t a beach lover at all and this was a great way to get him to the beach. The table service definitely helped to persuade him! The drinks weren’t too pricey, either. Chris had a pint of beer and I had my new favourite drink, menthe à l’eau, (pronounced mon-tah-low!) for just €12. If we were to go back we would probably try one of the other beach bars, such as Le Prao Plage, Plage les Elephants or Mahi-Plag