The Dreamiest Beaches in the South of France

Ella Butcher | Live the World

August 17, 2023

Whether you want to live it up at a chic beach club or prefer to be hidden off the beaten track, we’ve got some great holiday inspo.

Fantasising about escaping to a sun-drenched destination where you can bury your toes in golden sand, go for a dip in crystal clear waters and soak up the sun? Look no further than the South of France, a popular holiday destination amongst sun-seekers, and for good reason. France is known for its diverse landscape and is home to picturesque countryside, snowy mountains and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. On the southern coast, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Occitanie regions face into the calm Mediterranean Sea, whilst south-western Nouvelle Aquitaine region faces into the Atlantic Ocean, whose wild waves make for a surfer’s paradise.

Between the glamorous French Riviera, surf-friendly Atlantic coast and natural beauty of the Mediterranean coast, every type of sun-seeker is sure to be satisfied. Whilst the beaches in the South of France can be varied, what they all have in common is crystal water, brilliant sunlight and chilled vibes. In addition to pristine beaches, the South of France is home to cultural heritage and charming towns. We’ve included some classic South of France spots, as well as a few secluded ones. Read on to be plunged into our selection of the dreamiest, sun-drenched beaches that France has to offer.

1. Plage des Marinières, Villefranche-sur-Mer

When you arrive in Villefranche-sur-Mer you will immediately be struck by the stunning turquoise water which fills the bay and calmly laps onto the Plage des Marinières, a narrow beach which enjoys views over the town and out to sea. Just a stone’s throw away from the town and its numerous restaurants, hotels and bars, this is an ideal destination for sunbathing and swimming, and thanks to its shallow waters, is an ideal place for little ones to have a paddle. Soak up the sun and the slow-paced way of life as you watch boats and paddle boarders enter the bay. Easily accessible by train from Nice in under 10 minutes, it’s a must-do day trip if you’re staying in the city, but the town is equally worth staying in as a main holiday destination. Once you arrive at the train station, head down the signposted steps and you’re pretty much there! During the peak season it can get quite busy here, but if you can grab a spot, it is so worth it.

Where to Stay

Budget: Hotel La Regence

Bright guest rooms with sea and garden views in a hotel with an on-site bar and terrace.

Luxury: Welcome Hotel

Air-conditioned rooms just 400 metres from the beach with a balcony overlooking Cap Ferrat Bay. Enjoy a panoramic sea view and a selection of cocktails and local wines on the hotel’s terrace.

2. Plage de Carras, Nice

Photo by Lazar Krstić

One of the more famous beaches of this list, Plage de Carras is a lively pebble beach which sits on Nice’s coast, bordering the Old Town and the city’s other southern neighbourhoods. Sat just behind is the Promenade des Anglais, a palm tree lined and bar filled walkway that stretches around the coastline and leads you to the port area in the east of the city.

The beach’s close proximity to the centre means this beach is perfect for a tranquil sunrise swim and visit to the Marché aux Fleurs in the Cours Saleya, an outdoor market selling fresh-cut flowers, yummy food and other local produce, but if you aren’t so much of an early bird you can enjoy other activities like sunbathing, jet skiing or playing beach volleyball on the beach’s courts. At night the area comes alive and is filled with a buzzy atmosphere as people have a drink on the beach, get ice cream, or go for an evening stroll. A great place for people watching! As Nice is the touristic hub of the Côte d’Azur, you will find many day trips from the city, just like this amazing Speed Boat Day Trip with Snorkelling in Villefranche Bay.

Where to Stay

Budget: Hôtel Vendôme

A charming hotel in a 19th century building located 10 minutes away from the beach.

Mid-range: Maison Durante

Stylish rooms with air conditioning in the heart of Nice.

Luxury: Hôtel Apollinaire Nice

Contemporary rooms in a luxurious, centrally located hotel with a dining room and terrace.

3. Plage de la Baie des Milliardaires, Antibes

Photo by Josephine S

Plage de la Baie des Milliardaires, translated as “Billionaire’s Bay” is a secluded little haven and meeting place of prestigious yachts on the southern side of Cap d’Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. Its shimmering water and glowing golden rocks make it, in our opinion, the most beautiful beach on Cap d’Antibes. Cool story - the beach is also known as l’Anse de l’Argent Faux, meaning “Fake Money Bay”, as it is said that the bay is so rich in fish that when the sun is shining the shining silvery skin can give the impression that the sea bed is covered in glistening coins! Although the bay is unfortunately not filled with coins, Plage de la Baie des Milliardaires is still the perfect hidden treasure at the end of a scenic, approximately 5 km coastal walk from La Garoupe which provides gorgeous views of the wild landscape, including the Mercantour National Park and the Estérel mountains. Follow the rocky path until you uncover the hidden gem of Billionaire’s Bay and enjoy your well-deserved rest.

Where to Stay

Budget: Hôtel de l’Étoile

Comfortable, air-conditioned rooms in the centre of Antibes.

Mid-range: Hôtel Josse

A sea-side hotel offering Mediterranean-style rooms with air conditioning and sea views.

Luxury: Hôtel La Villa Port d’Antibes & Spa

Modern hotel located in the heart of central Antibes with an outdoor pool, terrace and wellness centre.

4. Plage de la Mala, Cap d’Ail

Photo by Thierry Llansades

Hailed by some as the prettiest beach on the Côte d’Azur, the Plage de la Mala is in a small cove nestled amongst rocky cliffs and lush vegetation, and is made up of a public beach as well as two fine private beaches with restaurants Eden Plage Mala and La Mala Reserve where you can enjoy a cocktail on the beach, rent a lounge chair or get a massage. Pure luxury.

Plage de la Mala can be found in the charming coastal town of Cap d’Ail, conveniently located between Monaco and Nice - you can actually walk to Monaco from the left hand side of the beach! Whilst you won’t find many water sports activities here, the pillars on the left side of the beach are perfect for diving and cliff jumping and the calm, protected water is perfect for swimming. Cap d’Ail is easily accessible by bus or train, but bear in mind that the route to the beach consists of an approximately 10 minute walk and a 100 step descent or the pine and palm tree lined coastal path that runs along the shore. Showers and toilets are provided on Plage de la Mala, so once you arrive at this little sun-drenched haven you can get lost in the glistening water and forget about the outside world.

Where to Stay

Mid-range: Hôtel Eze Hermitage entre Nice et Monaco

A charming hotel with rustic décor and panoramic countryside views located in the medieval village of Èze.

Luxury: Riviera Mariott Hotel La Porte De Monaco

Located 10 metres away from the Monaco border and 50 metres away from private beaches, this modern hotel also benefits from an outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre.

5. Plage des Sablettes, Menton

Photo by SlimMars

Sheltered by rock jetties, Plage des Sablettes enjoys calm waters and beautiful scenic views over the Italian mountains. You will find it on the east side of the city centre, in front of the charming old town and a wide, recently pedestrianised promenade filled with restaurants, bars and shops, from which you can climb the winding steps to reach the Baroque style 17th century basilica and the characterful old town. For stunning views of Menton and its charming buildings in all their pastel pink, yellow and orange glory, take a short walk along the beach, where a perfect photo op is made even more special when the sun sets over the buildings and reflects into the shimmering water. It is as beautiful as it sounds!

Menton is located within touching distance of the Italian border and you can definitely feel an intermingling of the French and Italian cultures in this sunny town, which is filled with a Dolce-Vita type atmosphere. Much of the architecture here is reminiscent of Italian coastal towns (think Portofino and Cinque Terre) and as you wander through the streets it isn’t uncommon to hear people communicating in Italian as well as French.

Where to Stay

Budget: Ibis Styles Menton Centre

Contemporary, spacious guest rooms in the heart of Menton with breakfast included.

Mid-range: Hôtel Le Dauphin

Guest rooms in a beachfront hotel with an on-site restaurant and breakfast terrace with a sea view.

Luxury: Hôtel Riva Art & Spa

Modern, air-conditioned rooms each with a private terrace in a hotel with a spa, bar-lounge and sun terrace.

6. Plage du Larvotto, Monaco

Photo by Kurayba

Although this is technically not the South of France, Monaco is so easy to visit as it is bordered by France on three sides and is located right in the heart of the Côte d’Azur. In addition to being one of the smallest countries in the world, it is one of the most affluent and densely populated, and is worth visiting if you are in the region and want to tick another country off your list. Plage du Larvotto is a man made city beach on the eastern side of Monaco’s Mediterranean coastline. Look one way and you’ll see crystal clear water stretching as far as the eye can see; look the other and your eyes will be met with the impressive Monaco skyline, as well as the Avenue Princesse Grace, one of the top 5 most expensive residential streets in the world, which runs behind the beach.

Needless to say, a trip to Monaco provides an insight into the opulence and luxurious lifestyle often associated with the Côte d’Azur. As well as sipping champagne and living your best life on the beach, why not get your glad rags on and pay a visit to the famous Monte Carlo Casino, a well-known filming location for several James Bond films? Grand-Prix fans can geek out over the infamously hard circuit where the Formula 1 World Championship is held every year in late May or early June. If you’re staying in Nice, book a spot on this Guided Tour which will take you to Èze and Monaco and where you can experience everything we’ve just mentioned with the expertise of a private tour guide.

Where to Stay

Luxury: Hôtel Columbus Monte Carlo

Luxuriously decorated rooms in a recently renovated boutique hotel with an all-day dining restaurant, heated outdoor pool and lifestyle bar.

Super Luxury: Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort

Individually decorated rooms in a luxury hotel boasting 4 restaurants and 4 hectares of gardens on the seafront, as well as a spa, lagoon and gym.

7. Plage de la Croisette, Cannes

Photo by Ella Butcher

If you want to experience the true glitz and glamour associated with the Côte d’Azur, Cannes is the place to be. The town’s glitzy reputation partly comes down to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, which attracts hundreds of the most famous faces on the planet in May every year to celebrate international cinema. The Plage de la Croisette is just steps away from the Palais de Festivals et des Congrès, which is where the famous Cannes red carpet is laid out on the steps and the beach is often a backdrop for star-studded gatherings and celebrity instagram pictures. Expect stretches of white sand and sun loungers bordered on one side by turquoise water and on the other by the boulevard de la Croisette, which is lined with luxury boutiques and cafes. The chic vibes are continued on the beach with numerous exclusive beach clubs filled with sun seekers lining the shores. Plage de la Croisette isn’t just for those looking to top up their tan, though. The watersports centre offers a huge variety of activities in the Bay of Cannes including jet skiing, water skiing, wakeboarding and kayaking.

Where to Stay

Budget: Hotel Molière

Located a 2 minute walk from the Promenade de la Croisette, this hotel offers characterful, air-conditioned rooms, most of which have a private balcony.

Mid-range: Villa Claudia Hotel Cannes

A 19th century villa offering stylish rooms and a private garden and terrace in the centre of Cannes.

Luxury: Five Seas Hotel Cannes

Spacious, contemporary rooms in a stylish hotel boasting a 13 metre outdoor swimming pool, a rooftop terrace and spa.

8. Plage de l’Espiguette, Le Grau-du-Roi

Photo by Guah

The Plage de l’Espiguette is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the Languedoc region, situated near Montpellier, one of France’s biggest student cities, and its unspoilt beauty provides a serene experience. Known for its white sand dunes, whose high ecological value is protected from the sea, wind and tourists by the easily recognisable wooden fences, this wild beach isn’t packed with beach bars or restaurants, whilst the handful that are there rent out beach beds, paddle boards and pedalos.

The beach has been a protected site since 1998 as it is home to a wide array of flora and fauna. Speaking of nature, for those who want the full au-natural experience, there is a naturist section at the south end of the beach. Coming to Plage de l’Espiguette really does feel like a breath of fresh air, particularly because the vast 10 km stretch of sand means that it never feels packed and because the only large building visible from the beach is the lighthouse. If you’re not so interested in water activities, a relaxing horse ride along the beach is a great way to discover the coastline. Horse riding is quite a popular activity on Plage de l’Espiguette and there are several ranches nearby who provide tours. If you want to admire the local wildlife and landscapes, try this Half Day 4x4 Guided Safari Adventure, on which you can see pink flamingos, horses, bulls and taste local foods and wines too.

Where to Stay

Budget: Studio Climatisé à 5 minutes de la Plage

A contemporary studio with air conditioning, balcony and kitchenette situated a 5 minute walk from the beach.

Mid-range: Hôtel Café Miramar

Bright rooms in a sea-facing hotel with a private beach and continental breakfast.

Luxury: Marina Appartement sur l’Eau

Beachfront property offering 2 bedrooms, a terrace with a sea view, private beach area and private parking.

9. Plage Notre-Dame, Île de Porquerolles

Photo by Julien Sabardu

Elected the “prettiest beach in Europe” in 2015, Plage Notre-Dame is an utter gem of the Mediterranean sea located on the northeastern side of the picturesque island of Île de Porquerolles, just off the coast of Hyères. To get here you will need to catch the 10 minute ferry from Hyères, which runs every 30 minutes or so. Even though it’s just off the French Riviera, the fine sand, tranquil waters and lush vegetation on this beach could fool anyone into thinking that they’ve been washed up on Caribbean shores.

The rest of the island is equally breathtaking, with the southern side being home to cliffs and hidden creeks and the centre housing a charming little village lined with cobblestone streets. There are almost too many scenic viewing points and hidden beaches to count, but the abundance of trails for hiking and biking offer beautiful views of the coastline, as well as leading you through olive groves, vineyards & Mediterranean vegetation. The island is part of Port-Cros national park which makes large conservation efforts to preserve the natural environment and biodiversity of the land and its waters, making this a true unspoilt paradise.

Where to Stay

Budget: Logement Avec Deux Vélos

An ideally located 1 bedroom apartment in the heart of Hyères featuring a kitchen with an oven and microwave.

Mid-range: Le Bor

Hotel facing the Port Cros and Porquerolles islands with a bar, restaurant and terrace.

Luxury: L’Oustaou de Porquerolles

Island hotel 50 metres from the port offering stylish accommodation as well as a restaurant and terrace.

10. Plage de la Côte des Basques, Biarritz

Plage de la Côte des Basques is well known as a surfing haven and is an emblematic beach in Biarritz, the most esteemed seaside resort on France’s Atlantic coast. The western-facing golden shore overlooks the Bay of Biscay and is an ideal location to catch a stunning sunset with a view over the Spanish coast. Biarritz is situated in the Basque Country, or Euskadi, a region which straddles the Spanish-French border and has its own rich cultural heritage, language and culinary traditions. While you’re here make sure to try some pintxo (pronounced “pin-cho"), a regional speciality typically composed of a piece of bread topped with various fresh local ingredients such as cod, anchovies, ham and goat’s cheese.

If you’re looking to surf, this is your spot. The beach is dotted with many surf schools and rental shops where you can book lessons or rent equipment and ride the waves with a stunning mountain backdrop. At low tide, the conditions are ideal for beginners, whereas at high tide the conditions can be more tumultuous and require an experienced technique. As this beach is so popular with surfers, it isn’t ideal for swimmers, but even if you don’t want to catch some waves it is still great for sunbathing, long walks and soaking up the chilled vibes.

Where to Stay

Budget: Nemea Appart'hôtel Les Hauts de Milady

Located 700 metres from the nearest beach, this hotel offers clean, contemporary studios and apartments as well as a seasonal outdoor pool, sauna and hot tub.

Mid-range: Hotel Edouard VII

Refined guest rooms in an elegant, 19th century residence, once the home of the Mayor of Biarritz, located just 5 minutes from the beaches.

Luxury: Hotel de Silhouette

Soundproofed guest rooms in a quirky hotel in the heart of Biarritz with a private garden and terrace, restaurant serving regional cuisine and private parking.

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