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15 December 2016    /    

Secret sand beaches on the French Riviera-

 

Taking a trip along the French Riviera, France’s gorgeous southern coastline, should be on everyone’s bucket list. I was incredibly lucky to be born in this beautiful region of white limestone cliffs, almond and olive trees, hidden springs and old stones whispering ancient secrets, and I am proud to call it home. I must have been a mermaid in another life, since I always long for the sea, and the French Riviera can boast with many idyllic beaches – but some of them can feel overcrowded in summer, and who doesn’t dream of having a beach for oneself? Let me share with you genuine insider trips, from a girl born and bred in the south of France, to help you plan your trip on the French Riviera and find its most beautiful secret beaches.  Secret sand beaches french riviera

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Secret sand beaches and how to find them. (I hope you Potterheads appreciate my subtle humor.)

Yes, there are famous sand beaches on the French Riviera

Let me clarify what we’ll be talking about here: I wrote sand beaches. Why? Because I often hear people complaining that “the French Riviera doesn’t have any sand beaches”. Wrong. If you believe that, it just means that you stuck to Nice and Monaco and didn’t venture elsewhere. The French Riviera has amazing sand beaches, let me just name a few well-known ones (I highlighted my two favorites):

  • Plage Notre-Dame in Porquerolles,
  • Plage de Cavalière in Le Lavandou,
  • Plage de l’Estagnol in Bormes-les-Mimosas,
  • Plage de Pampelonne in Saint-Tropez/Ramatuelle,
  • Plage de Pardigon in Cavalaire-sur-Mer… and the list goes on

But let’s get to the secret ones now.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

One of the most beautiful secret sand beaches, in Ramatuelle

Three hidden beaches you just have to discover

By “secret”, I mean that they are remote, hidden, and much less crowded than the ones I named above. Why? Because you cannot get to them by car: you cannot park right next to them, you will have to hike a bit, carry your stuff along. And this is a strong deterrent for most people, especially families. Just imagine having three kids, two umbrellas, five foldable chairs, toys for playing in the sand, a cooler to store your lunch… you couldn’t possibly walk thirty minutes along the rocky coastline to reach a secret beach. Secret sand beaches french riviera
People who get to those beaches are either hikers or boat owners, which considerably reduces the number. Even during the two first weeks of August, the busiest time ever on the French Riviera, I managed to find myself nearly alone on those beaches.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

All by myself in Port-Cros, French Riviera

Plage de la Bastide Blanche and Cap Taillat

Get away from those loud parties in Saint-Tropez and escape to the nearby village of Ramatuelle, an authentic village in the old Provence style. Park your car at l’Escalet, a small and picturesque rocky beach. From there on, you have two choices: hike or rent a kayak. Either way, you will need approximately one hour to reach the beach.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Heading to Cap Taillat in my kayak

You need to head for the beautiful cape you will see on your right when facing the sea: Cap Taillat. This is a nature reserve, and a truly gorgeous one, displaying Mediterranean colors in all their beauty. When you walk or paddle along the coast, you will notice how transparent, crystal-clear this water gets, you will see down to the bottom of the sea and hope to find treasures laying there.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Crystal clear water. The richest stars escape Saint Tropez and buy a house here.

But when you will reach the headland, cross a small sandy isthmus and get to the Bastide Blanche beach, your feelings of wonder and awe will go through the roof. This is it. The idyllic French Riviera which made painters and poets crazy, the mold in which all Mediterranean longing was baked. Enjoy.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Plage de la Bastide Blanche. Paradise on the French riviera

 

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Have you seen those waters? I feel like a mermaid

Here is a map to help you find your way:

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

How to get to the secret spot.

Plage du Sud on the island of Port-Cros

Off the coast of Hyères, you will find three beautiful islands we call the “Golden Islands” (Îles d’Or): Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Le Levant.

  • Porquerolles is the most famous one. It has two beautiful beaches, Plage d’Argent and Plage Notre Dame, which are a delight off season, but get very crowded in the summertime.
  • Le Levant is the most original one: it’s a nudist island, and you will have to remove your swimsuit to dip in the water there. (I went there and talked about it on the French version of my blog right here). Secret sand beaches french riviera
  • Port-Cros… is the wild one. The secret, raw, hidden one. I can’t find words to say how much I love this place.

For me, Port-Cros is the original Mediterranean paradise. When I walk along its rocky coastlines, get lost in the thick spiky forests, hear the cicadas’ love chant so loud it’s nearly deafening, I feel as if I had been taken back to ancient times, where Gods and nymphs roamed in the sacred woods. Port-Cros is magical.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

My own brand of paradise: Port-Cros

It’s a very strict nature reserve. You can’t smoke, fish, drive a car or a bike, take a dog with you, pick anything. Boats depart from Hyères, but few boats go to Port-Cros, so get the earliest one if you want to be sure to make it and enjoy the day. A ticket to go there and back to Hyères will cost approximately thirty euros. You can’t camp on Port-Cros and wild camping will result in very high fees (since it’s a national nature reserve), so be sure to catch the boat back if you haven’t booked anything on the island. There is one beautiful luxury hotel, Le Manoir (most romantic place ever in my opinion) and cheaper Air BnBs, but they go away quickly: book in advance if you want to sleep on Port-Cros.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Or you can sleep on your boat, if you have one 😉

Once on Port-Cros, grab a map or simply follow the signs, and head for the Plage du Sud.
When I look at the pictures I took there, I can barely believe they’re real. In this protected place where no nets are allowed, fishes don’t fear humans, and they will surround you, touch you, caress you. The water is so clear it feels like an open sea aquarium. This experience really moved me. Port-Cros is without a doubt the best place for snorkeling on the Riviera.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Yes, this is real!

 

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Port-Cros under water

 

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Part of your world…

When you’re done bonding with marine life, don’t return to the harbor yet. Continue on the trail called “Route des Crêtes”. What for? For such views. Yes, this is real. This is the real French Riviera – the one we keep secret.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Breathtaking Port-Cros

Plage du Grand Jardin in Bormes-les-Mimosas

Bormes-les-Mimosas is one of the cutest villages in Provence – everything there seems to be Instagram-worthy. But it is most famous for a beautiful beach called Plage de l’Estagnol, which people often compare to Seychelles or the Caribbean due to its half-moon shape, white sand and beautiful turquoise waters. The problem with l’Estagnol? It gets really, really overcrowded in summer, and you just can’t enjoy it anymore, because the beach isn’t that wide, and there’s a human part on every square centimeter.
But what few people know is that there’s another beach, which is equally beautiful… and nearly empty. You just have to park at l’Estagnol (it costs eight euros and there’s no other way, trust me, I have tried: all parking spots on this road are that expensive and there’s absolutely no free parking area, since it’s a very narrow road) and start hiking to the left when facing the beach. After approximately twenty minutes on a beautiful rocky path overshadowed by great pines, you will reach the “sister beach”, Plage du Grand Jardin, and you will feel transported to another hemisphere, or into a pirate movie. Say hello to Jack Sparrow for me.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Hiking from l’Estagnol to Grand jardin

 

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Plage du grand jardin

 

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

It’s fun with a boat too.

If you want to go by boat, check out the company Les 3 îles in Hyères, they offer an awesome full day discovery tour with secret spots, snorkeling in Port-Cros’ marine reserve (best snorkeling spot on the Riviera without the shadow of a doubt) and a great lunch – it was my best boat experience on the French riviera and worth every cent. (Disclaimer: Yes, I was invited. But as a French Riviera blogger, I was also invited to other things which I didn’t enjoy as much. THIS was really the best boat tour I have experienced, and I absolutely recommend it. It enables you to see so many rare things out of the beaten path in a single day, it’s really unique. It may seem a bit expensive at first glance, but it’s so worth it: it’s nearly a private boat, and it’s really a BIG and fun boat tour. I would pay to do it again.)

If you’re in the mood for more, keep on hiking and you’ll reach the Fort de Brégançon, French presidents’ summer palace. You’ll find other beautiful beaches on the way there.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

Fort de Brégançon. This picture was also shot during the boat tour I mentioned above.

 

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

A map to make things clearer.

One last secret beach: En-Vau in Cassis

This one is a rocky beach, so it doesn’t count. But it’s still incredibly beautiful. To find out more about En-Vau, read this post.

Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

En-Vau, the fairytale calanque.

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Secret sand beaches of the French Riviera: genuine insider tips to find the best beaches in France! Ultimate Provence tips on a French girl's travel blog

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37 commentaires pour
“Secret sand beaches on the French Riviera”

  • Very helpful tips! Thanks for sharing! I made a mistake of sticking with the Nice beach on my latest trip. Just didn’t realize there was more out there. Next time will be smarter 🙂

  • Thanks a lot, Maria! Yes, Nice is a beautiful and fun city, but it’s definitely not the best beach on the Riviera – I hope you will come back and see the rest 🙂

  • Oh wow! These beaches are stunning and absolutely love the fact that they aren’t overrun with tourists. Though, I think I like the awesome snorkeling opportunities even more! Definitely going to add these places to my list of traveling desires. (:

  • Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! If you’re a snorkeling fan, definitely put Port-Cros on your bucket list. It has been a 100% protected marine reserve since 1963, so you can imagine the beauty and variety of sealife there!

  • On my next visit to France, I know where to go now! Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks a lot, Wendy! I wish you a lovely trip to France!

  • Remote places are the best! It’s always a surprise to discover them.
    Especially remote beaches since they’re generally way cleaner than the touristy beaches,
    at least the ones where I’m from haha.
    Thanks for sharing! The pictures look amazing too! =)

  • Thank you Richie! It’s true, they are cleaner, the water is clearer, and you feel like an explorer conquering an unknown piece of land! THank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Bonjour, Je connais bien toutes ces plages magnifiques de la Côte d’Azur, pour y avoir passé toutes mes vacances, étant jeunes, chez mes grands parents à Cavalaire. Vos photos sont sublimes, j’aime bien celle de Port-Cros, où l’on voit par transparence les poissons qui viennent vous chatouiller les pieds. On se croirait presque aux Caraïbes ! Magnifique !!! A bientôt. Martine.

  • Merci Martine, je suis mille fois d’accord, Port-Cros a une allure de paradis perdu, de presque Caraïbes, je suis folle de ce lieu !

  • I didn’t know some of these beachs it’s a shame !
    Near Nice you have the city of Villefranche sur Mer, it’s a “kind of sandy” beach just five minutes by train from Nice, it can be overcowed in summer but if you only stay around Nice it could be a solution instead of these big pebbles which hurt your feet and back.

    In Cassis, I have done the creeks in kayak, it’s a good way to avoid the crowd on the beach because you can chose where to stop (even if it’s not a sandy beach… )

  • I completely agree, kayaking to En Vau is the best option, quicker and less exhausting than the hike! I mentioned it in the other post about Cassis. And thanks for the Villefranche sur Mer tip, I didn’t know that one.

  • This is perfect! We might be moving here in the next few months and I’m so excited to visit some of these beaches – so much beauty!!

  • Thank you, Nadine! I think you will be very happy in the South – such a lovely region!

  • All of these beaches look equally stunning! I am a beach girl myself, having grown up within a few km of the sea in a province of which the name translates as ‘sea land’, but I can assure you, none of our beaches look as wonderful as yours. I would spend all summer at the beach if ours looks in any way like yours!!

  • Oh you come from Zeeland! such a beautiful place, I imagine your deep connection to the sea! thank you 🙂

  • SO beautiful! I really want to explore more of Southern France! (actually, I just wish I could live there again!) This is definitely off the beaten path, thank you so much for sharing these secrets! I hope I can visit at least one of these beaches this year or the next! merci, et bonne journée!

  • You lived in the south of France? Wow, where? Thank you Elizabeth, I am really glad these tips proved useful! Have fun! Bises et à bientôt !

  • Wow, your photos are amazing! Makes me want to jump on a boat and get there right now <3 I´d love to hike to those hidden beaches! As you said, I am one of those who only made it to Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo, hahaha! On spot!

  • Ahahah you’re sweet! yes, that’s typical. Those places are nice, of course, but I think we have even better spots to offer! Glad I could be useful!

  • When I think of the Riveria, I always think of pebble beaches so it’s so great to see there are beautiful sand beaches there too!

  • Thank you! Yes, I am trying to show that we have awesome beaches too 😉

  • Wow, Port Cros looks incredible! You are so fortunate to live in the French Riviera, it is beautiful!

  • Thank you so much, Elaine! I think you would love Port-Cros, indeed!

  • Wow, looks absolutely incredible! Has me wanting a beach holiday RIGHT NOW haha. Pinned 🙂

  • I will disappoint you, right now it’s FREEZING on the Riviera 😉 I can’t wait for spring!

  • Thank you so much for this post! There’s nothing better than secret beaches! You’re photos are so beautiful too 🙂 It’s amazing how close you got to the fish!

  • Thank you dear Kathrine! Yes, Port-Cros is incredible, you feel like you dove right into an aquarium!

  • Hello, thank you for the great recommendations. We are going to be at Cote d Azur from next week on. One question regarding the boat trip with “Les 3 îles” – which places did you visit during this boat tour? Best regards, Lisa

  • Hello Lisa! We started from Hyères, rode along the coast from Bormes les Mimosas to Fort de Brégançon, stopped at Grand Jardin to swim and at Brégançon to admire the castle, then we went to Port-Cros, had lunch there, snorkeled next to a little islet facing Port-Cros (best snorkeling experience I ever had in the Mediterranean, honestly: complete natural reserve with no fishing for the last 50 years!), then we went to Porquerolles, rode along the coast, discovered its tip (Rochers des Mèdes and other impressive geological formations), had a last swim at Plage Notre Dame and went back to Hyères. It was awesome, really.

  • […] We definitely recommend to book this tour with Nicolas and Veronica, they also offer several other tours of the wild and historic Provence. They also offer customized tours. Visit Provans for more details. If you are looking for beaches head south to French Riviera for some of the best beaches of France. […]

  • Hello! I’ll be traveling in the French Riviera starting from tomorrow. The tour you mention looks awesome but everything seems to be in French. Do they speak English? Is there a way to book it in English? Thank you!

  • Hello Ana! The beaches I mention are not part of a tour, there are places you have to walk to, I explain how to find them in the article 🙂 You just have to park and walk to the beaches. So there’s no need to book anything, just use google maps and the indications I gave you! 🙂

  • Hello ! I really wish I could get there, but there’s anche chance to reach these beaches by train and on foot, without there car?

  • Hi Maria! No, I am sorry, these beaches are remote so the train isn’t an option and public transportation either. BUT you could go to Hyères (there’s a train leading there, and buses), and take the day boat trip with les 3 îles. This would work, you would see many beautiful secret beaches and have a great day on the water without needing a car.

  • Thank you for the quick reply and precious advice!

  • Hi ! 🙂 We went to Plage de la Bastide Blanche today… Took us a long time to find a nice Beach around Nice, but thanks to your website we made it ! The day was amazing. We hired a Kayak and went along the coast line. Thanks a lot !

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