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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a map to help you find your way:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.