The South of France is popular for a reason – it’s one of the most luxurious destinations out there! From the star-studded glam of Cannes and St Tropez to the luscious landscape of the rural interior, visitors never take long to catch on, after all, relaxation is pretty high on the agenda here. That’s due at least in part to the marvellous climate. Balmy and beautiful, it’s one of the most accommodating in Europe and makes a real feature of one of the Côte d’Azur’s most popular attractions – the stunning beaches.
And with hundreds of kilometres of coastline to explore, there are a fair few beaches to choose from – so to save you the trouble of wading through countless guides, we’ve strapped on our swimming costumes, applied a little SPF 40 and headed out to find you the 10 best beaches in the South of France!
1. Valras Plage, near Béziers
Where: The beach near Beziers is a great all-rounder when it comes to french beaches – it is big enough to accommodate everyone without getting crowded.
What to do: You’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants, and in summer the kids will be well-served thanks to an amusement park offering tons of fun rides.
2. Grande Plage, Hendaye
Where: Next to the Spanish border on the South West coast of France, Hendaye‘s 3km-long sandy beach offers something for the whole family: from long strolls, gentle slope into calm waters to surfing and bodyboarding spots.
What to do: you will find something for everyone there, even for the nudists as there is a stretch of the beach towards the Twin rocks reserved to them. The beach is clean and lifeguards are on hand during the summer period; it’s also worth noting that there is a whole area dedicated to people with mobility impairments, including a wheelchair ramp going all the way to the ocean. This beach is very central so you will find loads of cafes and restaurants nearby, but we highly recommend you hop on the ferry for a 10min ride to Hondarribia on the other side of the border for a nice seafood lunch.
3. Plage des Marinières, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Where: Plage des Marinières, Villefranche-sur-Mer
What to do: A perfect get-away if you want to avoid the busy beaches in Nice. It’s not particularly wide but it is long (at about a kilometre), and parents can get added peace of mind in July and August thanks to the lifeguards.
4. Paloma Beach, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Where: If you feel like going for something a little more exclusive on your South of France holiday, this beach is the place to be.
What to do: A section of this stretch of this half-sand, half-pebble coast is reserved solely for the private use of the rich and beautiful, while the other half is available to everyone else. As a result, take plenty of cash – you’ll need to hire a sunbed (and they’re not particularly cheap) but there’s always the possibility you can do a bit of sneaky celeb-spotting from behind your shades.
5. Argelès North, Argelès
Where: If you’re a bit of a nature lover, the north side of the beach near Argelès is a nice location to head.
What to do: The main beach can get a little crowded and commercial at the best of times, but if you take a short walk you can still enjoy the quality clear waters and the stunning views of the Pyrenees without all the hustle and bustle – and right behind you is some equally picturesque grassland that helps block out the rest of the world.
6. Gruissan Plage, Narbonne
Where: It’s not only that it is a lovely little beach in and of itself. The town of Gruissan manages to strike the perfect balance between picturesque and lively.
What to do: With a casino, marina and plenty of nightlife, adults will have plenty to keep them occupied. Great for spending the day at the beach, then hiring yourself a babysitter and hitting the town at night!
7. Point Zero beach, La Grande-Motte
Where: Another beach that benefits from being close to the town, Point Zero Beach might sound like an Andy McNab novel.
What to do: It’s a lively welcoming spot to spend a day in the Mediterranean sun. Equally appealing to families, couples and groups of friends, it can get pretty packed – so make sure you head down early.
8. Vias Beach, near Agde
Where: France’s south coast
What to do: This french beach is particularly good if you’re partial to a paddle! This beach is small but perfectly formed and is handily sheltered from the harsher winds, perfect to head with smaller kids and toddlers. Another boon is that it’s easy to find, though parking can be a very hit-and-miss affair when it’s high season.
9. The beaches of Sète
Where: With over 12km of white, sandy stretches of beach, Sète offers an intriguing alternative to the South of France coastal experience.
What to do: This isn’t a place that depends on tourists to make money – Sète is a working port, which means it is pretty busy and doesn’t have the laid-back atmosphere of some of the more holiday-friendly beach areas. But the beaches themselves are quiet and beautifully clean with amazing views out to sea, and the fact it’s a port means the seafood here is as fresh as you’re ever likely to taste!
10. Palombaggia Beach, Corsica
Where: Heading a little further south to the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea, Palombaggia Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in an already beautiful part of the world.
What to do: Reminiscent of the Caribbean with its azure waters and long stretches of fine sand, the beach itself is split into three coves surrounded by loads of high-quality shops, bars, and restaurants. The only problem is that this natural beauty comes at a cost – it gets incredibly busy in Summer (especially during the school holidays), so be prepared!
(Picture credits: Valras Plage, France via C Hendrik Anderson, Grande Plage, France via Nicolas Vollmer, Nice – South Of France via Danfador, Paloma Beach, France via Juan Mejías, Argelès, South of France via Whisky&CO, Gruissan Plage, France via Yann Gar, Vias Beach, France via Supercar-RoadTrip, Palombaggia Beach, France from imagea)