Provence makes the ideal choice for a family holiday – you’ve got the beaches and glamour of the French Riviera for a bit of time by the sea (and a spot of celebrity spotting) and the Alps running through the region if you and the kids feel like taking off an enjoying some adrenaline-fuelled activities. But with so much to choose from, where do you start? How about right here? We’ve found the best family activities in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur including some fantastic day trips, excursions and adventures that the whole family is bound to enjoy, and our range of luxury villas in Provence are picked with an eye for family breaks – whether they’re babies, a little older or teens.
1. Dive among tropical fishes with Dune Marseilles
Why go: Kids can get their first experience snorkelling in the crystal clear waters off Calanques National Park. They’ll be led by an expert team who are well-used to introducing newcomers to the underwater world, and all the kit and training is provided. After just a short time in the water, the kids might start to feel like experts too as they skim the surface of the fish-filled conservation areas. Keep an eye out for over 40 protected species of flora and fauna found around the Calanques. If your children are 12 or older, you can see the sea in a totally different light on a sunset trip, which are available throughout summer. Under the burning reds and pinks of dusk, different species will come out to swim and the water feels truly otherworldly.
Location: Port de la Pointe Rouge, 13008 Marseille, France
Book: Call +33 (0)4 88 66 48 13
2. Climb, roll and jump at Les Bois des Lutins
Why go: Tucked away in the woods of the Alps, this expansive site squeezes in a surprising number of ways to have fun. High ropes hang between giant trees, inflatable ‘zorbs’ careen along bridges and tubes shoot down slides for a non-stop day of thrills. There’s also the ‘Wood of the Leprechauns,’ which is decked out with courses for children of all ages, as well as a play area in the fountains and a track for racing karts. It’s not just for kids, though, and adults are encouraged to clamber along the nets and speed down the hills themselves so that everyone has an action-packed day out. You’ll all sleep well after a day here.
Location: 2559 Route de Grasse, 06270 Villeneuve-Loubet, France
Book: Call +33 4 92 02 06 06
3. Come face to face with animals at La Barben Zoo
Why go: Anyone who loves the natural world will want to spend hours in La Barben Zoo, which features over 700 animals from 130 different species. Tigers, bears and panthers sit in attractive, spacious enclosures alongside all manner of reptiles and every imaginable colour of tropical bird. There are talks and displays by the zookeepers to help educate children on the animal kingdom, with a focus on preservation and awareness. The good news is that La Barben is ecologically and ethically minded, promoting conservation and understanding, so that children will come away with more than just great photos of some of nature’s finest beasts.
Location: Route du Château, Route du Château, 13330 La Barben, France
Book: Call +33 4 90 55 19 12
4. Explore the remains of extinct dinosaurs with Meze Dinosaur Museum
Why go: The Meze Dinosaur Museum is great for a family visit. With life size models of dinosaurs on a site where dinosaur remains and nests of eggs have been discovered, and a sand pit where kids can dig dinosaur bones (not real ones!). This museum should ensure soundly sleeping children by the end of the day. The adjoining museum on the history of Evolution only steps away will add to a fun educational visit.
Location: Route départemental 613, 34140 Mèze, France
Book: Call+33 4 67 43 02 80
5. Immerse yourself in the colours of Provence at Mathieu Ochre Factory
Why go: Kids can engage their senses in a museum dedicated to the earthy clay pigments that characterise the towns and hills of Provence. Locals have been using the red and yellow material for centuries and the Mathieu Ochre factory sheds light on how it is produced. Curious visitors can see examples of machinery and read display boards, which are spread throughout. For kids, the story is brought to life with the Quest of Ochre, an activity book that they can work through during a walking tour of the processing sites.
Location: Usine Mathieu, D104, 84220 Roussillon, France
Book: Call +33 4 90 05 66 69
6. Swim with dolphins with Cala Rossa
Why go: Of all the sea creatures, dolphins seem to capture the imaginations of children the most, and swimming with them is an experience that will stay with them for a long time. The Cala Rossa team ensure the highest likelihood of seeing the animals by scouting for pods from the air, then communicating with the expedition boat. It takes some time to reach the best areas for sightings, but the ship is the perfect place to relax, with sofas, a fridge and a CD player for your journey across the Mediterranean. Once there, you’ll dip into the water alongside the friendly mammals – and you may even get to spend time with whales as well. The ticket price includes equipment, food, drink and even souvenir photos to remember the experience.
Location: Allée des Mimosas, 06210 Mandelieu-la-Napoule, France
Book: Call +33 6 09 88 47 06
7. Ride across the Camargue at Domaine Méjanes
Why go: The marshes and plains of the Camargue are among the most beautiful natural sights in Provence-Alps. Hidden in the Regional Park, the Domaine Méjanes estate offers a number of different ways to see the area: your kids can travel on pony or via a small train that chugs around the 600-hectare property. Visitors can also rent bikes for exploring the wildlife sanctuary and farmyard, with seats for younger kids available as well. As you pass the ponds of the Domaine on the back of a horse, have the kids keep an eye out for herons and flamingos who are often seen hanging around the water’s edge.
Location: Méjanes, 13460 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France
Book: Call +33 4 90 97 10 60
8. Plunge through gorges with Base Sport & Nature
Why go: There are few better ways to see the Alps of Haute-Provence than riding the white water of its coursing rivers. Older children will love the thrill of speeding along rapids and getting thoroughly soaked as they do so, while the experts who run the expeditions will ensure their safety at all times. With Base Sport and Nature, the landscape becomes one giant playground: The company also offers canyoning expeditions, which involves abseiling down waterfalls and traversing wires hung between cliff-edges. A long list of activities means that your family can hike, climb and even float down the river on a rubber tube.
Location: 22 Rue nationale, 04120 Castellane, France
Book: Call +33 4 93 05 41 18
9.Head to a world of undersea adventure with Oceano
Why go: The Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum is a great way to spend a family afternoon on your Cote d’Azur villa holiday. With plenty of ways to delight, including a rooftop that offers stunning views out to the sea. There are family activity opportunities to get up close with sea life, including the touch tank and the shark lagoon. With a beautiful building hosting a fantastic collection of fish and historical memorabilia – it also has a great play area for children.
Location: Avenue Saint-Martin, Monaco
Book: Call +377 93 15 36 00
Are you and the family ready to head off on your next adventure in Provence? If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, get in touch with our concierge team. No matter how old the kids are they can find the perfect accommodation for you with amenities to match so you get the break you serve. Need a bit more inspiration? You should head over to our blog! There’s loads more to read about Provence and the South of France, but why not start by checking out our favourite 10 quirky properties in the South of France, some luxurious experiences you can enjoy in the region or our guide to the best European festivals and events.