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10 Top-Rated Beach Resorts in France

Oct 28, 2015

Sunny days spent on lounge chairs, swimming in the sea, and dining at stylish waterfront restaurants: This description could define the typical French beach vacation. However France offers so many different possibilities for a seaside holiday, from glitzy resorts to idyllic islands. On the French Riviera known as the "Coast of Blue" ("Côte d'Azur), sun-lovers can soak up the dreamy scene of azure waters. This glamorous strip of the Mediterranean coastline includes world-famous resorts such as Saint-Tropez with its private beach clubs. To experience a classic Belle Epoque beach resort, head to elegant Biarritz in the Basque Country or lovely Dinard in Brittany. Breathe in the refreshing ocean air of the Atlantic with its dramatic waves that crash against sandy shores. To really get away from it all, take a ferry to Corsica or to the tiny island of Porquerolles, where the beaches have powdery white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters. All the destinations on this list also offer cultural attractions nearby such as historic towns and charming villages.

1 Biarritz: A Belle Epoque Resort on the Basque Coast

Biarritz: A Belle Epoque Resort on the Basque Coast
Biarritz: A Belle Epoque Resort on the Basque Coast
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Biarritz is an elegant French beach resort that has drawn high-society holiday goers since the Belle Epoque. With its fine sandy shores, crashing waves, and refreshing ocean breezes, Biarritz surpasses the French Riviera in its classic vacation appeal as well as in its variety of beaches. One of Biarritz' largest beaches, the Grande Plage is a beautiful, wide beach in the shadow of the famous Hôtel du Palais, once the summer home of Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugénie. During high season, this beach is packed with sunbathers and striped cabanas.

The Quai de la Plage promenade alongside the Grand Plage invites visitors to take a leisurely walk while admiring the majestic beauty of the Atlantic Ocean or to stop at one of the seafront restaurants or cafés. Right next to the Grand Place, the Plage du Miramar is a place of gorgeous natural scenery that overlooks the Biarritz Lighthouse; this beach also has those old-fashioned striped beach tents.

Biarritz is famous for is powerful waves, and favorite surfing beaches are Côte des Basques, where surf competitions are held, and the Plage de Marbella, a wild and rugged beach with crashing waves. The best beaches for families with children are Le Port Vieux, which has relatively calm waters and Plage de la Milady that has a playground.

Because Biarritz is on the Atlantic Ocean, attention to water safety is more important than on the French Riviera where the Mediterranean Sea is gentle. During certain periods, bathing, swimming, and surfing are prohibited because of strong currents and dangerous waves. It is only advised to swim and bathe at Biarritz beaches when lifeguards are on duty.

2 Saint-Tropez: Plage de Pampelonne

Saint-Tropez: Plage de Pampelonne
Saint-Tropez: Plage de Pampelonne
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This sun-soaked French Riviera resort is synonymous with seaside glamor and gorgeous Mediterranean scenery. Celebrities are drawn to the town's exclusivity, but anyone willing to pay the price can enjoy the fashionable beachside lifestyle. Although it's now known as an upscale destination, Saint-Tropez was once just an unpretentious fishing village. The charming historic town still has traditional Provençal markets, outdoor cafés, and shaded squares frequented by locals.

The Plage de Pampelonne is the famous beach area in Saint Tropez. With 15 private beach clubs that all have excellent waterfront restaurants, Pampelonne offers the luxury that people expect at a Côte d'Azur resort. Paying to use the private beaches comes with the benefit of amenities like lounge chairs, parasols, cabanas, and well-maintained restrooms. Eden Beach is one of Pampelonne's chic, private beaches, with a restaurant that serves authentic Mediterranean cuisine and entertains diners with a DJ. Pampelonne's Nikki Beach offers a private beach and restaurant and is used as a venue for weddings. Tahiti Beach on the Plage de Pampelonne has a gourmet restaurant overlooking a lovely area of the seafront. This beach can be reached by foot, car, or boat, although some incognito guests prefer to arrive by helicopter. The Bar d'Ô is the only beach club on the Plage de Pampelonne that has a private pool on the beach; it also has a traditional Italian restaurant. Club 55 is Pampelonne's most understated private beach club with a relaxed atmosphere.

3 Cap d'Antibes

Plage de la Garoupe
Plage de la Garoupe
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Unlike much of the French Riviera, the Cap d'Antibes is renowned for its sandy beaches. The Plage de la Garoupe along the Garoupe Bay is especially picturesque. This small public beach has a fine shoreline and features restrooms and shower facilities. For a spectacular seaside nature walk, take the Sentier du Tirepoil footpath that follows the coastline. Luxury accommodations are available right on the beach at the Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel. The hotel's private beach overlooks the Iles de Lérins and its one-star Michelin-rated Les Pêcheurs restaurant specializes in Mediterranean seafood.

4 Mediterranean Beaches in Sunny Menton

Mediterranean Beaches in Sunny Menton
Mediterranean Beaches in Sunny Menton
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Just kilometers from the border with Italy, this balmy beach town prides itself on its perfect weather, averaging 316 days of sunshine a year. Menton's shoreline offers a variety of sandy and pebbly beaches, both private and public. All beaches in Menton have pristine calm waters that are safe for swimming. The peak holiday season begins in mid-June and lasts until mid-September. In early June, the beaches are reshaped and the benches of the promenade are repainted in preparation for the soon-to-arrive vacationers. The Menton beaches are cleaned every day during the summer, and most of the beaches have lifeguards on duty in July and August. Another draw of Menton is the charm of the historic village, with its narrow cobblestone streets, atmospheric staircases, and sea views.

5 Corsica's Plage de Palombaggia

Corsica's Plage de Palombaggia
Corsica's Plage de Palombaggia
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The most popular beach on the Island of Corsica is the Plage de Palombaggia, prized for its wide, sandy beach and crystal-clear waters. The drive that leads to Palombaggia Beach is noteworthy in itself. Enormous red granite rocks and maritime pine trees add interest to the coastline. Because Palombaggia Beach is one of Corsica's finest, it can be crowded. Tourists could avoid the crowds by visiting off-season and still enjoy the wonderful sunny weather and stunning scenery. The beach is a perfect combination of soft, fine white sand and deep blue seas. Palombaggia Beach lies 10 kilometers from Porto Vecchio, a historic fortified town with pleasant town squares, outdoor cafés, and a scenic marina.

6 The Island of Porquerolles

The Island of Porquerolles
The Island of Porquerolles
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Beach lovers can escape to a small piece of paradise by taking a 30-minute ferry ride from Hyères (an easy day trip from Marseilles) to the Île de Porquerolles. Appreciated for its idyllic island scenery and pristine secluded beaches, Porquerolles has a Mediterranean seaside charm reminiscent of the Greek Islands. Similar to Greece, many ancient civilizations have left their mark here, and interesting archaeological sites can be found on the island.

The Plage d'Argent is the most popular beach, renowned for its beautiful setting and crystal-clear turquoise waters ideal for wading and swimming. The Argent Beach is within a five-minute bike ride or a 20-minute walk from the village. The Plage Notre-Dame lies in a spectacular nature site near a yacht marina and is bordered by a pine forest. This sheltered beach has a soft, sandy shore and calm, shallow waters. Nearby trails are wonderful for taking scenic walks. The Plage de la Courtade is the largest beach on the Island of Porquerolles. Visitors are delighted by the pristine white sandy beach and the mesmerizing turquoise waters. The scent of eucalyptus trees around the beach adds to the sensual pleasure.

7 The Spectacular Sand Dunes of Espiguette

The Spectacular Sand Dunes of Espiguette
The Spectacular Sand Dunes of Espiguette lwm-media / photo modified
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Calm blue seas and rolling white sand dunes characterize the Plage de l'Espiguette, about 39 kilometers from the bustling town of Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon and 30 kilometers from the Camargue Nature Park (a day-trip from Arles). Considered one of the most interesting nature sites in the Mediterranean Basin, Espiguette is a valuable natural environment with striking dunes that reach up to 12 meters in height and resemble desert topography. The expansive shoreline, around 700 meters in width and 10 kilometers in length, adds to the dreaminess of this special place. Espiguette Beach has gentle waters awarded the Blue Flag label for safe swimming. A lifeguard surveys the beach June 6th to August 30th every day from 11am to 6:30pm.

Location: Route de l'Espiguette, Le Grau du Roi

8 Dinard: A Classic Beach Resort in Brittany

Dinard: A Classic Beach Resort in Brittany
Dinard: A Classic Beach Resort in Brittany
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Dinard, along with La Baule, is one of the most-visited Breton seaside resorts and is especially popular with families. On the Emerald Coast of Brittany, near the English Channel, Dinard has a distinctively British feel. This old-fashioned seaside resort has sandy beaches dotted with colorful, striped beach tents and Belle Epoque vacation houses. During summertime, lifeguards survey the beaches from 10am to 1pm and 3pm to 7pm daily. Most of the beaches have public restroom and shower facilities as well as lounge chair and beach tent rentals. The Plage de l'Ecluse offers the widest range of amenities, including an Olympic-size swimming pool filled with salt water. The Plage de Saint-Enogat enjoys a gorgeous setting and is bordered by majestic villas. The Plage du Prieure is a protected beach at the end of a bay, which makes the waters safe for swimming. The Prieure Beach also has a scenic coastal trail.

9 Royan's Sunny Beaches and Spa Treatments

Royan's Sunny Beaches and Spa Treatments
Royan's Sunny Beaches and Spa Treatments
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The unspoiled, secluded beaches of Poitou-Charente on France's Atlantic Coast provide a welcome contrast to the crowds of the French Riviera. Along the "Côte de Beauté" (Coast of Beauty) is the sunny beach resort of Royan, which has been a favorite seaside destination since the Belle Epoque. Royan has five golden-sand beaches, ranging from protected coves to wide sandy shores. The bays of Royan also attract cyclists, golfers, and water sports enthusiasts. For those seeking pampering after a day at the beach, Royan's spas offer traditional European treatments, massages, and jacuzzi options.

10 Plage de la Paloma on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Peninsula

Plage de la Paloma on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Peninsula
Plage de la Paloma on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Peninsula mgenin / photo modified
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One of the prettiest hidden spots on the Côte d'Azur, the sun-kissed Plage de la Paloma was named after Paloma Picasso since the painter used to spend time here with his family. The draw of this beach is its secluded setting as well as the French Riviera glamor and chance for celebrity spotting. On a small inlet of the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, the Paloma Beach is tucked away in the verdant Cove of Scaletta and sheltered from the winds. Sunbathers enjoy views of the picturesque Bay of Beaulieu and the dramatic cliffs of Eze. The public section of the beach has shower and toilet facilities. The private section, open from Easter until September, charges a fee to enter for the use of loungers and umbrellas, changing rooms, showers, and beach towels. The restaurant specializes in fresh fish and traditional local cuisine. This beach is also a great place for water sports including water skiing, bodyboarding, tubing, jet-skiing, and sailing. Paloma Beach is a 12-kilometer drive from Nice and would be an easy day trip.

Official site: www.paloma-beach.com

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