**The French Riviera
On the east part of the Mediterranean coast from Menton (east, near Italy) to Cannes (west) is the place for a terrific climate, a lively social life, good shopping, excellent eating and drinking facilities – and not necessarily costly – though beaches are often cramped, stony or pay-as-you-tan, while traffic and parking can be a nightmare.
We like Nice for lively, not-so-touristy life, the fantastic promenade but pebble beaches, Cannes for fine sand, amazing summer fireworks (get close and early! ) and beach restaurants (best are west of the port).
Antibes is smaller, less sophisticated but has a terrific beach with good value café – Plage de la Garoupe – and lovely walk around Cap d’Antibes. Juan-les-Pins sands are narrow and ultra-busy, specialising in watersports
A newly smartened-up but good value Villeneuve-Loubet, between Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer offers great convenience, a well presented pebble beach, lots of family-friendly facilities and very little style.
The cute little town of Menton, far east and next to Italy, is about as quiet as the Riviera gets, though some would describe it as dull, if not dead.
Menton’s north side beach just a few minutes from Italy. Photo by Tobias Alt.
**The Côte d’Azur
Confusingly this is the Mediterranean coast all the way from Italy to the the coastal bend and islands at Hyeres (map).
Outside the Riviera the rest of the Côte d’Azur has a few more useful beaches, especially the sugardaddy destination of them all, St Tropez, where Baie de Pampelonne beaches rule for big-money exhibitionism and Nikki beach is the home of uber-bling.
If all that bling and fawning over fat cats fails to attract then head back to St Maxime or 15 kms south-west to Gigaro where the sand is narrow but the beachside restaurants and hotels are good value and welcoming, the water is crystal and a gorgeous coastal path starts at the corner of the bay.
This is a great (cheap) hotel base if you wish to spend time on the St Tropez peninsula without busting the bank.
Plage du Prophet, one of Marseille’s smaller beaches.
Finally, out of the Côte d’Azur completely is big bad Marseilles, surprisingly with a handful of worthwhile beaches, such as Plage du Prophete – a delightful city beach; Plage du Prado – an unpretentious, man-made strip that offers surfing and toned & tanned bodies; finally, 32 kms away at Cassis is the picture-postcard Plage de l’Arene, a turquoise bay of fine silver shale embraced by white cliffs and trees.
Check here if you’re looking for Luxury Yacht Charter in the Mediterranean.
Ostricone beach on Corsica’s east coast. Photo by lotangelini.
Corsica Island in the middle of the Mediterranean has some stunning beaches as well as spectacular walks.
Note: If you want really warm water then Mediterranean Beaches from June- September are pleasant but not comparable to the Caribbean, Pacific or Indian Oceans.
Arcachon Beach, western France on the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.