Menton’s Les Sablettes beach on the Italian side of the town, a calm and comfortable patch. Downside: small, but maybe that’s a good thing. A day trip should just about do it.
Good but lesser-known French Riviera beaches
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Plage de la Buse, a couple of kilometres east of Monaco and connected by a pleasant, coastal hiking trail, the Sentier des Douaniers.
This fine, though partly pebbly public beach offers a wide sweep of shallow water, an excellent beach café that also rents kayaks and is just 100m from the car park at Roquebrune train station.
Cap d’Ail, Mala Plage, a few minutes west of Monaco is a good size and has a rarely crowded public beach zone perfectly embraced by cliffs, with marine activities rentals and a fine restaurant.
Access is via a steep – though agreeable – 10 minute hike down from Avenue Princesse Grace. Take either a bus to the Beaverbrook stop or drive and park in the Cap d’Ail car park, walking down Ave. Francois de May until you see brown signs indicating the way to the beach.
Cap Ferrat, Paloma Plage. A few minutes walk from Saint-Jean village, Paloma sits on a calm, sandy bay lapped by clear waters. There is a private beach club area and a pricey café/restaurant as well as the public beach. When swimming becomes a bore take a hike along the delightful little trail Sentier Edmund Davies around the Paloma Point headland.
Villefranche, Plage de Passable, a sheltered stretch of pebbly bay popular with local families in-the-know, Passable has a good restaurant and is the starting point for a terrific 4km Cap Ferrat walking trail around the Ferrat peninsula.
Plage de la Garoupe, a delightful little stretch with excellent café (that you would need to book in advance at busy times) and a couple of restaurants. This beach marks the start/finish of the lovely hour or two Cap d’Antibes walking trail.
Cap d’Antibes (Antibes‘ very exclusive peninsula), Plage de la Garoupe is the place for wealth-spotting, just a Bentley waft from possibly the Riviera’s best hotel, the Eden Roc; La Garoupe’s public area is limited by a pricey beach club but the sand is soft, the rocks interesting if there are no jellies at home, the views of Antibes coast spectacular and the snorkelling pretty good. Furthermore, there’s a really fine little walk around the shore of the Cap, taking between one and two hours.
One of the little beaches in St Tropez village. The large ones are a good solid walk away, or a drive.
St Tropezis the snobbiest part of the Côte d’Azur (more so even than Monaco! ), with big money, big crowds and big traffic jams, yet still glamorous. The in-vogue beach is Nikki, where you have to pay – or even book in advance, but there are plenty of superb cafés and restaurants as well as the outstanding Musée de l’Annonciade (20th century masters such as Rouault and Matisse).
A useful train route runs along the Côte d’Azur from Marseilles to Ventimille (Ventemiglia) and though it’s comfortable it’s not exactly reliable. In addition it sometimes stops very near the sea, such as at Villeneuve-Loubet Plage or Villefranche but sometimes it’s quite a distance away like in Nice where it’ll take a good 20 minutes walk to reach the shore, though the newish tram system is cheap, efficient and a big help to getting around.
Sad to say but we tend to drive along the coast on the excellent A8 autoroute which is generally easy to access (a notable exception is Cannes) or nip onto the spectacular or interesting during the off season. From Antibes to Menton on the A8 takes about 45 minutes.