Nice’s stony but spacious beaches on the Côte d’Azur, France
Cannes vs Nice
Unlike stony Nice, their bigger rival a few kilometres along the Côte d’Azur, Cannes has sandy beaches that are small but offer a reasonable amount of rent-free space while nearby cafés serve excellent food at slightly elevated prices.
The promenade is as pleasant to stroll as Nice’s and a lot less traffic, though much shorter.
However, Cannes’ buildings away from the shore are frequently drab compared to some of Nice’s magnificent Belle Epoque structures while Nice’s shopping, strolling, eating out scenes and night life are much more varied and lively.
The Promenade du Paillon (aka Coulis Vert) is a brilliant place for a green stroll but especially fine for kids, with its play-fountains in the summer and wooden climbing beasts.
Furthermore, Nice is a real French city with a wonderful daily market whereas Cannes seems mainly tuned in to posh tourism or les yachties riches.
Street parking near beaches is not easy in either city. Pay carparks are the best option and both places have a good selection not far from the sea but get there reasonably early.
Alternatively take the train, though they can be erratic and inconvenient if you wish to stay for a firework display. Town traffic may be heavy in both locations.
Côte d’Azur beaches, may be sandy or stony but the less-well-known strands can be very characterful and fun if you can find a place to park, or go there by train, though some beaches are near the stations and others are not.
There are no sharks, well, no predatory sharks, but jellyfish sometimes appear, usually late in the season. Some wealthier locations such as Cannes and Monaco provide stinger nets.
During July – August there are regular, magnificent fireworks displays alongside Côte d’Azur beaches, with Cannes and Monaco leading the magnificence, though other municipalities put on a good show too.
Cagnes-sur-Mer, for example, closes the street beside the promenade at 6pm once a week (causing traffic havoc) and provides live bands (free) and good dining (not free! ) along the seafront topped off by excellent fireworks at 10 pm or thereabouts.
Good Sand: Cannes (and its adjunct La Boca), Theoule, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, St Tropez.
Grainy sand or shingle (bare feet OK): Menton, Villefranche, Monaco.
Pebbles (difficult to walk, may need water shoes): Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet.
One of St Tropez’ more distant and discreet beaches, France
St Tropez has one of those resounding, sexy names, like Marrakesh and Kathmandu but sadly without the same fulfilment these days.
It’s a a great place with good size beaches, but writhing crowds and massive traffic jams (it took the bug crew 1 hour to drive to near St Trop from Cannes and 2 hours to travel the last 5 kms).
It’s not a recommended holiday spot for normal mortals with thin wallets or crowd phobias. Get there by ferry from Cannes or St Maxime if you must. St Tropez Beach Pictures.
Juans-les-Pins and Antibes beaches are in the same conurbation but on either side of the foot of the Cap d’Antibes peninsula. For some reason that we can’t fathom the rich like to eat, drink and wander along Juan les Pins’ very narrow stretch of soft sand lined with pay loungers, parasols and hideous apartment blocks. Perhaps the quality beachside dining is the attraction?
The less well off, however, who want space to play with their families or lie down without being trampled, choose the wide sandy beaches on the other side near Antibes Old Town – Plage le Ponteil and Plage de la Salis, or in the case of Plage de la Gravette, actually in the old town.
Overcooked and undersanded though it is, we do love Plage de la Garoupe on Cap d’Antibes, home to a really good value café (red stripe parasols), a fantastic walk and some cute little coves and beaches.