Nice Beaches, Côte d’Azur, France

Nice beaches seen from Castle Hill viewpoint, France

A view of Nice beaches along the length of Nice’s curving Promenade des Anglais, seen from Castle Hill in late August.

How are Nice beaches?

Nice offers two or three dozen beaches along the 7 stony kms (4. 3 miles) of the shore of Baie des Anges, but they vary only in how much they cost to use (usually nothing) and proximity to other facilities or tourist accommodation, not in view nor in beach base. i. e. they are all based on something between pebbles and rounded grey gravel, apart from the splash of occasional imported sand for volleyball courts.

Plage Opera, Nice, France

Plage Opera, with almost sand, if sand was grey and powdery, one of several dozen beaches stretching 7kms all the way to Nice airport, vaguely visible far left..

Basically, there are 25 free public beaches between the sea and the Promenade des Anglais, interspersed with quite a few modestly-priced pay beaches and a select number of luxury pay beaches. All are pebble-based (so bring beach shoes and forget sand castles) but all offer fresh-water showers and toilet facilities, even if they are occasionally portaloos!

The public beaches get crowded in July and August, naturally, but there’s always space towards the back of the beach and the water is cool and shark-free. Usually jellyfish-free too.
Lack of sand does have its benefits as cameras, phones and body orifices prefer a non-intrusive environment.

private versus public Nice beaches, France

Galion Beach with both public and private sections. A typical cost would be 18 euros for a sunbed for the day (14e for a half day) and 4e for parasol.

One interesting phenomenon spotted by the bugcrew this summer is how the aquamarine Nice seas compare to adjacent destinations such as Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villeneuve-Loubet Plage where the sea water tends towards muddy green.

We noticed a small motor cruiser with outrigger netting making circular sweeps along the Nice beach line, probably clearing the water of debris, not only human but also seaweed, old leaves etc. Could this be the answer to Nice’s azure Mediterranean?

Blue Beach, private pier, Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Blue Beach, a mid-range private beach with foot-happy boards and pier.

Plage du Castel, one of Nice's public beaches, Cote d'Azur, France

Above Nice’s beaches stretches the long curve of the Promenade des Anglais. This section of promenade, at the far east end is known as Quai des Etats Unis. Season: mid summer. This is Plage du Castel. The beaches are rarely this busy.

How’s the French Riviera generally?

Nice and Cannes are slightly worn clichés of the French Riviera, that part of the Côte d’Azur that is happily out of the frequently deranging Mistral wind and runs from Cannes to Menton on the Italian Border, but this warm Mediterranean region still holds a lot of charm and has seen some major improvements recently courtesy of a far-sighted mayor. Trams, new gardens, car parks and all.

The Riviera in general – and Cannes and Nice in particular – is no longer a pristine paradise as the internal combustion engine is ever-present.

But the coast is still excellent for dry, sunny weather generally and almost certain for June-August. Tourist in Nice can also find inexpensive eating, wild partying and funny people watching, while the water temperature of the Mediterranean in the summer is delightful. The French Riviera pass offers a lot of discounted tourism.

Parking and Politics

Nice’s curving collection of beaches is long but pebbly while Cannes’ beaches are sandy. However, Cannes’ best spaces – less so in Nice – are dominated by lengthy private hotel beaches, restaurants or parasol rentals.

Don’t bother hunting for street parking, underground parks are conveniently located and not ridiculously priced. We like Palais Massena near Hotel Negresco, tho’ it’s quite small; under Palais de la Méditerrannée is lots of space but is quite claustrophobic; whatever the one near McDonalds is called is convenient; there’s also a large one under Cours Saleya.

Cannes’ La Croisette is much less busy but still very difficult to park on, though there are several huge underground car parks near the shore.

Nice’s politics are fairly right-wing though this hardly alters the city’s joie de vivre, fine collection of glorious turn-of-the-century buildings, smooth new tram system, extensive bike routes, Velobleu self-service rental cycles 24/7 and many more infrastructure improvements underway.

French Riviera water panorama, Antibes, Côte d’Azur, France

A Riviera panorama with Nice occupying most of the right half of the image.