Best beaches on the Cote d’Azur

March 15, 2016 (Last Updated: April 19, 2020)
by Carolyn

If you’re heading to the Cote d’Azur in the south of France, chances are you’re keen to visit a beach or two.  There are plenty of famous beaches along the French Riviera but you shouldn’t overlook the less-famous ones in your search for the best beach on the Cote d’Azur.

Being blessed, as we are here in Australia, with the world’s best beaches, a visit to a beach on the French Riviera can come as a bit of a shock.  Not all beaches offer the fine white sand that we are used to – many are covered with pebbles or shingles – but the views more than make up for that.

Whether you are looking for a family-friendly beach, want to top up your tan, spend time spotting celebrities or just want to dip a toe in the water, there’s a Cote d’Azur beach to suit you. The Cote d’Azur stretches for around 40 kilometres along the Mediterranean on either side of Nice.  Most of the beaches are public beaches but there are also about 150 private beaches.

Private beaches are a common sight along Europe’s coastlines and can be easily spotted by the mass of brightly coloured umbrellas dotting the waterfront.  Sections of beach are fenced off and beachgoers pay to use that section of beach. 

Sun lounges and umbrellas (each private beach has its own colour) can be rented by those who prefer some shade and comfort, and private beaches usually have a snack bar or even a cafe or restaurant. Toilets and changing cubicles are provided, and there are often a host of water sports and activities on offer.

Best beaches on the Cote d’Azur

So how do you know which is the best beach along the Cote d’Azur when there are so many to choose from?  Of course, it all comes down to personal preference but with the help of Alissa from South France Villas, we’ve come up with our favourite beaches that we think are amongst the best along the Cote d’Azur.

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Beautiful St. Jean Cap Ferrat’s Paloma Plage is the most popular and one of the most exclusive beaches on the Cap.  It’s a shingle beach in a sheltered bay which offers views to Eze and Beaulieu. Paloma Plage’s popularity means it is essential to ring ahead to book a sun lounge or to make a lunch or dinner reservation at the private beach’s large (and expensive) restaurant.

As an alternative, visit Plage Passable a small, family-friendly beach on the other side of the Cap Ferrat Peninsula, facing Villefranche sur Mer. It has both public and private sections with shower and toilet facilities.  The view back to Villefranche is wonderful and it’s possible to hire a water taxi to take you between Villefranche and Plage Passable.

Plage Passable St Jean Cap Ferrat The smaller Plage Passable at St. Jean Cap Ferrat.

Villefranche sur Mer

The main beach of Villefranche is Plage des Marinieres, a (course) sandy beach which stretches for about one kilometre. All of Villefranche’s beaches are free which makes them popular with holiday makers but the downside to Plage des Marinieres is that the main train line runs behind the beach, which can make it quite noisy. 

There are lots of snack bars and cafes close by as well as shops selling all kinds of beach paraphernalia like buckets and spades.


Think of the Cote d’Azur and probably the first thing that comes to mind is Nice with its Promenade des Anglais lined with swaying palm trees and beach umbrellas. (Read my top 8 things to do in Nice.)

Nice’s beaches stretch for around ten kilometres around the Bay of Angels, with around 20 public and 15 private beaches on offer. Beaches in Nice aren’t covered in lovely soft sand, instead they are composed of large pebbles known as galets, so rubber or plastic shoes are highly recommended.

One of Nice’s most famous beaches, Beau Rivage, is also the largest private beach on the Cote d’Azur (and possibly in all of France). With something to suit everyone, Beau Rivage offers multiple restaurants, a beach bar, beach bistro, cocktail bar and even The Lounge Box for a real VIP experience.

With over 300 sun lounges and evening entertainment, Beau Rivage is THE place to be both day and night.

Nice beach Each private beach can be distinguished by the colours of its umbrellas.

Cap d’Antibes

Plage de la Garoupe was in the news last year when it banned selfies on the beach, and with a stretch of white sandy beach, mostly private, you can see why sunbathers wanted to brag to their friends at home. 

Three private beaches spread tables, chairs and umbrellas along the sand right down to the water line.  Along the La Garoupe there is also a small free section where you can spread your towel to soak up the rays without paying to enter a private section of beach.

St. Tropez

Plage de Pampelonne, six kilometres from St. Tropez at Ramatuelle, is THE place to go for spotting celebrities but for a quieter and less expensive beach experience, try Plage des Salins. It’s a 600 metre long stretch of fine white sand, perfect for families and those who want to escape the glitz and glamour of St. Tropez.

There are sun lounges for hire and lifeguards on duty.  For a unique experience, dine at the private beach restaurant, Les Salins, where you can eat whilst sitting with your feet in the sea.

Paloma Beach St Tropez St. Tropez’s famous Plage de Pampelonne (Pamplona Beach). Image: © zm_photo / Dollar Photo Club

Which of these beaches will you visit when you head to the Cote d’Azur?

For accommodation, look no further than South France Villas who have a good choice of holiday villas near to the sea on the Cote d’Azur.

Top Image: © natalia397 / Dollar Photo Club