Many travelers feel drawn to France by its rich history, castles, gardens, cuisine and landscapes. Some of our most beautiful summer landscapes are on the French coast, so for those who plan to visit France during the summer months, we’ve compiled a selection of some of the best beaches in France, which would make a perfect day-trip to include in your tour of France.
Saint Malo, Brittany
Saint Malo is an old town steeped in history, and was recently voted best beach spot in France.
Walking along the town’s cobbled streets may feel like taking a step back in time. High granite walls enclose the old town of this port city, which was once occupied by privateers (pirates who were approved by the king), and under siege during World War II. We recommend trying some of the local delicacies, namely oysters and crepes, which visitors will find in many of the town’s restaurants and markets.
Once you have explored the walled citadel, head down to the golden sands of one of the best beaches in France on the Emerald Coast. The Plage du Môle is a lovely sandy beach, great for swimming and protected from the wind by the pier. The beach has a summer lifeguard station which makes it popular with families. Another fine beach with golden sand and wheelchair access is the Plage du Val, just along the coast at Rothéneuf. The sea does not retreat too much at low tide, so it’s still great for swimming, and in the town you’ll find the former residence of one of St Malo’s most famous figures, Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada. The Manoir de Limoëlou dates back to the 15th century and houses a fascinating museum dedicated to the explorer.
Saint Malo Beach
If you are visiting Normandy in mid-June, a visit to the charming coastal town of Cabourg during its annual film festival is a must.
The town dedicates five days to the French and European romantic film genre, including premieres, lectures and debates, and indoor and open-air screenings of short and feature-length films, all open to the public. Watch out for a few famous faces too as France’s film stars arrive in town. During the festival, a large screen is erected on the beach allowing 400 people per viewing to enjoy a romantic evening watching a movie with a loved one under the stars. The best way to enjoy the beach at night!
Cabourg immense sand beach in Normandy
La Garoupe, French Riviera
On the French Riviera between Cannes and Nice is a small but beautiful beach in Antibes and some say among the best beaches in France, with lovely views over the Mediterranean and of the Alps in the distance.
Some of the beaches along this stretch are private and belong to local restaurants along the beach-front. There is a public beach between La Joliette and Le Rocher restaurants with lounge chairs and umbrellas available to hire from mid-June through September.
The public areas can become crowded in the summer months, so you can escape the crowds by taking a stroll along the coastal path starting in the southeast corner of the beach, which winds around the peninsula.
Views of the French Riviera from Antibes
Hourtin Plage and Lake Hourtin, Southwestern France
With a couple more of the best beaches in France, Hourtin is located just to the west of the vineyards in the Médoc region.
When you have finished exploring the region’s wonderful vineyards, you may like to bring a bottle of wine to enjoy on a lovely day-trip to the beach. The coastal beach at Hourtin Plage is eight miles from the town of Hourtin and just under 50 miles from the city of Bordeaux. It is ideal for sailing, surfing and windsurfing.
On the other side of the natural reserve, you’ll find the Hourtin Lake, which is perfect for paddle boating, waterskiing, canoeing and fishing. There are also plenty of trails and cycle paths lining the shores of the lake, which also has sandy beaches. The lake is supervised in the summer months, and the calm waters mean that children can swim safely in the lake, while parents relax on the beach.
The Atlantic Ocean in Hourtin area
Deauville became a popular seaside escape for the well-heeled upper classes of Paris. Nowadays it is most famous for its annual American Film Festival, its grand casino, golf courses, horse racing and regatta galas, not to mention its beach, a beautiful expanse of golden sand.
Its iconic parasols hint nostalgically at times gone by, as do the beach huts which line the beach’s promenade. The nicest time for a stroll along the promenade is first thing in the morning when Deauville beach is quieter, or at sunset. Look out for famous names painted on the boardwalk, Deauville’s version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame! Deauville is just an hour and a half’s drive away from Normandy’s World War II landing beaches, and less than an hour from the Peace Memorial at Caen, a place that many of our travelers are interested in visiting, particularly those with relatives who fought in the war.
Deauville Umbrellas - ©G. Wait
You might say that Trouville is Deauville’s more laid-back neighbor. The town is a little more low-key and has the best fish market in the region, open every morning by the port. The boardwalk down at the beach offers visitors a lovely stroll along the seaside where they can admire the elegant 19th century beach villas which line the sea-front. The nearby Hotel des Roches Noires provided inspiration for the great French writers Marcel Proust and Marguerite Duras. If the sea air puts you in the mood for a fresh fish supper, make a reservation at Les Affiches restaurant, once of the best in the area.
Trouville sur Mer in Normandy - laid-back & great fish market
Plage de la petite chambre d’amour, Basque Country
As its name suggests (‘Little Love Chamber Beach’), this is one of the most romantic beaches in France. Located in France’s Basque Country at the foot of the majestic Cap Saint Martin cliff with views of the famous Biarritz lighthouse, there is something for everyone. It has a sandy beach perfect for family vacations and is a popular surfing spot. We recommend a walk along the cliffs to visit the old lighthouse and enjoy the beautiful views over the beach and the town of Biarritz. The lighthouse can also be accessed by bus from Biarritz.
Biarritz beaches in the Basque Country
Collioure is in the Catalan Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, close to the border with Spain. A typical Mediterranean fishing village, the medieval Château Royal de Collioure offers dramatic coastal views.
The landscape, which includes the castle and the iconic 17th century bell tower, inspired artists such as Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. Many of the artists were part of the Fauvist artistic movement of the early 20th century, and were inspired by the bright colors in the town. The Museum of Modern Art in Collioure includes a number of paintings by Henri Matisse. One journalist described Collioure as “as near in style to St Tropez as the Languedoc-Roussillon coast has to offer, but without the…laughable prices. It’s also regularly among the sunniest, warmest summer spots in France.”
Collioure in Languedoc Roussillon
Banyuls Sur Mer, Languedoc-Roussillon
Banyuls Sur Mer is a charming area also in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, on the Vermillion Coast. This seaside resort is very close to the Spanish border and is famous for its architecture and rich Catalan history and traditions. There is a picturesque fishing port and stepped streets through the town, so travelers can explore its hidden gems, such as the various hillside wineries, and enjoy the sea views. The area has some of the best beaches in France, with several coves and hiking trails along the coast with gorgeous views of the Pyrenees Mountains.
The Plage du Troc is perfect for a cliff-side walk with beautiful views of the bay from the cliff-top. Sana beach is a lovely, little-known stretch of sand with a quieter environment for those wanting to escape the tourist crowds. Fontaulé beach is the most central beach, with bars and restaurants, a carrousel for children, and the opportunity to do some water-sports, such as diving and kayaking. Foodies will love the local Catalan cuisine. We recommend trying escalivadas (smoky, grilled vegetables), cargolades (grilled snails) and other boles de picolat (meatballs and olives in a spicy sauce).
Banyuls sur Mer near the Spanish border
Plage du Petit Sperone, Corsica
This pristine little enclave is named by many as the best beach on the French island of Corsica, and easily deserves a place among the best beaches in France. It is a 15-minute walk along the beach from Piantarella beach, or you can hire a kayak from Piantarella and paddle over to Sperone. Apart from its white sands and crystalline waters, the beauty of Sperone is its untouched, natural appearance. The sea is shallow, and the beach is less windy than at Piantarella.
The cliff-top golf course next to Sperone beach is Corsica’s best, with stunning sea views across to the beautiful Lavezzi Islands and the Sardinian archipelago, which can also be enjoyed from the coastal walking trails in this area. There are few facilities at Sperone beach, so bring food and drink with you, or purchase some from the beach bars at Piantarella beforehand.
Sperone beach, Corsica
If you are interested in visiting one or two of the best beaches in France during your trip, we can include these in your itinerary.