The first rule to remember when looking for the best beaches in France is not to assume that everything is on the Riviera. While the legendary stretch of coastline has some amazing beaches, don’t overlook the Bay of Biscay or the Normandy coast when planning your French summer vacation.
So, which beaches in France are the best? There are hundreds of beaches to select from in this magnificent place, so narrowing it down to a few is a difficult chore. Nonetheless, the endless dunes that flank the Atlantic, the flashy, boutique-lined French Riviera bays, and the exciting history of Napoleon’s birthplace Corsica are hard to ignore.
We’ve gathered off-the-beaten-path gems to complement the well-known stunners, but rest assured, these stunning French beaches will steal your breath away so quickly. Don’t bother closing your eyes; schedule a trip to France.
Antibes, French Riviera
Antibes, located roughly halfway between Nice and Cannes, has a peninsula that juts out into the sea, increasing the accessible sandy, warm, easy-to-walk-on beachfront. And, if you can afford to, book a suite at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc for a taste of the Riviera’s impossibly sumptuous (and pricey) magnificence.
Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy
The rugged island of Mont Saint-Michel rises like a mirage above the tidal pools and sandbanks, conveniently among the best places to visit in France. While the famed Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel receives the majority of the attention, the adjacent Bay of Mont Saint-Michel is equally stunning, with the highest tides in Europe and a diversity of animals. Book a guided stroll across the bay to cross those famous stretches of sand and pools in your bare feet for a memorable experience.
Cap Coz, Brittany
Cap Coz is a must-see on every Brittany road trip, with a succession of little beaches that never get crowded. Begin your trip down the peninsula’s hiking trail along the Breton Riviera, and you’ll be able to see the entire rocky coastline, replete with sheltered bays ideal for afternoon swims.
Côte de Granit Rose, Brittany
The Côte de Granit Rose (or Pink Granite Coast), a shoreline lined with stunning granite rock formations, is the most beautiful area in northwestern Brittany. The geology ranges from faded pink sand to enormous rose gold boulders, all wonderfully contrasted against the grey foam of the sea.
Deauville Beach, Normandy
Coco Chanel, who founded her first clothing store in Deauville in 1913, helped solidify the city’s reputation. Her beach-chic attire put both her and the town’s wonderful seafront lined with quaint stores and ice cream vendors on the map for good.
Donnant Beach, Belle-Île-en-Mer
The craggy shoreline of Belle-Île-en-Mer, another beloved of Claude Monet, is well worth the 30-minute boat voyage from Quiberon. After a meal of white wine and steamed moules in town, join the surfers at Plage Donnant, a beach fringed with dunes with tidal pools and cliffs to explore at low tide. Visit as soon as possible before the secret is out.
The pebble beach of Étretat, located on France’s Alabaster Coast, is popular with surfers and sailors. Most people, however, come to this section of the Upper Normandy coast for one reason: the iconic arched rock formations and chalk cliffs. Natural sculptures that have captivated artists (most notably Claude Monet) and travelers for centuries can be found at various spots along Étretat’s 80-mile stretch.
Île de Ré, Bay of Biscay
Locals call Île de Ré the “White Island” because of its smooth, pale sand and magnificent waterfront residences painted in neutral colors. It is located in the Bay of Biscay, off the western coast of France. Walk down the vast, flat stretches of beach, but keep a watchful eye for the now-abandoned World War II German bunker.
Les Calanques de Cassis, Provence
Calanques are long, narrow inlets surrounded by natural rocks such as limestone. Few examples are more magnificent than those at Cassis on the Mediterranean, contrasting with the vivid teal water. A word of discretion: this beach is better known for its sightseeing than its swimming.
Palavas-les-Flots, located on a short peninsula approximately four miles from Montpellier, is a beach so beloved by the French that a song about it appears in the Oscar-nominated movie The Triplets of Belleville. In Palavas-les-Flots, you may take sailing lessons, rent a kayak, or try your luck at kitesurfing.
Paloma Beach, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
The Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat island near Nice is a playground for the European wealthy, with a Rothschild mansion and a beach named after Paloma Picasso, the artist Pablo’s daughter. A steep staircase connects to the rocky shore, where you’ll be rewarded with vast, sweeping vistas of the sea.
Palombaggia Beach, Porto-Vecchio, Corsica
Corsica, located between Italy and France, feels like it belongs in both countries. Palombaggia Beach in Porto-Vecchio, on the southern shore facing the Tyrrhenian Sea and Italy, with pink-tinted, rock-free sand, brilliant, clear water, and mild afternoon breezes.
Pampelonne Beach, St.-Tropez
The term St.-Tropez is linked with grandeur and refinement, but you don’t need to put on an evening gown or tux to visit. Pampelonne Beach is a breezy spot with everything from a private stretch where you can swim naked to five-star resort accommodations.
Plage de la Côte des Basques, Biarritz
The “wild beaches” of Biarritz, in Basque country along the Bay of Biscay, are a famous summer destination for celebrities and royals alike (you might recognize it from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises), and they’re also enormously popular with surfers because of their gentle, beginner-friendly waves.
Porquerolles Island, Hyères
The Île de Porquerolles is only five miles off the southern French coast, but it feels further away. Because the island is car-free, all beaches have a relaxed, casual vibe—ideal for riding a bike and bringing a picnic.
The island of Port-Cros, surrounded by Europe’s first maritime national park, is a haven for hippie sunbathers, yacht owners, and divers alike. The greatest time to visit is in September when the water and weather peak.
Prado Beaches, Marseille
If you like to fuse your beach vacation with a city break, drive to Marseille (France’s second-largest city) and spend the day at the Prado Beaches, a set of three beaches ideal for families with children and are freely reachable from the city center. Try to look for the replica of Michelangelo’s David, which is a popular selfie location.
With their huge lengths of sand, pristine coastlines, and clear blue waters, French beaches are well worth considering for your next vacation. However, if you’re holidaying in for the first time, you must know how to travel safely in France.