Discover a choice of beaches that either hug small inlets framed by rocky promontories or nestle in front of stylish palm-lined promenades.
Beaches along the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur) range from soft golden sand around St Tropez to fine shingle and pebbles at Nice.
Typically, going topless is de rigueur (required by etiquette or fashion) on all Côte d'Azur beaches, but total nudity is generally forbidden except on designated beaches such as Cape d’Agde and Port Cros.
The best beaches on the French Riviera, include…
Choose from a mix of public, private and hotel operated pebble beaches that stretch uninterrupted for more than 7km along the seafront facing the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).
The 23 public beaches offer a free section and one where you can rent a parasol, sun lounger or a mattress, have access to a changing room and a freshwater shower; both sections provide lifeguards.
The 15 private beaches (along the Promenade des Anglais (photo) and the Quai des Etats-Unis) offer the same facilities as the public beaches, with the addition of towels, restaurants and beach bars with waiter service.
You can also find a good choice of water sports including jet skiing, windsurfing, water-skiing, paragliding and sailing. Nice offers a huge range of hotels to suit all budgets.
The best seafront hotels include the super glamorous Hotel Negresco and the glittering art deco Palais de la Mediterranean.
Note: Covered with galets – hard, round smooth pebbles often as large as golf balls – the beach at Nice can be pretty unpleasant to walk across unless you wear waterproof beach sandals. For comfort, try thongs/flip flops or the more stylish French beach shoes.
(St Tropez) – Unwind on the soft golden sand of France's most infamous beach, where topless sunbathing is common practice.
Go swimming, waterskiing and wakeboarding. Watch people cruise past while you enjoy a refreshing drink or snack at one of the many beachfront bars and cafés.
Even with the nudity, this is a very popular beach not only for jetsetters but also for French families.
Facilities include umbrellas, sun loungers and a range of water sports activities. At the northern end of the beach lies the aptly named nudist beach, Plage de la Liberté.
Plage de Tahiti is located at the northern end of Baie de Pampelonne, around 4km south of St Tropez.
(St Tropez) – Pick your own spot to sunbathe on this gorgeous 9km-long golden-sand beach that stretches between Cap du Pinet and Cap Camarat, home to France’s second-tallest lighthouse.
Swim in the warm turquoise waters of the beautiful bay, stroll along the beach and follow the path around the craggy hillside of Cap Camarat, where you can climb to the summit and be rewarded with fabulous views of this lush green peninsula and the Mediterranean Sea.
Public beach facilities include umbrellas, sun loungers and beachfront cafés and restaurants. This trendy beach is a continuation of Plage de Tahiti.Plage de Pampellone is located around 5km south of St Tropez.
(St Tropez) – Dig your toes into the soft golden sand of this long beach that sits to the north of a 98ha marine village and miniature-styled Venice.
People-watch for celebrities and admire some of the Riviera’s most expensive yachts moored in the harbour.
Port Grimaud beach is less decadent than those south of St Tropez. Beach facilities include umbrellas, sun loungers and beachfront cafés and restaurants. Plage Port Grimaud is located around 8km west of St Tropez.
(Cannes) – Pick your own spot to sunbathe on the golden sands of this 12km-long beach, which is divided into more than 30 sections – a mix of mainly private, hotel run and public beaches.
The best public beach sits in front of the Palais des Festivals, with other less-crowded public beaches to the west along Plage du Midi as well as to the east.
Facilities on private and hotel run beaches include sun beds and parasols. Hotel beaches are complimentary for guests, while private concession beaches may charge up to AUD50 per day to access the beach.
(Antibes) – Unwind on this crescent of golden sand that shelves gently into the blue Mediterranean.
This public beach offers unbeatable views of Old Antibes, just a 20-minute stroll away. Behind the tree-fringed boulevard lies a choice of hotels.
(Antibes) – This small but wide crescent of golden sand is a public beach that nestles beneath the huge stone ramparts of the old port.
It is perfect for families with small children as the calm water is sheltered from waves by a small breakwater.
(Juan les Pins) – This narrow, 2km-long golden-sand beach is divided into many sections that are a mix of both public, private and hotel run beaches, all shelving gently into a large bay. Facilities include parasols, sun loungers and water sports activities.
The palm-tree fringed beach offers numerous hotels, cafés and restaurants all within easy walking distance of the beach. For clean golden sand, try the beach section opposite the Garden Beach Hotel or Hotel Belles Rives.
(Saint Raphael) – Dig your toes into this long stretch of golden sand that shelves into shallow water.
This family friendly beach offers a range of facilities such as parasols and sun loungers, within reach of cafes, restaurants and hotels.
This region is one of the most affordable spots along the French Riviera and is especially popular with families.
(Saint Raphael) – This 7km-long pebble and sand beach became part of history on 15 August 1944 when Allied forces stormed ashore into then-occupied France during World War II.
Facilities include parasols and sun loungers.
Unwind on this fashionable golden-sand beach, once frequented by Princess Grace of Monaco.
Look out for your favourite movie stars, models and celebrities at this trendy beach, which adjoins the luxurious Monte Carlo Beach Hotel (and actually sits on French soil).
The sand here is shipped in by barge and frequently replenished by the Monte Carlo Beach Club.
Facilities include two swimming pools, cabanas, sunbathing mattresses, a restaurant, café and bar. Expect to pay around AUD300 per day to use the facilities (and perhaps chat-up a movie star or famous fashion model).
Latest update: Best Beaches on the French Riviera: 14 May, 2022