Famous for the Eiffel Tower, renowned museums and delectable cuisine, France fulfils holiday dreams of history, culture and gourmet delights. As if that wasn’t enough, hundreds of beaches line the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.
No doubt you’ve heard of the French Riviera, celebrated across the globe for glitz, glamour and incredible beauty. However, if you prefer to get off the tourist path, you’ll find secret coves, sleepy fishing villages and secluded patches of sand to enjoy your baguette in peace.
The best beaches in France stretch from the wild dunes of the north to dramatic landscapes along the western coast and the Mediterranean vibes of the south. How will you choose?
Here’s a guide to finding the perfect slice of sun-drenched French bliss for you.
Best Beaches in France Map
The most beautiful beaches in France can be found in every corner of l’hexagone. Where will your next beach break take you?
Best Beaches in Northern France
Soaring chalk cliffs, thrilling waves for surfers and family-friendly havens characterise the best beaches in North France. Chill out at charming seaside resorts and discover history-laden coastal towns.
ÉTRETAT BEACH, NORMANDY
Beaches in Normandy, France dot a coastline that stretches for more than 600 kilometres. White chalk cliffs dominate the inspirational landscapes of Étretat, which are famously captured on canvas by Impressionist painters. Just a two-hour drive from Paris, this pretty seaside town is a favourite weekend escape from the city.
Inspire your inner artist and photograph scenic rock formations like the Porte d’Aval Arch. High above the cliffs, Jardins d’Etretat is a landscaping marvel where artworks combine with terraced gardens and sweeping ocean views. Wedged between the cliffs, Étretat Beach hosts a lovely promenade along the emerald water, creating an idyllic setting for post-swim feasts.
DEAUVILLE BEACH, NORMANDY
Colourful umbrellas decorate the soft, golden sand of Deauville, which is one of the best beaches in Normandy. Along the promenade, beach cabins named after actors and directors reflect the resort’s star-studded events, including the American Film Festival. To match the glamorous appeal, look forward to enjoying grand old-world hotels, galleries, chic boutiques and elegant golf courses nearby.
Polo is big news in Deauville and the first match was played here in 1880. Head to the Deauville International Polo Club for a season that includes some of the world’s top players. After a fun day at the beach and relaxing at the Deauville Yacht Club, glam up for a night at the majestic Casino Barrière de Deauville.
PLAGE DE BOUTROUILLES, BRITTANY
For stunning landscapes of wild dunes and rock formations, take your beach break near the shores of Plage de Boutrouilles. Fronting the coastal region of Kerlouan, bright white sand contrasts with the iridescent sea as you stroll among giant granite boulders that dot the scene.
After a walk on the beachy wild side, explore the rural delights of Kerlouan. The hamlet of Memeham features a 17th-century coastguard’s cottage and craft shops within sandy grasslands. Quaint fishermen’s’ houses rest between boulders that reach higher than the quaint, thatched roofs.
POINTE DE SAINT-HERNOT, BRITTANY
The Crozon Peninsula hosts hidden coves and rugged scenes that highlight some of the best beaches in Brittany. Settle in at the seaside town of Morgat to explore the craggy cliffs and pines trees surrounding the stunning stretch of sand at Pointe de Saint-Hernot. This is a hiker’s paradise, with a coastal path winding around the Cap de la Chèvre, the most southerly point of the peninsula.
Hop in a kayak to explore sea caves or take a boat tour for photogenic coastline views. Just a short drive away, you’ll find the town of Crozon and the picturesque port of Camaret. More adventure awaits off the sand, where mountain biking trails and rock-climbing opportunities abound.
PLAGE DE L’ÎLE SAINT-NICOLAS, BRITTANY
Take a ferry from towns on the coast of Finistere to the Glenan Islands and some of the most beautiful beaches in France. Saint Nicolas is the main island and a nature reserve that’s famous for the region’s gorgeous white flower, the Glenan Narcissus. There’s a beautiful absence of buildings here, with just a smattering of cafes and a renowned diving school.
Laze on the dazzling white sands of Plage de l’Île Saint-Nicolas and swim in turquoise seas that beach lovers compare to the Caribbean. Take a boat trip to discover nearby, uninhabited islands and walk out to Bananec across a strip of sand at low tide. The Glenan Islands are accessible during the spring and summer season, so check the dates before arranging your trip.
PLAGE DES GRANDS SABLES, BRITTANY
If you’re looking for romantic beach destinations in France, plan a trip to Brittany’s second-largest island. Groix is home to one of Europe’s only convex beaches, Plage des Grands Sables. A huge stretch of fine white sand juts out into the transparent sea and, despite being the island’s most famous beach, it retains a wild appeal.
Catch a ferry from Lorient to Port Tudy, the main town. Then, hire a bike to cycle across around 40 kilometres of paths to discover ancient sites, views from towering cliffs and hidden coves. To learn about history, wildlife and everyday life on the island, visit the Eco Museum.
PLAGE DU DONNANT, BRITTANY
Located on the idyllic island of Belle-Île-en-Mer, Plage du Donnant is among the renowned surf beaches in France and it’s backed by picturesque cliffs lining the sand. It’s a short drive from Sauzon, a port town filled with pastel-coloured fishermen’s houses and narrow lanes to meander through on lazy afternoons.
Here, a bustling marina joins artisan stores and restaurants to create a charming holiday setting, in this 19th-century sardine-fishing centre. Visit Poulains Lighthouse, which was built in 1867 and contains an art exhibition. Nearby, you’ll find the former holiday home and museum of eccentric actress, Sarah Bernhardt.
Best Beaches on the West Coast of France
If you’re looking for the best beaches in western France, you’re spoilt for choice! The waves of the Atlantic Ocean roll up on golden shores located in gorgeous French beach towns.
LA CONCHE DES BALEINES, AQUITAINE
Sandy beaches in France are easy to find when you spend your holiday on the Île de Ré. With a long stretch of sand backed by pine forests and scenic dunes, La Conche des Baleines is one of the island’s most beautiful. Across approximately three kilometres, you’ll find fantastic surf breaks, naturist sections and plenty of secluded spots to park your towel for the day.
To explore further, hire a bike and cycle around charming villages, flower fields and nature reserves filled with birds. When hunger strikes, tuck into the island’s delectable seafood. Don’t miss out on trying the local oysters and mussels with a crisp white wine to match.
LACANAU BEACH, AQUITAINE
Searching for the nearest beaches to Bordeaux? Lacanau Beach is among them and it delivers around 15 kilometres of pristine white sand. There’s not much you can’t do here on a beach holiday. Popular activities include surfing, windsurfing and dining with views of the sparkling ocean.
If you happen to visit in August, you’ll see the world’s top surfers at the Lacanau pro surf competition. Off the beach, this laid-back seaside town offers a pedestrianised street filled with cafes, bars and cute shops for goodies to take home. Take advantage of bike trails that weave through the pine forests, and a serene lake for kayaking.
DUNE DU PILAT, AQUITAINE
If you’re wondering where to go in France for a beach holiday amid natural wonders, head to Arcachon Bay. Dune du Pilat is a constantly moving dune that soars more than 100 metres high and stretches for several kilometres along the coast. In fact, this is Europe’s tallest sand dune.
After climbing the stairs to the top, you’re greeted with blue ocean views combined with the dark green contrast of pine forests on the other side. To get here, catch a train from Bordeaux, then a bus to the specified stop. And, yes, if you want to roll or slide down the dunes on a board, you can!
BISCARROSSE PLAGE, AQUITAINE
One of the best beaches in Aquitaine for a fun vibe, Biscarrosse Plage is the place to be for a ready-made party in summer. Golden sand and barrelling waves join pine forests, yoga retreats and surf camps within the purpose-built holiday resort. You’ll swim with the crowds at the lifeguard-monitored sections, however, you don’t have to wander far to find a slice of sand to yourself.
The watery fun doesn’t stop at the beach either, with two lakes nearby to launch into sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing. The town of Biscarrosse is just a short drive from the beach. Get your history fix at the Church of Saint Martin and the 14th-century Montbron Castle.
PLAGE DE LA CÔTE DES BASQUES, PYRÉNÉES-ATLANTIQUES
For surfers, this is one of the most popular beaches in France. Apparently, Plage de la Côte des Basques was the first place anyone surfed in Europe and it’s been a favourite spot for catching consistent waves ever since. The wide sand beach also delivers panoramic views of lush mountains and the Spanish coast on the other side.
Along with being one of the best beaches in Biarritz, it just happens to be within close distance of the city’s most iconic landmark. The Rocher de la Vierge, otherwise known as the Rock of the Virgin Mary, is a dramatic statue looking out to sea from the top of a rocky outcrop. Napoleon III had a bridge built via a tunnel in the rock, making it accessible from the seafront.
Best Beaches in the South of France
The best south of France beaches range from glamorous people-watching destinations in Saint-Tropez to sheltered coves surrounded by lush forests.
PLAGE PALAVAS LES FLOTS, OCCITANIE
Located on the lovely Languedoc coast, Plage Palavas les flots is among several kilometres of beaches decorating the popular seaside resort of the same name. When you hire a bike, it’s possible to ride to the centre of Montpellier in under an hour. Splash in the Mediterranean and chill out at hotels flanking the sand, before exploring the town.
Discover the colourful houses and boats bobbing in the canal at the marina. To get a bird’s eye view, head to the top of the Phare de la Méditerranée and enjoy the view with a drink at the bar. Taking the kids? Jump on the rides at Fete Foraine Le Luna Park and explore on the quaint tourist train.
CALANQUE DE L’ÉVERINE, PACA
A hidden gem on France’s southern edge, Calanque de l’Everine sits among the craggy headlands of the Côte Bleue. This area to the southwest of Marseille is peppered with calanques, often hiding beaches beneath the stone arches of a railway bridge. This petite cove is one of the most spectacular spots along this coastline, and one of the most secluded. Bring your snorkelling mask and swim out to the île de l’Everine just offshore.
Walk here along the scenic route from Niolon, a charming fishing village, taking in the views at the abandoned Fort de Niolon on the way. Afterwards, sink into one of the brasseries for a well-earned rosé as you watch the skies turn pastel above the Marseille hills.
CALANQUE D’EN VAU, PACA
The Calanques National Park is an oasis of calm between the bustling city of Marseille and the seaside village of Cassis. A protected, and much-loved area for hiking and outdoor pursuits, it’s here you’ll find some of the most treasured beaches in the South of France. Among them, Calanque d’En Vau is famed for its striking scenery. It’s a somewhat difficult and dramatic descent to the beach from the hiking trail, but one you won’t regret as you surrender to your surroundings.
Not up for hiking? In nearby Cassis, you can hire boats, kayaks and even e-bikes to make the journey easier. Or simply jump on a boat tour of the calanques and enjoy the blissful beaches in Cassis at the end of the day instead.
Read More: Hiking to Calanque d’En Vau
PLAGE NOTRE DAME, PACA
Eucalyptus and pine forests set the scene at Plage Notre Dame, undoubtedly one of the prettiest beaches in France, and in the Mediterranean. Yachts bob peacefully in this sheltered bay, which is located on the island of Porquerolles. Don’t forget to take your snorkel and mask to swim with shoals of fish in the pristine turquoise waters.
Porquerolles is the largest of the three Îles d’Hyères islands in the Parc National de Port-Cros. The island is a car-free zone, so the best way to explore is by bike. Park your bike or take the 30-minute walk from the main village to laze the day away within a scene that’s reminiscent of the Caribbean.
PLAGE DU LAVANDOU, PACA
The central beach of Le Lavandou is a family-friendly favourite, with sports and festivals taking place on the golden sand during summer holidays. To add to the festive atmosphere, the Big Wheel of Le Lavandou offers panoramic views of the ocean and the city centre, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take memorable French beaches photos.
Along with several other beaches in the vicinity, the idyllic township is the perfect base for outdoor adventures. Hike the coastal trail for fantastic views out to Port-Cros and Le Levant. If you’re on a romantic escape, take a sunset sailing trip with a candlelight dinner to go with nature’s light show.
PLAGE DE L’AMOUR, PACA
Not simply one beach, but a series of coves spanning from Plage de L’Escalet through to Cap Taillat in the Gulf of St Tropez. Follow the coastal track and you’ll encounter several small beaches that’ll tempt you to their shores. The perfect place for swimming, snorkelling, or paddleboarding, you’ll find Plage de l’Amour roughly in the middle, just ripe for relaxation.
Pack a picnic for a full day out and explore all the nooks and crannies along this walk. And be sure to scale Cap Taillat for sweeping views across the bay. Tucked on the other side, Plage de Briande is a quieter cove, for those looking for peak peacefulness.
PAMPELONNE BEACH, PACA
The best beaches near St Tropez rest within the glamorous atmosphere created by its movie star visitors. Pampelonne Beach is about six kilometres away from the centre of town, just downhill from the charming village of Ramatuelle. Thrilling water sports, white sands, and sparkling seas match the elegant beach clubs and extravagant restaurants that luxury lovers dream of.
Though it’s one of the most famous beaches in France and lined with private sun lounges, you’ll find plenty of sandy public spots to enjoy the scene without the price tag. Zoom across the sheltered bay on a jet ski and save some money for an afternoon at Club 55. It was first built as a shack to house the crew for Brigitte Bardot’s, ‘And God Created Woman’. Or take a table at the casually chic Indie Beach House.
Read More: The Best Beaches in St Tropez
PALOMA BEACH, PACA
A jewel among the best beaches on the French Riviera, Paloma Beach sparkles within the Cap Ferrat peninsula. This is a prestigious playground for the rich and famous, so spend your time celebrity-spotting as you swim in the clear waters of the sheltered limestone cove.
For keen snorkellers, the rocky areas on either side of the beach host seagrass meadows, starfish and sea breams. Much of the beach is occupied by a private restaurant of the same name, so choose an elegant table with ocean views. Alternatively, you’ll find a couple of public sections to enjoy on a day trip from Nice.
Great beaches in France combine with the country’s incredible architecture, history and cuisine to create a holiday destination that ticks all the right boxes. Whether you mingle with the jetset on the French Riviera, find a slice of wild paradise on the west coast or take the kids to northern seaside resorts, get set for a dreamy seaside holiday.
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