Plage Mala, Alpes-MaritimesPhoto: Jon Mountjoy
The beautiful secluded Plage Mala, can be found at the lively seaside resort of Cap d’Ail in the southeastern French department of Alpes-Maritimes. It’s just a stone’s throw from Monaco and the perfect location if you’re looking to swim and sunbathe in seclusion. This hidden gem can only be reached by climbing down steep stone stairs which descend from the Cap d’Ail town centre. This sandy pebble beach is nestled in cove hidden by trees and surrounded by cliffs. On the beach you’ll find two fabulous restaurants called La Réserve de Mala and Eden where you can marvel at the beautiful seaview while you munch on delicious French food.
Calanque d’En-vau, Bouches-du-RhônePhoto: koen_photos
On the 10-mile stretch of coast between the cities of Marseille and Cassis, in the southeast of France, there are a series of fjord-like inlets carved into limestone cliffs. These hidden coves are called calanques, and are some of the most stunning and secluded beaches in France.
One of the most beautiful of these is Calanque d’En-vau. The turquoise water laps against white sand, overlooked by mangled pine trees that cling precariously to the tower cliffs above. This gorgeous beach is only accessible by scrambling along a steep path down the limestone cliff. It is not ideal if you have small children, although there are boat tours from Cassis for those who don’t want to tackle Calanque d’En-vau on foot. Just note that boats can’t come right into the cove. You can also hire kayaks. There are no facilities on the beach so you must remember to pack a picnic and take plenty of water.
Calanque de Port-Pin, Bouches-du-RhônePhoto: akunamatata
Another calanque in the Bouches-du-Rhone department, Calanque de Port-Pin is carved into limestone hillsides and is slightly easier to access than Calanque d’En-vau. The sandy beach is strewn with pebbles and is surrounded by white rocks and limestone hills covered in sparse vegetation and pine trees. Even the fairly unfit can make this easy hike and take a dip in the crystal clear water. You can reach Port-Pin in 30 minutes from the Cassis south-west car park, or a one hour walk from from the Gardiole pass. Access to the calanques of the Massif des Calanques region is restricted in summer due to the fire risk. During this period there are three fire risk levels: orange (access authorised), red (access authorised between 6am and 11am) and black (access banned).
Plage de la Galère, VarPhoto: akunamatata
Plage de la Galère is located on the eastern end of the French island of Porquerolles in the Var department. If you’re looking for rugged beauty along the Côte d’Azur, this is a great choice. The beach is in a protected bay and the shallow water makes it a popular choice for families with small children. Although the central part of the beach is sandy, there are lots of rocks and boulders in the area. Most visitors arrive here by boat, but it is possible to reach this secluded beach on foot if you don’t mind a hiking through the rugged landscape that surrounds it. There is also a bike trail around the island which you can explore from your Côte d’Azur holiday rental.
Calanque de Sugiton, Bouches-du-RhônePhoto: atayxw
Calanque de Sugiton is another calanque located along the coastline that stretches between Marseille and Cassis. Unlike most of the other calanques, it’s open even during the hot summer months. The tiny sandy beach that lies at the end of the inlet can be access by hiking along the limestone cliffs that surround the picturesque cove. Those who enjoy a challenging hike can start their journey at the Luminy (University of Marseille) car park near the roundabout on the main road from Cassis (D 559). Remember to wear good shoes because there are loose stones along the way. The hike is not suitable for those with a fear of heights. You can always take a boat trip there instead! Like the other secluded beaches along this stretch of coastline, there are no facilities on the beach, which means you mustn’t forget to pack a picnic and lots of water.
Plage d’Herlin, Belle-Ile-En-MerPhoto: fred_v
The scenic island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, lies off the coast of Brittany, in the Morbihan department of France and is a popular holiday spot for both French and English holidaymakers. The island is full of fantastic little coves and hidden beaches, one of the most popular of which is Plage d’Herlin. The golden sand is surrounded by rocky outcrops and azure water. The beach is located near Grand Village and is a great spot for families with small children, especially in the summer months when there is a lifeguard on duty. If you’re not staying on the island, you can get to Plage d’Herlin by taking a 13 kilometers ferry ride from Quiberon on the mainland to Belle-Ile-en-Mer.
Palombaggia Beach, CorsicaPhoto: Bryce Edwards
The French island of Corsica is home to some of the most fabulous French beaches, it’s no wonder the island is so popular with holidaymakers looking for a quiet escape. Palombaggia is located 2 miles Porto-Vecchio and although the crescent shaped beach can get very crowded in the summer time, the rest of the year the beach is peaceful and quiet. When you’re lying on the soft white sand, looking out over the crystal clear water you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere in the Caribbean. It’s the ideal place to take kids if you’re lucky enough to be staying in a Palombaggia holiday rental.
Plage de la Paloma, Alpes-MaritimesPhotos: mgenin
The lovely little shingle beach of Paloma is located at the exclusive community of Port de Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, on the French Riviera. When you’re not jumping off the pontoon, jet skiing or sun bathing you can do some celeb-spotting on the rocky peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, where you’ll find exclusive villas and first-class hotels where the rich and famous holiday. The protected cove makes this hidden beach popular with families with children, and there are great facilities on the beach including a restaurant that makes delicious but pricey pizza. If you’re not willing to part with EUR20 for a place to lounge, you’d better take your own chair!
Plage de Passable, Alpes-MaritimesPhoto: ellavalentine
Another beach that is located in the exclusive Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat area is Plage de Passable. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter than the crowded beaches of nearby Nice, Plage de Passable may be the perfect spot for you. The child-friendly beach is in a cove that is sheltered from the wind and has beautiful views towards the bay of Villafranche. The sandy beach has fantastic services available including a restaurant, sun loungers, and rental companies for water sports enthusiasts, as well as a lifeguard. Bus number 81 from Nice stops near the private section of the beach. You can also take Chemin de Passable down to the beach from Cap Ferrat.
Etretat Plage, Seine-MaritimePhoto: Moyan_Brenn
Étretat is a uniquely beautiful place on the Normandy coast of France, in Seine-Maritime department. The area is known for its dramatic white cliffs that drop into the deep blue sea below, and unique arches that have been carved into the landscape over centuries. The picturesque surroundings attracted many poets and artists, including Monet and Boudin. The pebbled beach is a popular spot for windsurfers and kayakers but the rough, deep water and large pebbles make it less suitable for families. To find the beach you just need to drive about twenty miles north of Le Havre on the D940.
We have many more great ideas for summer holidays across France, whether you are looking for a city break in Paris or the beauty of Provence see our French summer holiday ideas.
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