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Sports & Outdoors

The best beaches in the South of France

We share the best of beaches in South France for your next holiday by the sea.

If you are heading to the south of France this summer, no doubt it's the beaches you're looking for. There's nothing like going for a splash in the Med or having a family day at the beach. Plus, these are places you can maintain a healthy distance from other families and stay safe post-lockdown.

This is a gorgeous corner of Europe and we have found some of the hottest seaside spots. So, grab your sunglasses, sandals, and SPF, and head to the coast. (Do as the French do and pack a sun umbrella, too. It means you can spend all day soaking up a good novel, instead of too much sun). You may also want to bring your pet, so check our pet-friendly guide here.

To reach the south of France from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle’s Calais terminal can take a day of driving, so to break up your journey we suggest stopovers en route. This means you’ll see more of the stunning countryside and country as you go.

The French Coast is full of surprises, so why not read our guide to driving it?

Porquerolles, Var

This island off the coast is a secret haven for beach lovers. Caribbean-blue waters and fine sand lie to the isle’s northern side, whereas the south has steep cliffs and hiking routes. You have a selection of beaches to choose from, Notre Dame is lined with trees for shade, while Argent attracts families thanks to it having everything from a restaurant, public toilets, and boat hire within easy reach.

La Courtade is the closest beach to the village of Porquerolles itself, with a eucalyptus forest at its border, which will smell divine as you soak up some rays.

Drive from our Calais terminal, following the A26. As this drive takes 12 hours, we suggest the following stop-offs en route: Reims, Dijon, or Lyon at the halfway point (which is around a 6 hour 30 minute drive). When you reach the coast at Hyères, the Tour Fondue ferry service takes you across to the island. Adult tickets are around €20 for a return ticket, with journeys from 7:30am until 6:30pm each day.

Pyrénées-Orientales

Pyrénées-Orientales sits along the Spanish border, with more than one beach for you to enjoy. If you want to head inland for an authentic French seaside town, Argelès-sur-Mer is a great choice, also known for its long Argelès Beach with its seafront promenade. The town is built in the Catalan-style featuring a 14th-century church and 19th-century castle, perfect for a day trip.

The total driving time from Calais to Argelès-sur-Mer, Pyrénées-Orientales is a little over 11 hours, meaning you can plan some wonderful stops on your way. The A71 and A75 are the two main roads that take you south, meaning you could easily spend some time in Paris.

Another beautiful beach Pyrénées-Orientales has to offer is Côte Vermeille. Even in the height of summer this beach provides plenty of space to relax and explore. Many kms long and extremely wide, there is a little something for everyone here.

The northern, pine-fringed end enjoys great views of the Pyrenees, and the rugged southern end is dotted with coves which are perfect for snorkelling or going exploring. Both ends are comparatively quieter to the central section of beach. Here, kids can play at the seaside funfair, restaurants have plenty to please hungry beachgoers, and water sports fans have a whole host of options to choose from. Meanwhile, the promenade is busy with people strolling along in happy holiday mode, why not join them?

The quickest route to Côte Vermeille takes you near to Paris towards the start of your journey and it would be rude not to pay the capital a quick visit, no? If you want to avoid the traffic, then another option for a quick visit is one of many Paris park and ride spots.

Fine white sand stretches for 4km on Valras-Plage beach

Valras Plage, Languedoc

This sprawling stretch of beach is perfect for a European coastal break. Here you'll find clean, clear waters fringing the scenic Languedoc region, and plenty of shops and restaurants to boot.

Swim, sunbathe or stroll along the water's edge with an ice cream, browse the local boutiques, or watch the fisherman bringing in their catch for the day. You can be sure the seafood in the restaurants here is as fresh as it gets.

Over the summer there are extra things for kids to do, from seaside fairground rides to an adventure park. This is a popular holiday spot, so expect summer crowds, but with kms of sandy beach available, there's plenty of space to go around.

We recommend breaking up your journey in Orléans. From our Calais terminal it's 415km (about 4 hours driving time) to Orléans, following the A1, and changing to the A10 once you pass through the outskirts of Paris.

From Orléans it's 640km, about 5 hours 45 minutes driving time, heading south on the A71 and changing to the A75 just out of Clermont-Ferrand.

Plage des Marinières, Côte d'Azur

A short drive from Nice, beside the pretty fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer, is Plage des Marinières. This kilometre-long beach of golden sand is a summer favourite, when visitors to the French Riviera seek a little sand and sea to go with that glorious sun.

The waters here are warm and clear, excellent for swimming and snorkelling. Plus, there are ice cream stalls and seafood restaurants dotted along the waterside.

If you fancy exploring beyond the beach, head into the picturesque Old Town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. It may even look familiar, given that it's a location used in many classic films, including Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, and James Bond Never Say Never Again. Remember to bring your camera to capture the scene for yourself.

We recommend taking a break during your journey in Lyon. From our Calais terminal it's 758km (about 6 hours 30 minutes driving time) to Lyon, following the A26.

From Lyon it's 478km (about 4 hours and 25 minutes driving time), heading south on the A7, then heading east on the A8 out of Aix-en-Provence.

Plage du Camp-Long, Var

Sitting on the northwest corner of the Bay of Agay, this small but perfectly formed beach is more commonly known as Tiki Beach after the restaurant there. The sand is surrounded by red rocks, forming a natural pool of water protected by the waves, making it a great place to swim, especially if you have little ones with you. There's a large carpark close by, plus shady woodland above the beach for exploring if you get too hot in the summer.

If you were to drive directly to Plage du Camp-Long, it would take around 11 hours on the A26. This means you will likely break up this journey with a few stops. The A26 allows for stops in places like Saint Quentin, Picardy, Lyon, and Valence. The St-Apollinaire cathedral in Valence is a must-see, dating back to the 11th Century.

The idyllic Plage des Marinières is loved by locals too

Plage de L'Almanarre, Provence

For those who love being by the sea but find it hard to sit still, even with the best of beach novels to hand, Plage de L'Almanarre is the place to go.

This scenic 4 km stretch of sand draws people who love water sports, thanks to the consistent winds along one edge of the beach. Every year it hosts fun-board and kite-surfing competitions. The shallows are great for paddling and safe for children and there are more sheltered areas where you'll find people kayaking.

Venturing out further offers you prime conditions for windsurfing. There are shops here which will rent out surfing equipment, beginners will find surf schools dotted around the area, to help get them started.

If you’re bringing the kids, be sure to check out the flamingo colonies which live in the salt marshes behind the main beach.

Driving to Provence (one of many beautiful regions in the south of France) offers the perfect opportunity to stop by one of France’s top foodie towns of Grenoble. Coast along the A26 and look forward to the city’s traditional dish of Gratin Dauphiné.

From Grenoble, Provence is just 182km (about 2 hours and 40 minutes driving time), heading south via the D1075 (this route includes tolls).

Point Zéro beach, La Grande-Motte

La Grande-Motte is a popular seaside resort, well known for their modern architecture and pyramid hotels. A popular tourist destination in La Grande-Motte is their stunning Point Zéro Beach which has lovely white sand and beautiful views.

Point Zéro Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Languedoc because it is suitable for all ages. The numerous restaurants and bars along the front mean you're never far from a bite to eat post-sunbathing, and this is also a great area for watersports activities as La-Grande Motte has been building itself a reputation as the French equivalent of La Managa for high-class sports facilities.

From Calais it takes approximately 10 hours to drive to La Grande-Motte. The length of this journey gives you the perfect opportunity to visit other towns on your way, such as Reims or Lyon. You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to park at Point Zéro Beach, because there is plenty of places to park once you get there.

White triangular shaped buildings sitting on a sandy beach with blue skies

Plage de la Salis, Antibes

Home to one of Europe's most glamorous hotels, the Hotel du Cap, Le Cap D'Antibes region certainly brings with it a little glitz and glamour. But you don't have to be rich, famous, or even a guest of the grand hotel to enjoy the stunning setting of this idyllic stretch of coastline.

La Salis is one of the main beaches along this part of the French coastline, and while it's busy in summer, as beaches tend to be, it's worth seeking out for the great swimming conditions.

Families flock to La Salis for its gentle breakwaters, which make it a safe place for kids to spend the day in the water. There are plenty of restaurants nearby and the beach enjoys a great view of the old lighthouse.

We recommend breaking your journey in Reims. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 269km (about 2 hours 30 minutes driving time) to Reims, following the A26.

From Reims it's 940km (about 9 hours driving time), heading south on the A39.

Plage de l’Espiguette, Gard

This beach is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it features barchan dunes, crescent shaped sand banks due to the winds that blow into them from the water. These are usually found in deserts and can reach great heights. Next is the point of Espiguette, which forms an isolated sandbank in the water that you can explore during low-tide.

Nearby you will find two restaurants with sunbed and paddleboard rentals and the beach is a short walk from a car park, which costs around €6 for the day. Another popular activity is horse riding, with a few options for beginners or families. For rainy days or a break from the beach, Seaquarium du Gard-du-Roi is nearby too.

Driving direct to this beach would take around 10 hours beginning on the A26 south from Calais, however you can opt for the A1 if you would like to drive past Paris and make a stop there, with the A6 returning you to the original route south of Dijon. You could also drive to Montpellier, the Paris of the South, which features in our Holidays in the South of France article, complete with picturesque old town, zoo, and  botanical gardens.

View on old town of Antibes from plage de la Salis, France

Montalivet and Soulac, Gironde

Vendays-Montalivet is a coastal town of Gironde, in the pretty region of New Aquitaine. The small town includes a seaside resort on the coast, Montalivet-les-Bains with a long and sandy beach (12km), backed by sand dunes and pine forest. The beach has been awarded a blue flag award for cleanliness and like the other beaches along this stretch of coast, Montalivet-les-Bains is popular with surfers looking to conquer the Atlantic waves.

Soulac-sur-Mer is a seaside resort on the côte d'Argent, in the Medoc peninsula. As well as the 7km of sand, this is a sporty beach, with surfing, yachting, tennis, and cycling to name a few of the activities on offer. This makes it popular with groups and families, so it can get busy during the summer months. Every year in early June, Soulac-sur-Mer celebrates its heritage at the Soulac 1900 festival. This includes an old-style market, shows, and activities on the beach.

These seaside spots both require a ferry across the Gironde Estuary from the town of Royon. Before you reach this point, however, the drive south from Calais will take you around 7 hours, allowing for stops in Le Mans, Angers, and La Rochelle.

It’s also important to note that both Montalivet and Soulac are just over 80km from Bordeaux, an ideal place to visit if you love French wines.

tide out on a golden sandy beach with a boat on the blue water

Start your beach holiday in the South of France with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

We don’t blame you if you struggle to pick just one of the beaches above to visit, they all sound fabulous. Once you have chosen, however, travelling with Eurotunnel couldn’t be easier. Simply head to our tickets and fares page to see what suits you best. For all the latest information for travelling with us during COVID-19, please see our Information & Advice page.

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Start your beach holiday in the south of France with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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More to explore in the south of France