The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is known for its gorgeous coastline that stretches roughly from St Tropez in the west to Menton in the east, with literally hundreds of beaches of all shapes and sizes. From long sandy stretches to tiny rocky coves, we’ve got it all covered, but what many people don’t realise is that a great deal of these beaches are pebbly. Don’t be disappointed! If you’re not initially a fan of pebble beaches, don’t worry, here’s my guide on how to enjoy them and maybe even see their advantages.
As a rough rule of thumb the beaches from Menton to Antibes are pebbles and Antibes westwards are sand. There are some exceptions such as the beaches on Cap Ferrat which are sort of gravelly, not quite sand but not pebbles either. The sand can vary greatly in its grain, from coarse and red around the Estérel to fine white along Pamplonne beach near St Tropez. Like I said, we’ve got it all! The pebbles in this area are actually large flat grey stones called “galets” which contribute to making the sea colour the vibrant blue that it is around here. They are much loved by the local population and are part of Nice’s heritage.
So how can you make the most of a pebbly beach? First and foremost you need shoes! Young children can usually run around on the pebbles barefoot but adults struggle. But even the toughest of young feet find the stones can get very hot without shoes. As a bare minimum flipflops are a start. At least you can cross the beach to the water’s edge comfortably, but then you’re going to find it quite a struggle to get out of the water in bare feet. As a next best bet, use Crocs, which you can keep on while swimming, though they aren’t known for being tight and can come off easily in the water. My advice is to equip yourself with proper beach/swimming shoes, sold cheaply along the seafront in towns like Cagnes sur Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet and Nice. Large supermarkets in the area stock them as does Decathlon, the sports megastore.
Next tip is to invest in a fold-up mattress to soften the bumps while lying on the beach. While these make a pleasant difference (and cost very little) funnily enough because the stones are flat they aren’t actually uncomfortable to lie on. However, if you’re staying with us at Lou Messugo we will happily lend you a mattress or even a fold-up sun bed, as well as a parasol.
As for the advantages of a pebbly beach, think of walking on the stones as like having a reflexology session – for free! How about sandwiches without sand? Yup, picnics on pebble beaches are much easier and more relaxed affairs than on sandy beaches. And, it’s not just while eating that you can appreciate no sand. You know those days when the wind whips sand into your eyes, or even just bitingly across your ankles on an otherwise gorgeous beach? Well, that doesn’t happen either. You don’t get sand in your clothing/towels and the car stays much cleaner. What’s not to like?
Any family with young boys will know that they can stand and skip or throw stones into water for what seems like hours! Infact it’s not limited to young boys…I know a fair few in their mid-fourties who do the same. My experience with girls is limited but surely there are some who also like throwing stones? So there you have hours of free and easy entertainment. Much better than throwing sand.
Pebble beaches are great for collecting stones too. Try looking for different shapes and colours and the odd bit of seaglass. We always come home with extra kilos in the beach bag from interesting specimens found by the kids and judging from the piles left on the terrace of the gîte after each lot of guests leave, so do many of our guests!
And finally, building castles doesn’t have to be limited to sand castles. Creating structures with stones can be just as fun. So much fun that there’s even an annual World Championships held on one of the beaches nearest to us! Click here to read all about this rather unique event.
If this has convinced you that pebble beaches are good but you don’t want to carry around a mattress or even some beach shoes, there are options…go for luxury. Hire a sun bed and parasol on one of the many private beaches for the day. Some even have matting or wooden pathways down to the edge of the water to avoid getting that reflexology session! Prices vary from beach to beach from around 14€ per person upwards (a lot upwards for the chicer beaches). If you’re only in the area for a day or two (and not staying at Lou Messugo) then this is the obvious choice but it can get expensive for longer stays. Bear in mind that you are not allowed to bring your own food to a private beach so you have to factor in the cost of a meal too, but for special occasions, there’s nothing better than lying on a sunlounger with waiter service on the beach on the French Riviera.
What do you think of pebble beaches? Let’s get a discussion going, who prefers what?