Summer has been in full force on the French Riviera for many weeks now, one of my boys has been on holiday for 5 weeks and the other 2 weeks but I’m only just beginning to find the time to make the most of it myself.  We’ve had scorching temperatures hovering around 40°c for several weeks and not a drop of rain for a very long time.  So yesterday when we went to the beach en famille it felt like heaven!  The water was a perfect 26° and sparkling deep blue, contrasting with the warm red rocks of the Estérel cliffs.

Calanques de Maupas Esterel Var France

I thought I’d write about one local beach each week for the rest of the summer season, showcasing some of our favourite places to cool off, swim, snorkel, rent boats, rent pedalos, jump off rocks, “bodysurf” (this is the Mediterranean not the Atlantic so don’t expect big waves!) laze around luxuriously and generally have fun.

Calanques Maupas rock island

To kick off my series, here’s where we went yesterday, les Calanques de Maupas in the Massif de l’Estérel.

Calanques Maupas Var

The Estérel hills divide the Alpes-Maritimes department from the Var on the Côte d’Azur and form a stunning backdrop to one of the most scenic drives in the area.  Magnificent red cliffs come crashing down to the deep blue sea with little creeks, bays and rocky coves all along the coast.  Where we like to go isn’t really a beach (though there is a small pebbly beach nearby it’s not where we go).  We find a spot on the rocks and climb down into the water, or in my kids’ case, jump into the water.  It’s crystalline and ideal for snorkeling as there are rocks to perch on across the little bay and crevasses, nooks and crannies to explore under water.

swimming in the Esterel

This area is part of the Cap Roux fishing reserve, a 445 hectare marine reserve protecting and encouraging the biodiversity of sea life along the Estérel coast.  It is the largest reserve of its sort in continental France.  We’ve seen plenty of fish, anemones and sea urchins but no lobsters (yet) that the area is supposed to have.

sea urchins

The rocks are sharp and rough and to enjoy this area I highly recommend wearing beach/swimming shoes unless you have very tough feet.  The water is probably the clearest in the area, and the most amazing temperature, it just isn’t cold, so lazily snorkeling around is very comfortable.  We have even swum here in late October and is a favourite picnic spot throughout the year.

swimming shoes on rough rocks

There are several spots to jump off the rocks into the water, and as none are very high it’s pretty safe for kids and not too alarming to watch as a mum!

Calanques Maupas jumping off rocks

To find this magical place, take the D6098 (which becomes the D559) from Théoule sur Mer towards St Raphaël.  Look out for the Hotel Mirimar on the left and then it’s 2.6 km to our spot, just a few metres after the Relais des Calanques.   You’ll see a car park on the left opposite the bus stop for Calanques Maupas.  If this is full you’ll just have to find somewhere to pull off on the side of the road.  To make sure you get a place in high season I recommend you either get there early (by 9 am) or late.  We arrived at 5 pm in time for an evening picnic and had no trouble parking.  From the car park take the little path to the left of the sign about the fishing reserve. In good traffic conditions it takes about 50 minutes from Lou Messugo and is well worth the effort.

Esterel rock jumping

Calanques_Maupas_Estérel

Have you been to the Estérel?  Where’s your favourite beach?  Do tell.

For more beach recommendations take a look at my top 12 favourite beaches on the Riviera

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