There are so many lovely easy coastal walks on the French Riviera, that we’re spoilt for choice. If you like walking but don’t want steep ups and downs, or you want to walk with young children, or for any other reason you want an easy walk, then the French Riviera is the place for you. The coast is lined with the “sentier littoral”, the coastal path, for hundreds of kilometres, and access to it is free.
The path, created in 1791, started out as a customs path. It runs the length of the French coasts (Mediterranean, Atlantic and the Channel). In 1976, to stop the encroachment of private land onto the water’s edge, a law was passed ensuring the right of passage for pedestrians, allowing free access to the coast. Thanks to this, there is now an enormous choice of easy coastal walks on the French Riviera.
Here are a few of my favourite hikes, suitable for the whole family. Places to get away from the crowds and the traffic, far from buildings where the only noise is the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks, insects chirruping and seabirds crying. None of these walks is long but all offer gorgeous views, invigorating sea air and a wonderful change of scenery.
Easy Coastal Walk on the French Riviera at Cap Ferrat
The hike around Cap Ferrat is one of the most beautiful easy walks on the French Riviera, with a choice of distances available. The cap has a narrow headland, St Hospice, on the eastern side (seen in the photo below), which can be incorporated into a longer walk or done on its own or left out altogether.
The distance around this headland to and from the port is about 3.5 km, making a very easy and pleasant short walk. The walk from the port around the cap without going around the St Hospice headland is just over 6 km and if you combine the two the total distance is 9 km. Plenty of choice depending on time, energy levels etc.
Start at the port of St Jean where parking is available and head off with the sea to your left along Ave Jean Mermoz until you get to steps that lead down to Paloma beach. Take the steps down, cross the beach and follow the little path along the water’s edge.
This takes you all the way round the St Hospice headland to Avenue Claude Vignon. Continue along this street as it turns up away from the sea and sharp left and when it turns right, you turn left into Chemin de la Carrière. It is clearly signposted.
This street ends at a wide-open area that was an old quarry with some surprising ruined buildings covered in graffiti and a ruined jetty. Looking out to sea and across the little bay rather than at the shabby land is lovely. Keep going straight and from now on you are on the coastal path which leads all the way to Passable beach.
The beginning of the path is wide and paved, with fences and CCTV for the large properties on your right. There are some impressive houses along here, but of more interest are the expansive views as far as Monaco on your left.
After a while the path becomes narrower and cobbled and as you reach the far end of the Cap you’ll see the luxurious cabanas of the pool club of the Grand Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, one of the most prestigious hotels on the Côte d’Azur. You’ll also see the lighthouse.
From here on the path, which varies from mud to rocky roots to cobblestones, starts to climb. It becomes very narrow in places with no protection from the steep drop, so take care, especially if you have young children with you.
It is however, unbelievably scenic as you are now facing Nice and the Estérel mountains in the distance. You pass a series of pretty inlets and bays, with sparkling turquoise water contrasting beautifully with the lush green vegetation and many flowers (depending on the season).
There are a few places where you can scramble off the path to have a picnic or to access the water for a dip, though I would suggest waiting for the beach at the end of the hike for a well-deserved swim.
The coastal path ends at plage Passable, a gorgeous, sheltered beach facing the rade de Villefranche sur Mer, without doubt one of the most picturesque bays on the French Riviera.
To get back to the start of this easy walk on the French Riviera take the steps up from the far end of the beach. You’ll come out on Chemin de Passable which takes you up to the main thoroughfare of the Cap, Ave Denis Semeria. Turn right and cross over to continue on Semeria (not Ave Albert 1er) where you’ll see the impressive gates of the former king of Belgium’s villa. The road forks left and heads downhill towards the sea; there are various different roads that all end up at the port which is situated on your left.
An alternative place to park is at Plage Passable, in which case you could do the walk in the opposite direction, going counterclockwise around the Cap. In summer this car park gets full very quickly so arrive early if you want to use it.
Easy Coastal Walk Around Cap d’Antibes
This easy coastal walk on the French Riviera takes you around the Cap d’Antibes. It is between 4.5 and 5 kms, depending on your route, and takes about 1.5-2 hours. Start at the car park behind the plage de la Garoupe and take the path that runs along the right side of the beach along a stone wall. From here on for as far as you can go along the coastal path the route is obvious and doesn’t need to be marked as there’s no choice.
The trail follows the old customs path along the water’s edge, winding up and down along steep white limestone cliffs and past narrow rocky coves. It’s well maintained, cobbled at times, with handrails to hold onto in the more precarious parts. Looking down to the left the water is beautifully clear, deep blue and sparkling, and looking up to the right you catch glimpses of private gardens behind high stone walls.
Every now and then there’s a gate into one of the luxurious gardens through which you can see ancient olive trees, Aleppo pines, enormous agaves and exotic cacti. The jagged white rocks are covered in succulents, such as the “Witches Finger” which seem to grow out of nothing.
After a while you’ll notice you’re walking beside an extra high stone wall with plenty of unfriendly security cameras. At the end of the wall you have a choice to turn up away from the coast to make the walk a little shorter or continue on through a gate to possibly the most picturesque part of the path.
If you choose the shorter option, follow the property high wall to Chemin des Douaniers and then Avenue de Mrs Beaumont until you get to the main road and then immediately turn right into Avenue de la Tour Gandolphe at the end of which you’ll find yourself back at the car park where you started. I’ve written in more detail about this version of the walk here.
However, if you carry on along the coastal path you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful bays on the Côte d’Azur, known as billionaires bay.
The limpid water is always turquoise, the rocks glow golden in the sun, there are often a couple of well-placed boats and the perfectly-formed beach which appears to be white sand from a distance though is in fact pebbles. It is well worth taking this only very slightly longer route, you will not be disappointed.
To get back to the start of the walk, take the steep path up from the beach which brings you on to Ave de Mrs Beaumont from where you can follow the instructions above. The map below shows the longer route taking in billionaire’s bay.
Wild Coastal Walk to Cap Taillat
Cap Taillat is a great deal less known than both Cap d’Antibes and Cap Ferrat. It’s practically a Riviera secret thanks to its relative inaccessibility. In fact it is only possible to reach Cap Taillat by foot or boat making it an ideal place for a hike in untamed nature.
Cap Taillat is located in the Gulf of St Tropez, close to the town but seemingly a million miles away. Its relative remoteness it has meant it has avoided the development that is typical of much of the Riviera coast and it doesn’t attract the crowds that swarm to St Tropez itself.
To reach this easy coastal walk I suggest parking at Plage de l’Escalet. Take the little track to the beach and head off to the right for the coastal trail. From here on it’s easy to follow the path that hugs the coast as it weaves its way between gorgeous coastal flora, scrub and unusual boulders.
You will pass over a couple of very picturesque wooden bridges and after a short while will have the choice between a lower or higher path. The lower path is slightly harder, being less defined than the wider higher path. At times you have to scramble a little which makes it not so suitable for very young kids or those who are less mobile. We took the lower path on the way to the Cap and the higher path on the way back thereby making it almost a loop rather than the same there and back.
The whole way along the path you look down on beautiful coves with turquoise water and white sand. Many of the beaches are easily accessible for a swim. Clothes are optional in some places so don’t be surprised if you see more than you bargained for!
Continue along the path until you reach a wide sandy beach and the isthmus joining the Cap with the mainland. There is usually a lot of driftwood here which families make into dens. On this double-sided beach it can be windy, but there are sheltered parts too. It’s a wonderful place for a swim and a picnic.
This part of the beach is famous for being where the song Truly Scrumptious was filmed in the children’s classic film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968. Take a look at the clip and you’ll see that almost nothing has changed in more than 50 years which is an incredible feat in this heavily populated and touristed part of the coast.
The path continues up to the top of the Cap where there’s a small hut and fabulous 360° views from Cap Camarat in the east to the îles de Porquerolles in the west and the Domain de la Bastide Blanche wine estate just past the isthmus.
The path and the Cap are part of a protected area designed to nurture the plant and animal life of this stunning “area of floristic, faunal and ecological value”. The native Mediterranean flowers are magnificent in spring making it the ideal time to do this easy coastal walk.
This path is in the full sun with no shelter at all and no facilities so be sure to take plenty of water, snacks or a picnic and suncream. Suitable walking shoes are advisable for scrambling over the rocks. During the summer months a boat cruises around the beaches with drinks and ice-creams which is great but you can’t rely on it being where you want it when you want it, so don’t rely on it! Smoking and fires (including barbecues) are strictly prohibited owing to the very real risk of bush fires.
The return walk (or on the way if you take the top path) passes an old customs house, built in the early 19th century to house eight families whose job it was to survey the area for contraband. It’s hard to imagine living in this almost windowless shed!
All up the hike is about 7 km in total. We made it a tiny bit longer by going on towards Cap Lardier. It’s stupendously scenic and refreshingly wild, and definitely one of my favourite walks on the Côte d’Azur.
Short Coastal Walk at Cap Dramont
Cap Dramont lies at the foot of the Massif de l’Estérel, a spectacular coastal mountain range known for its striking red rocks. The Cap itself has a number of easy short walks which offer incredible views over the main part of the Estérel and the wonderfully picturesque île d’Or (golden island).
To enjoy this easy walk on the French Riviera, park in the car park (rue Lm Robinson) at Camp Long beach in St Raphaël. The start of the path is obvious from here, behind a barrier, with the sea on your left. Several metres after the barrier take the steps on your right after which the path plunges into the bushes on the left.
I advise having an app with paths marked like Komoot or AllTrails as there are some choices to make depending on how far you want to walk. The paths vary from flat, level paved bits to rocky narrow parts with steep drops. Unlike the other coastal walks described so far, this one can get quite steep at times, but overall it is not difficult walking terrain.
This walk is characterised by contrasts: the rich red of the rocks, the cerulean blue of the sea and the varying shades of green of the Mediterranean vegetation.
The views are breathtaking particularly overlooking the tiny “golden” island, with its picturesque tower built in 1909. L’île d’Or is thought to have been the inspiration for Hergé’s Black Island Adventures of Tintin.
Cap Dramont is a popular spot for rock climbing and I have also seen slacklines strung up between two outcrops over the water with crazy people attempting to cross. Mesmerising to watch!
The walk can be extended down into the little port of Poussaï where there are facilities (toilets, restaurant), though in the map of my walk (below) I didn’t do this.
As always make sure you carry plenty of water and wear suitable walking shoes. There is nowhere to access the sea for a cooling dip on this hike except at the beach at the beginning. It’s approximately 4 km long depending on your exact choice of trail.
Have you done any of these easy coastal walks on the French Riviera? Or do you have any others to recommend? Please comment below.
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