The Côte d’Azur is famous for its beaches and bright blue sea (it’s not called the Azure Coast for nothing) but many people are surprised when they arrive to discover that plenty of the beaches are in fact pebbles, not sand. Once you get over your surprise you’ll find there are loads of things to love about stoney beaches which I’ve written about here. Right now I’m going to tell you about some of our family’s favourite beaches to take kids, toddlers and babies to in the region – and they’re all sandy. The beach season spans roughly April till October, depending on the weather. Out of high season you’ll find less people and more space though the water in spring can feel a little chilly. We find the best time of year to swim as well as play on the sand is late summer/autumn as the crowds have gone, and the midday sun isn’t too hot, but the water is warm, staying about the same as the air temperature well into October. Here are our family’s top 3 favourite beaches on the Riviera with little ones in tow.
Plage du Port Gallice, Juan les Pins
Tucked away between the Cap d’Antibes and Juan les Pins, this is a beach that locals know but not so many visitors are aware of…perhaps I shouldn’t be writing about it here! The little sailing port has a car park that is big enough to have never failed to find a space in even in the height of summer, but if you go early and are lucky you may find free street parking on Boulevard Baudoin. The beach is backed by a lovely stone wall, from one of the elegant properties behind, which absorbs the sun’s warmth and protects from wind. Gallice is always very sheltered and calm making it an ideal choice for toddlers and babies. The sand is fine and pale and the water shallow, though there are rocks at either end for climbing on and exploring. The view looks out to yachts moored off Juan les Pins and over to the Estérel hills, and if you swim out a little you can gaze back on the fabulous luxury villas that line the beach. With its small café and convenient toilets, it’s really a great family choice.
Plage Passable, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
This beach is located on the exclusive Cap Ferrat peninsula and like Gallice, is overlooked by a fabulous villa (once the summer house of the King of Belgium). Once again, the villa’s wall provides protection and warmth though this beach is more open than Gallice. It looks across the beautiful Bay of Villefranche which is one of the deepest natural harbours in the Mediterranean and a regular port of call for cruise ships. The beach is fine gravel which doesn’t get into your sandwiches as much as sand and is easier on sensitive feet than pebbles. It has a concrete jetty and rocks on either side perfect for jumping and diving off, making this a great choice for older children. Parking can be a problem here though if you arrive by 10 am in summer and a bit later out of season you’re likely to find a place. The trick is to drive right past the beach to the end of the dead-end street which becomes a small metered carpark. There is a restaurant and some rather basic toilets.
Plage de la Gravette, Antibes
This beach is located conveniently close to the old town of Antibes, just nestled under the ramparts. Once again it is calm and protected by the old walls. The water is quite shallow for a fair way out making it easy for adults to stand while helping toddlers swim. It’s sandy, though not as fine as at Gallice, and frustratingly has stones all along the water’s edge making it harder to get in and out for those oldies with sensitive feet. This never seems to be a problem for children though! There is a snack van and basic loos but what we love about it is that you can pop over to the market to get delicious local produce for lunch. Antibes market is open every morning until 1 pm and it’s just bursting with olives, fresh seasonal fruit and veg, tapenades, saucisson, cheese and best of all socca. Parking is usually OK in the new underground carpark by the ramparts but if it’s full you should find somewhere to park in the marina if you look hard enough and the earlier the better, as usual. Once you’ve finished on the beach you can wander around the boutiques of old Antibes or marvel at the super-yachts moored on the “quai des milliardaires” as it’s known locally (billionaires’ quay).
Have you been to the French Riviera? Do you have a favourite beach on the Côte d’Azur or elsewhere?
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Gravette beach picture courtesy of Aimelaime on WikiMediaCommons