As if France isn’t blessed with enough culinary, cultural and geographical assets as it is, it also happens to be home to some of Europe’s best beaches. From the north coastal dunes to the surfer-friendly Atlantic and the sparkling idylls of the Mediterranean, France has a wide variety of beaches, or plages, to choose from.
If you are planning a move to France and would like to live near a beautiful beach, let’s look at some of the possibilities.
The North Coast
Étretat, Seine-Maritime, Normandy
Located along France’s Alabaster Coast, the pebble beach of Étretat stretches for over 125 km, lined with white chalk cliffs and studded with striking rock formations and natural sculptures that have inspired artists including Claude Monet over the years.
Trouville, Calvados, Normandy
This long time beach resort boasts both impressive mansions from the late 1800s and a working fishing port. Its long and broad beach and promenade are punctuated with tennis courts, seafront activities and a swimming pool.
Deauville, Calvados, Normandy
In 1913, Coco Chanel opened her first clothing store in Deauville, and her casual-chic, beach-inspired looks made the town’s boutique-lined promenade famous. Its beach cabins are named after actors and directors, reflecting the resort’s star-studded events, including the American Film Festival.
Cabourg, Calvados, Normandy
Cabourg’s elegant seafront promenade is overlooked by formal gardens and imposing villas, making it ooze old-world charm.
Côte de Granit Rose, Côtes-d’Armor, Brittany
The breathtaking Pink Granite Coast stretches for over 30 kilometres from Plestin-les-Grèves to Louannec, and is dotted with spectacular granite rock formations, from massive rose gold boulders to eroded pink sand, all contrasting beautifully against the soft grey foam of the sea.
Cap Coz, Fouesnant, Finistère, Brittany
Cap Coz boasts a string of quiet, small beaches and sheltered bays accessible from the peninsula’s hiking path, from where you can admire the entire rocky coastline.
Boutrouilles, Kerlouan, Finistère, Brittany
With its stunning landscapes of wild dunes and rock formations, bright white sand and giant granite boulders, this is one of Brittany’s most breathtaking beaches.
Pointe de Saint-Hernot, Finistère, Brittany
The Crozon Peninsula hosts many hidden coves and beautiful beaches backed by craggy cliffs and pine trees. A hiker’s paradise, its coastal path winds around the Cap de la Chèvre, the most southerly point of the peninsula.
Plage des Grands Sables, Groix, Morbihan, Brittany
The island of Groix is home to one of Europe’s only convex beaches, a 2km stretch of fine white sand which juts out into the clear sea. Here, rugged cliffs and rock stacks line the island’s west coast while picturesque pastel ports nestle to the east.
Donnant, Belle-Île-en-Mer, Morbihan, Brittany
A 30-minute ferry ride from Quiberon takes you to the Belle-Île-en-Mer, and one of the most renowned surf beaches in France, backed by picturesque cliffs.
The West Coast
The rugged Atlantic coast is ideal for surfing, with the more family-friendly resorts of Arcachon and Biarritz’s old-world style.
La Conche des Baleines, Île de Ré, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime
One of the most beautiful beaches on the island, this 3-km stretch of soft, light sand boasts scenic dunes backed by pine forests, with fantastic surf breaks, naturist sections and plenty of secluded spots to choose from.
Gatseau, Oleron, Charente-Maritime
Cross over the bridge from Île de Ré to its sister island of Oléron, where you’ll find sandy beaches backed by grassy dunes and sweet-smelling pine forests.
This dazzling 14-kilometre-long stretch of pristine white sand is shaded by trees and framed by rolling grass-studded dunes. Surfing and windsurfing are popular here.
Arcachon’s deep sandy beach is flanked by two piers, and its sheltered basin means that, unlike most Atlantic beaches, the water is always calm and flat, making it ideal for young families.
Dune du Pilat, Gironde
Europe’s tallest sand dune soars more than 100 metres high and stretches for several kilometres along the coast. Climb the stairs to the top to admire the stunning ocean and pine forest views.
This popular beach resort area boasts golden sand and barrelling waves, with pine forests and two lakes nearby for sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing.
Grande Plage, Biarritz, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
The vast main beach of Biarritz is famous for its striped, 1920s-style beach tents and chairs. It’s also good for surfers from mid-low tide on a moderate swell.
Côte des Basques, Biarritz, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
One of the most popular surfing beaches in France, this wide sandy beach also has panoramic views of lush mountains and the Spanish coast. It’s also close to the city’s most iconic landmark, Rocher de la Vierge, or Rock of the Virgin Mary, a dramatic statue perched on top of a rocky outcrop.
The South Coast
On the Mediterranean, the family-friendly resorts around Montpellier give way to epic natural scenery near Marseille, and then the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera.
Palavas Les Flots, Montpellier, Hérault
This popular beach resort lies on a narrow peninsula lined with hotels, colourful houses and a variety of tourist attractions. For the best views, head to the top of the Phare de la Méditerranée.
L’Espiguette, Montpellier, Hérault
This lovely beach lies beside a nature reserve, with dune systems providing a habitat for endangered birds. It’s also popular for horse-riding and kitesurfing, with an area for naturists.
Parc National des Calanques, Marseille and Cassis, Bouches-du-Rhône
Spread along 20 kilometres of rugged coastline between Cassis and Marseille, the wild and wonderful Massif des Calanques is a series of narrow limestone coves hidden between towering jagged rocks rising steeply out of the water. The easiest way to admire them is on a boat tour from Cassis. Two of the most stunning beaches are at the isolated Calanque d’En Vau and the Calanque de l’Everine, on the craggy headlands of the Côte Bleue.
Almanarre, Hyères, Var
With its fine sand and warm, shallow waters, this family-friendly, five-kilometre-long stretch of pristine coastline is also home to pink flamingos and other rare birds.
Île de Porquerolles, Hyères, Var
Just a short ferry ride from Hyères, the car-free Île de Porquerolles feels like a world away, and boasts sandy white beaches, pine forests, maquis and eucalyptus trees, protected by the Parc National de Port-Cros. The Plage de Notre Dame is the island’s most scenic of beaches.
Pampelonne, St Tropez, Var
Some six kilometres from glamorous St Tropez lies a stretch of beautiful white sand lined with beach clubs frequented by A-Listers and the super-rich. While naturists head north to the Plage de Tahiti, there are still many public sandy spots to enjoy at no cost.
Plage de L’Amour, Gulf of St Tropez, Var
South of Pampelonne, located in a series of coves spanning the Plage de L’Escalet to Cap Taillat is the romantically-named Plage de l’Amour, perfect for swimming and snorkelling. From Cap Taillat there are sweeping views across the bay, while for peace and quiet try the Plage de Briande.
Paloma, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Alpes-Maritimes
Located on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, a playground for European elites, this rocky shore offers wide, sweeping sea views and a sheltered limestone cove, ideal for swimming and sunbathing. For keen snorkellers, the rocky areas on either side of the beach host seagrass meadows, starfish and sea breams.
Accessible by ferry from Marseille, Toulon and Nice, Corsica’s rugged mountainous centre gives way to a stunning and varied coast.
On Corsica’s southern coast, Palombaggia Beach has sparkling, clear water fringed by pink-tinted fine sand and pine trees, drawing comparisons to the Caribbean. On windy days, however, it attracts surfers.
While the port city of Ajaccio, Corsica’s capital, boasts a trendy waterfront promenade, just a 20-minute ferry ride away lies Porticcio, a beautiful strip of fine sandy beach lined with cocktail bars.
France’s beaches have so much to offer both holidaymakers and second-home owners alike. The only problem is choosing the right spot for you. Happy hunting!