From extensive travel experiences in around Europe, we have found the beaches in France that we consider to be the best, please read on below.
L’Herbe, Cap Ferret, Gironde
The skinny peninsula that curls around the Bay of Arcachon is a playground for people from Bordeaux and Paris, but also home to dozens of working oyster farms. In the village of L’Herbe, alleys separate the clapboard oyster farmers’ cabins, and the tiny beach is overlooked by several oyster bars and the Robinson Crusoe-esque gazebo of Kykouyou restaurant. It’s ideal for a paddle after you’ve washed a few freshly caught crustaceans down with a chilled white wine.
Stay There are small holiday lets in the grounds of villas all over Cap Ferret. Le Patio de l’Herbe (from €110 a night) has two small doubles and a kitchen.
Plage de la Grève Blanche, Île de Batz, Brittany
A ferry runs from Roscoff to the Île de Batz, a pretty island of blue-shuttered granite cottages and rolling fields. There are bikes for hire for scooting to the east of the island, where the white sand of Plage de la Grève Blanche is lapped by turquoise water. Behind it is the Georges Delaselle botanical garden, where plants from the southern hemisphere thrive in the climate afforded by the Gulf Stream.
Stay By the harbour in Roscoff, Chez Janie (doubles from €69 room-only) has a good restaurant and bar.
Les Grenettes, Île de Ré
The bucolic island of white-washed villages and abundant hollyhocks has more than its share of good beaches, but one of the best is Les Grenettes, near the sleepy village of Sainte-Marie-de-Ré. The long beach looks out to the neighbouring Île d’Oléron and is backed by fragrant pine trees; it’s a mix of golden sand and rounded pebbles, perfect for lobbing into the tumbling waves. Take along a surf or bodyboard if you want to tumble in the waves yourself: the area to the left of the main path is good. Afterwards, pedal into the village for an ice-cream or a pineau de Charentes aperitif at welcoming Bar à Quai.
Stay Les Grenettes (doubles from €110 room-only) is a family-friendly hotel with two pools.
The south-west of Normandy’s Cotentin peninsula offers some glorious beaches that remain something of a secret except to locals and visitors in the know. The best of the bunch is Montmartin-sur-Mer, a vast stretch of fine, white sand, backed by wild, grassy dunes, that is so big you’re likely to have a mile of it to yourself – even in August. The tides in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel are some of the strongest in Europe, which means at low tide you may not even see the sea, but it leaves the sand in perfect condition for grandiose sandcastle building.
Stay Le Castel (doubles from €140 B&B) is a family-friendly, 19th-century chateau a short drive from Montmartin-sur-Mer.
There’s a multitude of private beaches on the Côte d’Azur, but it’s possible to enjoy the sun for free on Villefranche-sur-Mer’s two public beaches. The longer Plage des Marinières is at the end of the quayside, overlooked by the coastal railway. Spread your towel on its soft, yellow sand, and take a dip before bagging a terrace table, with the sand between your toes, at one of the many waterfront restaurants. The smaller, quieter Plage de la Darse, on the other side of town, is pebbly but just as nice a place to catch the late-afternoon sun or take a paddle.
Stay Welcome Hôtel (doubles from €149 room-only, welcome hotel.com) has sea views.
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