France’s best beaches, to daydream before you dip


Nature and Outdoor ActivitiesCoastal

Emmanuel Berthier
© Emmanuel Berthier

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 21 March 2024

Have you been dreaming of swimming in the sea, tanning on fine sandy beaches, and gazing at a boundless horizon? While you wait to find your way back to the beach, we’ve put together this selection of the best French beaches to add to your dream trip! Whatever your tastes – wide open beaches or more intimate coves– France has something for you, from Brittany to Corsica, and via the Côte d’Azur, Normandy, and the Basque Country!

Santa Giulia Beach - Porto-Vecchio

Known as the “beautiful island”, Corsica is home to some gorgeous coves. After you’ve bronzed on the must-see Rondinara and Pallombaggia beaches, next stop is the famous Santa Giulia Bay! Lying at the foot of a mountain, it boasts miles of fine sand and crystal-clear water... The sea is shallow here, so it’s the perfect beach for kids or for snorkelling!

Porto-Vecchio Tourist Information

Calanque d'En-Vau – Marseille

It’s one of the most beautiful calanques between Marseille and Cassis! But you’ll have to earn the right to admire it: surrounded by steep, high cliffs, it is accessible only by canoe, boat, or after a one-hour hike. But once you’re there, the sight of those turquoise waters is ample reward!

Marseille Tourism

Deauville Beach

You might know it for its boardwalk studded with the names of famous actors and directors, or as the setting for the Claude Lelouch’s 1966 film, A Man and a Woman, but the beach at Deauville is also one of the most impressive in Normandy, stretching for 2 kilometres! With endless sea views, it is home to 450 beach huts and 450 parasols, and can be reached by train from Paris in just 2.5 hours.

Normandy Tourism

Quend-Plage in Hauts-de-France

A stone’s throw from the breathtaking Somme Bay in the heart of the Marquenterre nature reserve, the vast beach at Quend runs into Fort-Mahon beach in rows of straight, pristine dunes. Here, soft, fine sand stretches as far as the eye can see, the horizon knows no bounds, and the pine forest is redolent of holiday climes. It’s the perfect beach for a horse ride, unless you’d rather go sand yachting or paddle boarding, or even try your hand at kitesurfing...

Plage de la Corniche - Dune of Pilat (Pyla-sur-Mer)

To get to the beach at Corniche, you’ll first need to climb the Dune of Pilat, the highest in Europe at 110m tall. This is a place of unbounded views; take in the Atlantic Ocean as it stretches out before you, and look down on to the Banc d’Arguin nature reserve, which is paradise for migrating birds... When you’ve had your fill of the views, just walk down the wooden stairs to get to Corniche beach, and go for a hard-earned dip!

Arcachon Bay Area Beaches

Grands Sables Beach - Ile de Groix

Found on the Ile de Groix, a 45-minutes boat ride from Lorient, Grands Sables beach has a surprising convex shape and fine sand, whose grains span a spectrum from garnet to white. It’s the island’s biggest beach at 800m long, and is popular for its clear waters and as yet unspoilt beauty. It’s said to be a “wanderer”, as the beach has moved 150m² in two years!

Brittany Tourism

Grande Plage in Hendaye

Get the sand of one of the finest beaches in the Basque country between your toes, just a short hop from the Spanish border. With its 3km of golden sand, it’s also one of the longest. It’s the perfect spot for early birds out for a morning constitutional, beginners to surfing, and families, who’ll never struggle to find a spot to lay down their towels. A certified "Handiplage", it also has facilities and equipment to help persons with reduced mobility enjoy the beach and go for a swim.

Hendaye Tourism

Orpellières Beach, in Occitanie

Lying on the fringe of the nature reserve of the same name, Orpellières beach has retained its wild allure while still being watched over by lifeguards and equipped with a number of small car parks. The beach is protected by a wall of dunes some 2.5km long, and you get there by following little trails between the lofty dunes. It’s a relatively little-visited landscape that rewards visitors with a magnificent panorama of unspoilt nature. Just stick to the signposted paths to avoid damaging the dunes and salt marsh.

Etretat Beach

This isn’t a beach you visit for the crystal-clear waters, but rather the raw, wild beauty of the alabaster coastline. Lying between the chalky Amont and Aval cliffs, the pebble beach at Etretat extends for a kilometre along the shores of the English Channel. It’s a fascinating space that’s perfect for contemplation. One word of warning, though: make sure you know the times of the tides!

Notre Dame Beach – Porquerolles

Reached via a short boat ride from the Presqu’île de Giens in Hyères, Porquerolles is an idyllic spot to spend the day. The jewel in its crown is without a doubt Notre Dame beach, that you can reach by bike or on foot from the village. The beach is bordered by pine and oak groves, and will leave you spellbound by its translucent waters, that have already won the title of Europe’s most beautiful beach!

Marseille Tourism

Grande Plage – Biarritz

It’s one of the best-known and most iconic beaches in Biarritz, with its colourful tents, seafront promenade, and period buildings that include a mansion and a casino. In a central location, the beach is surrounded by a wide selection of cafes, shops, and restaurants! In another life, it was known as “Madman’s Beach" and the “Empress’ Beach".

Basque Country Tourist Information, in French

Saint-Nicolas Beach - Les Glénan

Lying one hour by boat from Fouesnant, the Glénan Archipelago is something of a Breton riviera, with its crystal-clear waters, turquoise lagoon, and wide expanses of golden sand. At its heart, you’ll find the beach of Ile Saint Nicolas that offers a taste of sun-kissed paradise in a sheltered location, where more active visitors will appreciate the sailing school. In April, you can even admire the Glénan narcissus, a species of flower endemic to the island that blooms across the dunes.

Brittany Tourism

Saint-Brévin in the Pays de la Loire

You can get to the wide beaches of Saint-Brévin, near Nantes, by taking a bike along the Loire or the coast, riding between pine forests, rocky outcrops, sleepy hamlets, and megaliths. It’s a natural and gentle approach to savouring the coast of Brittany’s southern border. Between Pornic and Saint-Brévin, a series of intimate coves and bigger, buzzing beaches mean you’re sure to find the right beach to suit your mood.


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