The Good Beach Guide

Most of us like to be beside the seaside, especially in the summer months in sultry Provence. But where to go? We asked various AAGP members to nominate their favourite beaches.

St Cyr/Les Lecques: this was nominated by two families: it’s child-friendly, they explained, sandy and with some reasonable cafés to visit. They also like it because it’s so convenient – just minutes off the autoroute.

Sourmiou: calanque beaches are usually tiny and rocky; but this one has some sand and is fairly easy to reach. It also has a restaurant – Le Lunch (04 91 25 08 69) which has parking if you reserve ahead.

Sugiton: a recommendation from Ester Laushway who says, ‘We love going to Sugiton, which is one of the calanques, and as such, has to be reached on foot, which eliminates some of the madding crowd. You park on the campus of Luminy, walk about 45 minutes and are greeted with a breath-taking view of the calanque and the 'torpedo' just offshore - a rocky islet which teenagers adore swimming out to, climbing and then jumping off the top! Even without such dare-devil doing, the sea is gorgeous, with lots of fish for snorkellers -- but note that there is no sand. You spread your towels, picnic etc out on the rocks’.

La Couronne: this is an AAGP Family Ramble favourite. It’s a wide sandy beach with rocks nearby for children to scramble on. If you walk for half an hour eastwards, there are some lovely sheltered beaches, including one overlooked by the Romanesque church of Sainte-Croix.

Bandol: my favourite beach is the anse de Renécros. You have to walk westwards from the town, past the sports ground and round a headland to find this beach. It’s a fifteen minute walk on the flat. The beach is a sun-trap, sheltered from any wind, and because of the breakwaters, the water is usually calm and warm. The beach is very sandy and slopes gently into the sea. In the summer they have a raft for swimmers to aim for and there are cafés for drinks and a restaurant attached to one of the hotels.

Ile de Porquerolles: This is a wonderful car-free island off the coast of Toulon. Getting there is a bit of a palaver in that you have to drive down to Tour Fondue near Hyères and catch the ferry. There are very big car-parks but factor in enough time to walk back to the terminus and buy a ticket. Ferries are half-hourly at holiday season but you can check times out before you leave on Once there, it’s lovely. We visited Plage d’Argent but according to ‘Top Ten Provence’ (Dorling Kindersley) Notre Dame Beach on Porquerolles is ‘the loveliest beach in France’. The book also gives top marks to Calanque d’En-Vau, Pampelonne Beach at St-Tropez and Piémançon Beach in the Carmargue.

Inland there are some options. Lac St Croix up at the Gorge de Verdun is a stunning turquoise colour. The water is quite warm and the sandy beaches which surround it are perfect for picnics. You can hire pedaloes to meander around the lake or explore the gorge by kayak.

There is also a swimming area at Peyrolles. Penny Collins writes: ‘It is a lake with a sandy area and a grassy slope for picnics. You can swim in the lake and during the summer it is monitored by lifeguards; there is also a shallow area for small children. There is a playground, table tennis tables and various other activities so could be a good day out for those with children. It has a large car park so there’s no problem parking.
I live in Peyrolles so go from time to time, obviously a real beach has more charm but it’s a good second’.

Warning! All the local beaches get very crowded in summer and so an early start is advised.

Copyright © 2008 Anglo-American Group of Provence