Dream beaches and creeks
From Rayol-Canadel to Sainte-Maxime rocks, sand spits, isthmuses, coves, beaches and harbours follow on from one another in a swirl of colours and heady aromas.
- Canadel Beach
- At the foot of tree-covered hills, this long wide sandy beach faces the Iles d’Or, with just the lapping of the waves to disturb you - Lifeguard, disabled access, free parking and restaurant facilities
- Rayol Beach
- A few steps down to feel the soft caress of sand between your toes; an intimate beach with a touch of the wilderness about it, a protected corner of the Var - Lifeguard, disabled access, free parking and restaurant facilities
- Bonporteau Beach
- On the way out of town heading towards Toulon - Amidst a big pine forest with eucalyptus, tamarisk and palm trees, a small cove surrounded by rocks - Ten minute walk from the road
- Main beach of Cavalaire
- A long sandy beach where private (restaurant and sun loungers) and public areas alternate, and the water is crystal clear - Lifeguard, disabled access and paid parking
- Pardigon Beach
- An amazing space: big sandy beach with volleyball pitches (free) - Lifeguard, disabled access, free parking and restaurant facilities
- WWII Landing Beach
- A big beach full of charm that played a key role in the Provence Landings - Access free - Small village with bars, restaurants and shops - Lifeguard, disabled access and paid parking
- Vergeron Beach
- Sheltered paradise with limited towel space - Here everything is amazing: view, site, fauna, flora, quality of water, scenery - Watersports are a 25 minute walk to Sylvabelle
- Sylvabelle Beach
- A peaceful lovely place for relaxing - No shade so bring a beach umbrella and water - Paid parking
- Héracles Beach
- White sandy beach gently sloping into transparent water - Coastline is public and the beach private - Limited parking - Restaurant facilities
- Gigaro Beach
- Large family beach of fine sand, with a marine path between rocky inlets - Fabulous sunsets! Lifeguard, disabled access, paid parking and restaurant facilities
- Brouis Beach
- A slice of wilderness - A paradise on earth when only migratory birds flocked here to admire the unusual flowers - A 25 minute walk from Gigaro
- Briande Beach
- Only beach on the peninsular which is at the end of a vineyard - Turquoise water, fine sand, waves lapping, in full sun - A 30 minute walk from Escalet
- Cape Lardier Beach
- A listed headland with breathtaking views and endless walks - Too steep to swim here - Mosaic of landscapes and aromatic plants in the scrub - A 40 minute walk from Gigaro
- Escalet Beach
- Succession of delightful little beaches, coves and inlets of limpid water between polished rocks and golden sand - Mask and snorkel essential - Lifeguard, free parking and restaurant facilities
- Cape Camarat
- An “end of the earth” spot covered in a forest of pine and oak trees on rugged granite rocks sculpted by the elements - A 15 minute walk to the lighthouse - Free parking
- Cape Taillat Beach
- Listed headland with remarkable isthmus and unforgettable view - Gulls soar and swoop from dizzying heights - Please note: the land is fragile - A 25 minute walk from Escalet - Paid parking
- Le rocher des portes
- And Bird Island - Cormorants and black-headed gulls wheel about on the currents - Spectacular - Facing Cap Camarat
- Bonne Terrasse Beach
- Small sheltered cove popular with fishermen - Higher up is Eddy Barclay’s old villa where the finest singers have performed - Parking limited - Restaurant facilities
- Pampelonne Beach
- A legendary beach, the most famous in Europe - 4.5km in length in an area ranked espace naturel remarquable - Ideal for swimming, sunbathing and recharging the batteries - Lifeguard, disabled access (Blvd Patch), paid parking
- Les Salins (Saltmarshes) Beach
- Family beach popular with locals where you can catch crabs in the rock pools - Lifeguard, disabled access, not easy to park but free, and restaurant facilities
- La Moutte Beach
- Following Chemin des Treilles de La Moutte, the sea is at the end - 300m of fine sand bordered by reeds ideal for a siesta - 10 minute walk, limited parking but free
- Les Canebiers Beach
- A magnificent 200m stretch of sand - Family atmosphere - Public shower - Diving platform in the bay - Lifeguard, disabled access and free parking
- Les Graniers Beach
- This little cove has a natural, unspoilt side to it - Beautiful limpid sea - Sandy beach but pebbles in the water - Restaurant facilities - 500m from the village
- La Ponche Beach
- Two adjoining beaches at the foot of fishermen’s houses along the oldest district of Saint-Tropez – Coarse-grained sand and pebbles
- ‘Bouillabaisse’ Beach
- Wide beautiful beach, facing into the bay opposite the Massif des Maures - Public and private beaches, lifeguard, disabled access, limited but free parking and restaurant facilities
- La Moune Beach
- A tiny beach with reeds for shade, and the only one run by this village - Relaxed and sporty atmosphere with sailing club - Parking very limited
- Beach at Cogolin Marina
- Beautiful beach with giant palm trees at the end of the Gulf - View points for Saint-Tropez and Sainte-Maxime not far away - Lifeguard, paid parking and restaurant facilities
- Port Grimaud Beach
- Nothing but sand at the end of this beautiful Gulf - Dream beach for toddlers (water slide), plus pedal boats & sailing school - Lifeguard, paid parking 300m away, restaurant facilities
- Big Pine Beach
- Follow the seawall to the left: a Greek temple gives this beach a different character - Large sandy cove sheltered from the traffic - Lifeguard, disabled access, small free car park and restaurant facilities
- Beauvallon Beach
- Pretty sandy beach near car park - Clear view of Saint-Tropez and its citadel - Free parking and restaurant facilities
- Cicada Beach
- With its lighthouse and picturesque bridge like a basket handle, this small beach is popular because of its unique and original setting - No parking
- Croisette Beach
- If you love sea and sun, this long protected beach to the west of town is for you - Sand and pebbles to suit everyone - Lifeguard, disabled access, parking and restaurant facilities
- Town Centre Beach
- A public beach in the centre of town - Convenient, easy access, fine sand - Lifeguard, disabled access, paid parking and restaurant facilities
- La Madrague Beach
- Beautiful scenery and peaceful with gently sloping beach into the sea - Some pebbles and rocks, but never too many people - 3km from town centre direction Issambres, free parking
- Sardinaux Point
- Please note: the area is fragile - Rocky point that has been rehabilitated and replanted, with picnic tables installed - Paid parking at Plage de la Nartelle 200m away
- La Nartelle Beach
- Beautiful long stretch of sand - Building sandcastles highly recommended (bring bucket and spade) - Lifeguard, disabled access, free parking and restaurant facilities
- Elephant Beach
- Takes its name from the famous Babar’s Travels comic strip - Beautiful sand spit - Public beach, restaurant facilities and free parking
- Garonette Beach
- The furthest east of the Saint-Tropez peninsular - Public beach with lifeguard and parking - Nothing but golden sand
Mille sabords !
Harbours, marinas, yachts and lighthouses
On this glittering coastline it is not just about fun and relaxation. Indeed, the harbours and marinas are a driving economic force for Sainte-Maxime, Cogolin, Port Grimaud, Saint-Tropez and Cavalaire. Some even have boatyards that were valued by the captains of yesteryear as they are by the skippers of today. Sailboats, harbours, lighthouses, luxury yachts and marinas – welcome to the Théâtre de la Mer !
All along our coast harbours are strung out like Tom Thumb’s stepping stones, making it easy to cruise from a bay to a gulf, the coast to an island, a buoy to a headland. In winter it is pleasant to stroll along the quays looking at all the boats or watching them having their hulls cleaned. From spring to autumn you can watch the comings and goings, while enjoying an ice cream or lemonade before returning home for dinner. Shops and yacht businesses stay open in the evening when the terraces come to life.
Marinas at the heart of seaside resorts
At the southern end of our 12 municipalities is Cavalaire, the newest harbour with 1,200 moorings, divided into private and public sectors. Anchored in this fabulous bay, the marina offers a range of watersports (diving, deep sea fishing, sailing, jet skis, boating, etc.) excellent restaurants, shops nearby and a lively nightlife scene in summer when the town is not hosting quality nautical events.
Sainte-Maxime on the other hand (like Saint-Tropez) is the oldest harbour on this part of the Var coast. In the 17th and 18th century they loaded timber here from the Maures forests. Expanded in 1972, it can now take vessels from 5m through to 25m and has 780 moorings. The architectural design of the harbour master’s office is in the shape of a ship. The marina is one of many attractions in this seaside town the seafront of which has been given a facelift. It is a lively resort and welcomes visitors all year round.
Memories of the Red Lighthouse
In Saint-Tropez, the first lighthouse was called the Red Lighthouse and was built in 1866 at the end of the jetty. Converted to electricity in 1932, it was destroyed in 1944 then rebuilt, before being replaced by an identical structure during the last port renovation works. It watches over the 800 moorings in a harbour that hosts many exceptional events and remains deeply attached to its centuries-long maritime heritage. Meanwhile, the aura of this fishing village has taken a different turn to become a legend. No doubt its mirror would have many a tale to tell if the lighthouse did not have a duty of confidentiality !
Our Master Mariners
A word about a lesser known aspect of Saint-Tropez: from1470 to the end of the First World War, six out of ten Tropezians earned their living from the sea. In the 19th century the village had a thriving merchant shipping industry as all equipment and goods were transported by sea on coasters and tartans. Numerous trades involved with the sea rubbed shoulders along the quays, and Saint-Tropez’ boatyards were renowned. Some owners came from far and wide to have their vessels built here. Tropezians were fishermen but also Master Mariners who sailed the world’s oceans. A maritime history museum dedicated to these men is due to open in 2013 in the Citadelle.
The Gulf: a favourite port of call for cruise ships
In the last few years the Gulf of Saint-Tropez has become a sought-after port of call for cruise ships, under the aegis of the “Var Provence Cruise Port” initiative, a body set up by the Chamber of Commerce to unite all the port authorities concerned. The Gulf, mainly Saint-Tropez, welcomes around 70 ships a year bringing in over 23,000 cruise passengers who stay between four and 15 hours. The clientele is mainly German and Anglo-Saxon of which 50% leave their ship to explore the harbour and surroundings.
Highlights of Cap Camarat
Another picturesque lighthouse is the one on Camarat in the Ramatuelle municipality. The second highest in France due to the height of the light source (130m above sea level), it was an oil-fired lighthouse before being converted to electricity in 1946 and then automated in 1977. Its reach is up to 60km. On clear days you can sometimes see the shadow of Corsica in the distance. The lighthouse is to be admired from the outside, but the semaphore below, military property, is open to the public on European Heritage Days. Be sure to make the most of your visit by taking the little path on the left to explore Cap Camarat and look at Bird Island.
And those beautiful marinas !
During this promenade by the sea, one cannot ignore the end of the Gulf, an area that was once covered in marshland and today is home to elegant residential areas built round lovely marinas that integrate well into their environment. First the Marines de Cogolin, a 23-hectare complex with harbour master’s office, fine sandy beach, watersports and lively restaurants. The Marines de Gassin also offers amenities and houses built around a shady square. Further on is Port Cogolin (private), a charming waterfront estate in the Provencal style built on the Giscle River (evening entertainment and restaurants). In total, more than 1,750 boats find refuge in these marinas, just opposite Port Grimaud.
Port Grimaud: world famous village on the water
This architectural masterpiece designed by François Spoerry will leave its mark on the 20th century. A neo-Provencal style underpinning its Mediterranean character extends across 90 hectares of former marshland and numbers 2,000 houses. Designed for people who love boats, the site includes 7km of canals, 12km of quays and three port areas which host the biggest concentration of boats and luxury yachts in our Gulf, totalling 2,350 moorings. To fully appreciate the extent of this labyrinth and discover the picturesque districts of this waterfront settlement, you can hire a boat or board an electric barge and do the circuit.
In the wind
Recreation on the water
Peaceful battles at sea!
Keelboats, dinghies, kayaks, jet-skis, stand-up paddles, body-boards, windsurfers, hobie-cats, Optimists, surf boards, catamarans – choose your weapon! The list is not complete by any means as there is an infinite variety of watersports on offer along our coast. Other ideas: water-skiing, banana boat rides, parachuting, the ski-bus, kite-surfing, wakeboarding, pedal boats, bare-foot… The question is - will there be time to do all this before sunset ?
Alone in the world or accompanied
French sailing schools and water sports outlets are well established in the Gulf. In optimum conditions using quality equipment, they can help you master any sport, from how to handle the rigs and accelerator or even rowing, to ensure you progress from beginner to the pleasures of doing it alone.
Individual lessons or complete courses are available, leaving you free to enjoy them in your own time and to be on the water as much as possible – it is an exceptional environment and the atmosphere is friendly. Some only offer rental, others outings with instructor (one hour, half or full day) and sometimes bivouac options. There are programmes to suit any level, for all the family, and motivational courses for those seeking any pretext to escape the city! How well we understand them !
Hotspots in the Gulf
Windsurfing, kite-surfing and stand-up paddle purists know where all the best spots are on our coast: Beauvallon, Tour, Nartelle, Bouillabaisse, Héraclée, Gigaro, Pardigon... All year winds and currents are particularly well orientated for adrenaline junkies with troughs from the west up to 2.5m. At both ends of the season, and in winter, the Mistral that can gust up to Force 9 and the east wind which whips up the sea are always welcomed. There is no need to cross the oceans to indulge your passion. And for the rest of us, the spectators, what a pleasure it is to watch them.
Early in the morning, while some are recovering from their night out, dreaming of Bodhi (surfers’ icon from Point Break), others have been up since sunrise, when the swell is already formed but the wind moderate, and are heading out to catch the wave. Is there also surfing in the Gulf, we hear you cry? Yes - and some fine waves at the Mimosas, Gigaro and Nartelle beaches or in front of Key West on Pampelonne beach. Who would believe it apart from Brice from Nice ?
Promenades on the sea
This is above all the pleasure of being away from the coast, the impression of leaving to go round the world or discovering buried treasure on an island; choose your vessel and cast off from the quay...
Focus on the musts
From Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer to Sainte-Maxime, a succession of harbours, quays and jetties invite you on an adventure.
Close by and safe: Port Grimaud or the Marines de Cogolin or Gassin by electric barge! For the bolder ones: guided excursions in the bay, also very safe but with commentaries. Further away: explore the coast or visit the calanques. Offshore: no need to go as far as Hyères to reach the Iles d'Or - return day trips by boat also go from Port Grimaud, La Croix-Valmer, Cavalaire and Sainte-Maxime. Sea air is guaranteed on the way to Port-Cros (marine national park), Porquerolles and Ile du Levant, but keep your eyes peeled as you may see dolphins, sperm whales, razorbacks or even pilot whales. You are in the heart of the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, a protected zone covering 87,500 km² and subject of an agreement between Italy, Monaco, France and several municipalities in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.
Something a little more unusual
Enjoy discovering the depths from the glass-bottomed Seascope or Aquascope trimarans that offer short excursions to view the seabed. Another original idea is to explore the three headlands on the peninsula (Cap Lardier, Cap Taillat and Cap Camarat) in a pointu, the traditional Provencal fishing boat. In search of something more romantic - sunsets aboard a giant catamaran; or more adrenaline, offshore outings; or more convenient, 15 minutes from Sainte-Maxime to Saint-Tropez by shuttle or maritime taxi; more independent, hire your own boat with or without a licence (if you have no points!); or happier – this one is a secret we are willing to share but you need some puff to blow it up: an inflatable with two oars, and a fishing line trailing between your toes: land and sea have never seemed so beautiful !
20,000 leagues under the sea
The Mediterranean: 365 days a year
Dive into an ocean of bubbles with or without your oxygen bottles and discover a paradise that is very particular to the Mediterranean. They scuba dive practically all year round as the mild climate maintains sea temperatures at an acceptable level. Local divers but also foreigners, particularly from Central or Northern Europe are our best ambassadors.
The Gulf is home to many underwater treasures that we have to respect; in their silent world we are the guests. These depths of extraordinary beauty are teeming with life or attached to rocks, undersea cliffs or rifts: red coral, multi-coloured gorgonians, all kinds of sponges and sea urchins, as well as many pelagic fish species: amberjacks, common dentex, barracudas, mackerels and sand steenbras, not forgetting the famous home-loving groupers. With or without bottles, there is no need to venture too deep to enjoy it. With more than 15 professional clubs (diving centres with French State-approved instructors, fully equipped boats and all the kit), allow them to guide you to the treasures of the deep in the Gulf, the wrecks or the living!
On our coast, along with Sainte-Maxime, Ramatuelle, La Croix-Valmer, Saint-Tropez and Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer, Cavalaire-sur-Mer is one of Europe’s top diving venues. Often referred to as the “Wreck Capital” in dive magazines it is a legend in the Mediterranean, with many wrecks that are particular to this area: merchant cargo or navy vessels that became stranded or were struck down (at a depth of less than 40m and 60m) like the Rubis, the Poursuivante and the Torpilleur.
In all, over 70 superb dive sites have been identified by experts in the Gulf: the Dattier drop, Lardier cove, Moutte pyramid, Bailli cliff face, the sèche à huile or shark’s tooth. Everything is here for an unforgettable experience.
Awash with flora
Not so technical but equally spectacular is the fauna and flora a few metres deep. Underwater “hikes” are organised by the Domaine du Rayol and the Observatoire Marin, a body focused on the Gulf that combines science, technical advances and education to promote sustainable development on the Maures coast. Flippers, masks and snorkels are supplied and a guide takes you to see colonies of gorgonians, squid and fish unlike any other. Acutely aware of sustainable development, these specialists will explain the role played by Posidonia, one of five protected species on the French Mediterranean coast and in the Pelagos Sanctuary for the protection of Mediterranean marine mammals.
Flavours by the sea
Lunch on the warm sand or dinner by the sea - your stay will not be long enough to enjoy all the beach outlets that pay homage to Mediterranean cuisine. This comprises mainly seafood enhanced with local produce, such as herbs, olive oil and lovingly prepared vegetables from the south, creating fragrant colourful dishes that you will not be able to resist.
The history of this tasty cuisine is linked to maritime activities (fishing and bouillabaisse) or hunting (game). It is widely promoted by chefs of both genders most of whom are committed to the origin and freshness of produce that favours local products.
And even in the middle of February, sheltered from the breeze, it is not uncommon to see people lunching on the beach in temperatures nudging 20°C !
Sails & Sailboats
Hardly a weekend goes by when there is not a regatta being organised by one or other of the yacht clubs on the vast body of water that forms the Bay of Saint-Tropez to the limit of the territorial waters. Some have carved out an international reputation, like the Voiles Latines (May), the Giraglia Rolex Cup (June), the Trophée Bailli de Suffren (June), the Dragons meeting (October) and the Voiles d’Automne (November), attracting sailors and spectators from all over the world. We could also cite the jet-ski competitions, the beach-to-beach swims that take place in summer, the stand-up paddle challenges, the Festival de la Plaisance, and other nautical festivals (May - June - November).
However, the most prestigious event without a doubt remains Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, which for a week (end of September/beginning of October) sees the world’s most beautiful boats, from classic centenarians to the young Wally racers, come from all over the globe to race in the bay. Thousands of visitors, sailors, skippers and owners, cross oceans to compete in a spectacle that is without equal; one of knife-edged tacks, broad reaches with spinnakers flying or crews precariously balanced on the rail, who will all end up on the quay swapping stories over a drink in a spirit of friendly rivalry. It is a symbolic event for the village and the Gulf, covered by the world’s media. A not-to-be-missed rendezvous on the nautical calendar which every year has surprises in store for the sailors !