It’s hardly surprising for the country that invented the bikini to find out that it is an incredible beach destination. Some of the best beaches in France could easily be described as some of the best beaches in the world. What elevates the French beach experience to such lofty heights is not only the clear waters, the sandy perfection of the beaches. It’s superiority is probably due to what happens when you step off the beach. Villages that look like they stepped out of a painting by Degas (who incidentally spent a lot of time in Trouville!).
There is an array of pretty towns, resorts and luxury French Villa rentals that capture the magic of the French coastline – running from the Northern part of the country all the way down along it’s western edge, bordering the English Channel, the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay and continuing from Perpignan overlooking the Mediterranean across the Riviera all the way to the Italian border.
The ultimate road trip, which would also be a gastronomical voyage par excellence, brings the spectacular farmlands of Normandy and Brittany, the vineyards of the Bordeaux region, the lavender fields of the South along with the mountains of the Alpes Maritimes together in one sweeping adventure.
The French are quite rightly proud of their amazing country. They have nurtured and preserved their heritage and have retained all that is valuable in creating a life of beauty and quality. This seems doubly so, when you ramble along the lovely quiet Northern coast on a picturesque French beaches. You can even the ranks of the beau monde on any of the South of France beaches. Let us embark on this wonderful road trip along the coastal roads of France …. Please don’t forget to pack your bikini ……!
The Northern Western Coast
It’s extraordinary how close the North-western French coast is to the coast of England. If it is said that England and the US are two countries divided by a common language then the small ribbon of water known as the Straits of Dover is the only common denominator between two utterly distinct countries. For all of the connections between these two great nations, think the Channel Tunnel / Eurostar and numerous ferry lines, two countries could not be more separate in their ideologies, temperament and climate.
If you are arriving into France on such a ferry or by car/tunnel, prepare yourself for not just driving on the opposite side of the roads but really thinking with the other side of your brain. The first port of call (literally) for a lot of tourists into France is through the towns of Calais or Le Harve.
Famous in the early 20th Century as a pop-over point from the UK by light aircraft, this resort with many hotels and casinos sits in the midst of some of the loveliest and largest stretches of sandy splendour. If you are looking for some of the best beaches near Paris then Le Touquet’s Central or Dunes Beaches are perfect. With an excellent train service from Paris and a well-established road network, it’s not impossible to make a day trip to Le Touquet to enjoy a day at the beach and a good lunch.
This jewel in the crown of France’s Normandy region, was established in the late 1800’s as a seaside destination for the wealthy and glamorous. WWII saw some of the grand hotels converted to hospitals to treat injured Allied troops but post-war this resort town saw it re-establish itself as a destination of choice for chic Parisiennes. The horseracing draws a large crowd each year as does the Deauville International Film Festival. In fact, on the subject of films there are so many wonderful films that have used this town as a backdrop. Coco Avant Chanel, Tournament and, of course, the multi-award winning movie A Man and A Woman (1966).
If you want to get a sneak preview of the gorgeous beach at Deauville just watch the fabulous Jean-Louis Trintignant woo the effortlessly chic Anouk Aimee along the windswept deserted beaches of a wintry Deauville. Please be assured though, that a visit to Deauville in the Summer and Fall is a warm experience and ideal for sunbathing and swimming. If you are looking for beaches near Paris you will have to visit Deauville.
Mont St Michel
This UNESCO protected island that is reached across a tidal land bridge overlooks the gorgeous Bay of Mont St Michel. Visit the heavenly French beach at St Jean Le Thomas where you can look over at the monastery of St Michel and even plan a nice hike across the bay at low tide. The area around the bay of Mont St Michel is awash with lovely villages, divine restaurants and views out over a limitless ocean. This is again another one of the beaches near Paris that makes a memorable destination.
General – The Best beaches in France
When considering any of the best beaches in Northern France you can be assured of so many interesting activities in addition to the beach experience. Golf, horse riding, sailing, surfing, dining out. As well, the famous historic landing beaches along the Normandy coastline like Omaha Beach and Utah Beach have brilliant tours that remind us about the great human sacrifice of WWII.
The South Western Coast
As we sweep south from Normandy we enter the Medoc-Ocean region that comprises the coastlines of the Bordeaux region. Again, the natural beauty of the countryside sweeps down to the dazzling blue of the Bay of Biscay. With over 100 miles of amazing cycle paths that weave around this coastal area, it’s the perfect destination for an active beach and land vacation. If you are a golf enthusiast, you won’t be disappointed either as there are many excellent golf courses established near some of the best beach destinations in France.
Lancanau, Carcans and Cap Ferret
These three beach town capture everything that is beautiful and thrilling about the beaches in this part of France. Powerful waves attract the surfing fraternity but the huge sweep of sandy beaches are the perfect destinations for families looking for space to run free.
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!
Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.
Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.
Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.