The first rule on finding the best beaches in France? Don’t assume they’re all on the Riviera. While the famed stretch of coastline does have some unforgettable beaches, you won’t want to discount the Normandy shore or the Bay of Biscay when planning your French summer getaway.
1. Plage de la Côte des Basques, Biarritz, Aquitaine
A renowned summer getaway for royals and celebrities alike (you might remember it from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises), the “wild beaches” of Biarritz, in Basque country along the Bay of Biscay, are also hugely popular with surfers thanks to their mellow, safe-for-beginners waves.
Deauville’s reputation was cemented by none other than Coco Chanel, who opened her first clothing store here in 1913. Her casual-chic, beach-inspired looks put both her—and the town’s lovely boardwalk lined with cute boutiques and ice cream vendors—on the map forever.
About halfway between Cannes and Nice, Antibes is home to a peninsula that juts out into the sea, maximizing the amount of available warm, sandy, easy-to-walk-on beachfront.
4. Les Calanques de Cassis
Calanques are long, thin inlets lined by natural rocks like limestone, and there are few more beautiful examples than the ones near Cassis, along the Mediterranean, which offset the bright teal water. A note: this beach is more noted for its sightseeing than its swimming.
5. Prado Beaches, Marseille
If you prefer your beach holiday to be part of a city break, head to Marseille, the second-biggest city in France, and spend a day at the Prado Beaches, a group of three beaches that are easily accessible from the city center and great for families with kids. Keep an eye out for the replica of Michelangelo’s David, a favorite selfie spot.