Secret Alternatives to Busy Marinas in the French Riviera for Avoiding the Crowds

Villefranche sur Mer is a true hidden gem for sailors on the Cote dAzur
Villefranche sur Mer is a true hidden gem for sailors on the Cote d'Azur | © Oliver Wintzen / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Tristan Rutherford

As your train rattles along the French Riviera or your jet descends into Nice Airport, get ready for an awe-inspiring vista. Thousands of yachts of all shapes and sizes lay scattered across a topaz sea. Sailing is certainly one of the best ways of exploring this sublime coastline but the marinas can get very busy during peak season and they can also get extremely pricey. In a bid to beat the crowds, we reveal a selection of the best alternative mooring spots in the French Riviera – with some not costing a cent.

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CentralAmerica

GORGEOUS GUATEMALA

Gorgeous Guatemala

5 days . Mini
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1. Guatemala

An express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.

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CentralAmerica

BEACHY BELIZE

Beachy Belize

5 days . Mini
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2. Belize

A quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
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CentralAmerica

COLONIAL MEXICO

Colonial Mexico

5 days . Mini
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3. Mexico

An exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
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SouthAmerica

ADVENTUROUS ECUADOR

Adventurous Ecuador

8 days . Epic
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1. Ecuador

A remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.

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SouthAmerica

ANCIENT PERU

Ancient Peru

9 days . Epic
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2. Peru

An alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
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Europe

SEDUCTIVE SOUTHERN ITALY

Seductive Southern Italy

10 days . Epic
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1. Italy

The ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.

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Europe

EDINBURGH AND THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS BY TRAIN

Edinburgh And The Scottish Highlands By Train

7 days . Culture
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2. Scotland

Embark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
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Europe

COMPLETE PORTUGAL BY TRAIN

Complete Portugal By Train

8 days . Culture
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3. Portugal

A wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
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Asia

SOULFUL SOUTH KOREA

Soulful South Korea

10 days . Epic
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1. South Korea

Discover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.

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Asia

THAILAND, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM

Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam

11 days . Epic
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2. Thailand

From Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
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SECRETS OF SRI LANKA BY TRAIN

Secrets Of Sri Lanka By Train

10 days . Culture
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3. Sri Lanka

A fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
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Africa

EPIC MOROCCO

Epic Morocco

11 days . Epic
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1. Morocco

An epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!

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Africa

ULTIMATE EGYPT

Ultimate Egypt

9 days . Epic
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2. Egypt

From Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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Africa

IMMERSIVE KENYA

Immersive Kenya

8 days . Epic
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3. Kenya

An immersive blend of culture and wildlife for first time travelers to Africa. Learn about Nairobi, sample local coffee in the Aberdares and finish up with a fantastic safari stay in the Masai Mara.
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Plage Paloma

Prevailing westerly winds can mean some French Riviera anchorages near Nice and Cap Martin can be a little tumultuous. Paloma Plage, tucked in the crook of Cap Ferrat, makes for a more peaceful place to spend the night. The plage itself has been occupied by the same sand-in-the-toes beach bar since 1948, which serves up tempting delights such as tempura and vegetable crudités alongside refreshing beverages. Work it off with a spot of watersports, and hydrofoil surfboards are also for rent. Alternatively, the petite peninsula that shields Paloma Plage, known as Pointe de Saint-Hospice, is ringed by a fragrant seaside path. Stone steps from here lead towards the deep blue, so you can hop directly onto your anchored yacht.

Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche boasts the deepest and most sheltered anchorage between Italy and Toulon, so it’s little wonder the US Navy used to anchor in the mirror-flat bay. Alas, the 420 berths in Port de Villefranche-Darse book up fast so why not throw your anchor behind the maker buoys near the marina wall and moor up for free. Need a baguette or a biere? Cool kids swim to shore with a waterproof bag to hand. Unpack your T-shirt and your Havaianas and you’re hot to trot.

Anse des Fossés

Anse des Fossés is a million dollar anchorage. That’s because this cute little cove is tucked into Cap Ferrat, the planet’s priciest peninsula. Come summer, a night at the nearby Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat costs €2,000 (£1,690) minimum. Dropping anchor in the translucent sea here costs nothing and it makes for a sublime setting with the white sands of Plage des Fossettes, just next door. Another highlight of this beach is an underwater snorkelling trail that highlights Poseidon grass and an octopus garden. Downsides? You’re a 60-second sail from the open sea, so expect evening swell.

Baie de Saint-Laurent

This sublime bay is the best free anchorage near Monte Carlo. The deep waters are home to a kaleidoscope of species from large starfish to rainbow carp. At lunchtime, you’ll see superyachts passing by but come nightfall the place empties, bar a few vessels and bobbing fishing boats. When it comes to things to do in the area, there are two swim-to gorgeous beaches, each with its own unique character. First is Mala Plage, which serves as a cool escape for Monaco’s golden-skinned youths. The other is Plage des Pissarelles, an utterly wild naturist beach, accessible only by vertiginous path or by sea.

Île Saint-Honorat

The Island of Saint-Honorat, Cannes, France

This island carpeted by ancient vines, pine trees and olive groves has been home to a silent community of Cistercian monks since Saint Honoratus prayed on the beach in 410CE. Tranquil? St Honorat is like a giant inflatable mattress bobbing between Cannes and Cap d’Antibes. There are no cars and no hotels, so sailing there is the best way of staying for the night. Anchor up in the channel between Ile Saint-Honorat and big sister island Ile Sainte-Marguerite. Although the channel is protected it does have a swift current. While on your island sojourn, make time to sample the wines made by the monks at the picture-perfect waterside restaurant, La Tonnelle.

Cap Taillat

Cap Taillat is more St Lucia than St Tropez, with sweeping white sand beaches, shallow azure waters and an emerald green herb-scented peninsula. When your depth gauge shows 4m (13ft) toss your anchor and enjoy the riches of this Caribbean-esque spot. If you find it a little breezy, simply motor to the other side of the cape and anchor there instead. Cap Taillat is ringed by four golden strips of sand and if you’re after something a little more active, hike up to the peninsula’s peak where you’ll be rewarded by highly Instagrammable views. You can also opt to take the spell-binding coastal trail to St Tropez, with the walk taking around five hours.

Île d’Or

This rocky red speck rises from deep seas between Cannes and St Tropez comes with a kooky backstory. A century ago the mysterious Doctor Lutaud won the island at a card game, declared himself king, then held big parties in the little castle he built overlooking the sea. Now kayakers and sailors come to party while legions of gilthead bream shimmer in the surrounding waters. Too choppy to spend the night? Cruise into the Bay of Agay just east for sandy anchorages and discount buoy moorings.

Porquerolles

Porquerolles may be your only chance to anchor off an island frequented by a cast of A-listers. It’s a destination where Chanel owns the vineyard and Andy Warhol canvases reside in an underground art museum – the Villa Carmignac. Taking to the beaches, these sumptuous swaths of sand look like they could be somewhere in the South Pacific. There’s a deep anchorage off Batterie des Mèdes at one end of the island, which is a snorkeller’s dream with great visibility and an abundance of marine creatures. If you’re feeling peckish, head to the other side of the island where you’ll find ​​Mas du Langoustier, a magical restaurant overlooking the tranquil waters of Baie du Langoustier. The real charm of the island is the sense of peace and quiet. As Porquerolles resides in a maritime/terrestrial National Park, after the last passenger ferry departs at 6.45pm, the island will be pretty much all yours.

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