Every year, droves of tourists flock to France to experience the wine, the cuisine, and the architecture – but not everyone thinks of its shores. With over 2,000 miles of coastline running from the far north along the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, those who make a seaside trip will find a veritable treasure trove of geological wonders to explore. From rugged, chalky coasts to vast, sandy seashores, let’s explore the picturesque plages (beaches) France has to offer.
Plage Palombaggia, Porto-Vecchio, Corsica
For a little taste of paradise, a trip to Plage Palombaggia on the island of Corsica is akin to a sultry Caribbean retreat. Nestled between pine trees and lush, low-lying hills, its pristine white sand and clear waters provide an unreal oasis of calm, attracting sunbathers and surfers alike. Part of a culturally unique area of France, this beach adds to the many reasons why you should visit Corsica.
Plage d’Hendaye, Hendaye
Plage Hendaye is found on the Basque coast, close to Biarritz and a stone’s throw from the Spanish border. A far cry from a trashy tourist hub, Hendaye Beach mainly attracts locals with its immense sweep of smooth, flat sands. Ideal for sunbathing, sport, and family outings, Plage Hendaye is fully equipped with a surfing school and many other facilities, including public washrooms, wheelchair access to the water, and ice-cream kiosks and eateries along the boardwalk.
The Coasts of Etretat, Normandy
The majestic cliffs of Etretat, Normandy are nature’s own form of Gothic architecture, inspiring awe the world over for their stunning, naturally formed archways. It’s hard to imagine a more striking beauty than the sight of these cliffs against the red sky at sunset. Perch by the shore and allow yourself to be mesmerized, while the historic chateaus and churches that line Normandy’s chalky coastline transport you to another time.
Plage de Pampelonne, Saint-Tropez
Plage de Pampelonne has attracted celebrities and serial sunbathers alike for decades. This world-famous beach receives more attention from tourists, but this foot traffic has done nothing to mar the plage’s pristine shores and upscale amenities. Lined with several high-class restaurants and bars, Plage de Pampelonne offers the perfect marriage between nature and luxury, and will give you a true taste of what the Cote d’Azur is all about.
Espiguette Beach, le Grau-du-Roi
Found between the two main port cities of Marseille and Montpellier, Espiguette beach embodies the raw, natural character of the Languedoc region. Overcrowding is a rarity on Espiguette, though the tourists drawn to flashier locales are missing out: the immense dunes and vast, untouched shores you’ll find here are simply breathtaking. This beach is perfect not only for sunbathing, but for escaping the maddening crowd.
Almanarre Beach, Hyères (between Nice and Marseille)
Nestled between Nice and Marseille, Plage de l’Almanarre is a must for visitors to the Provence region and is an especially popular spot for wind and kite surfing. Boasting over five kilometers of pristine coastline following the route de sel (Salt Road) that runs along the unique geological formation of the double tombolo, l’Almanarre’s vast sand dunes are occasionally dotted pink by flocks of resident flamingos, along with other specious of seafaring birds. The shallow waters here also ensure safe swimming, making the Plage de l’Almanarre especially attractive for families.
L’Ile de Riou, Marseille
Situated south of Marseille, l’Ile de Riou will give you the desert island experience straight out of your fantasies. An uninhabited reserve lined with crumbling white ravines and vertical rock faces, this small island is among the most beautiful sites known to avid divers and archeology enthusiasts. With downslopes dropping up to 70 meters, the sea floor is carpeted with several varieties of coral and sea sponges, and is home to a diversity of aquatic life and antique wreckage sites. Due to its relative clarity, the water around the island’s rocky coast is ideal for snorkeling and kayaking, while the rugged, low-lying mountain formations nearby offer many opportunities for hiking and rock climbing.
Utah Beach, Normandy
Utah Beach is famously known as the setting of D-Day on June 6, 1944, whereby the Western Allies initiated a bombing combat operation in an effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi control. Today The D-Day museum stands on this historic site, so that visitors to this beach can soak up some history as well as sunshine. The museum is most impressive, with films and personalized stories of D-Day itself, as well as expansive information about the occupation and preparation of the combat operation. Whether you are a nature lover or a history buff, a visit to Utah beach and is a powerful and humbling experience.
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