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The Most Beautiful Towns to Visit While Sailing in France

Known for romantic scenery and quaint, rustic villages, France has some of the most beautiful towns on its coastline
Known for romantic scenery and quaint, rustic villages, France has some of the most beautiful towns on its coastline | © Jacques Pierre / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nick Dauk
29 October 2021
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As if France weren’t romantic enough in its interior, its trio of coastlines is certifiably dreamy. From the Côte d’Azur and the Mediterranean shoreline to the Côte Fleurie along the northern English Channel, hundreds of seaside French towns have captured many a sailor’s heart and lured them into shore. No matter which side of the country you chart a course for, these beautiful towns won’t take the wind out of your sails.

Cruise the French coast by renting a yacht from SamBoat.

Cannes

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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An aerial view of Cannes Harbor, France
© John Kellerman / Alamy Stock Photo
Though the famous film festival is worth a screening, the Cannes Yachting Festival – which takes place annually in September – is where you’ll find your next A-list adventure. After raising a flag on your new superyacht – if only in your fantasies – indulge in more spoils with sightseeing on Millionaire’s Coast, sip a cognac sidecar at a private beach club and dine on Provençale cuisine at the Michelin-starred Aux Bon Enfants, near the Vieux Port.

Arromanches-Les-Bains

Historical Landmark
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Remains of the D-DAY Landing Site in Second World War in Arromanches-Les-Bains, France
© José Antonio Moreno / Alamy Stock Photo
While it may not be the best omen to encounter on your maiden voyage around France, the shipwrecks found near Arromanches-Les-Bains – in the Calvados department of Normandy – are a diver’s dream. This part of the WWII Gold Beach – where Allied soldiers landed on D-Day – has hundreds of sunken vessels as shallow as 25m (82ft) deep. If you’re a history buff who prefers to stay dry, dive into the Liberators Museum Normandy 1944 and the Musée du Débarquement to learn more about the battles on the beach.

Biarritz

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Grande Plage Beach and rock on foreground in Biarritz, Aquitaine, France
© Sergey Dzyuba / Alamy Stock Photo
You might as well find a covered marina for your yacht to chill in – you’ll be so busy in Biarritz that you may not hit the open water for days. Whether you want to hang ten at one of their many surf spots or spend all day admiring the water from the putting green, this resort town in France’s Basque country will keep you landlocked. Feeling a little seasick at the thought of being marooned? A thalassotherapy session – using salty seawater – will rea-shore you that you’re safe on land.

Honfleur

Historical Landmark
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The boat harbour at Honfleur, Normandy, France
© ClickAlps / Alamy Stock Photo
Where the Seine meets the English Channel, you’ll find a town so enchanting you’ll believe it was built specifically for artists to take up residence on the colourful Vieux Basin. The picture-perfect port of Honfleur was originally designed as a trading hub, but the only thing you’ll be swapping at their markets is your credit card for crustaceans. Crab, lobster, oysters, shrimp and other fresh seafood will fill your plate –and might just taste better if you’re in town for the spring Fête des Marins.

Concarneau

Architectural Landmark
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A view of the harbour from the Closed City, Bretagne, France
© Jaubert French Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s always something fishy going on at Concarneau – in the Finistère department of Brittany – whether it be the annual Festival of Blue Nets in August, the old trawler hanging out in the Musée de la Pêche, or the diverse residents swimming around the marine station and Marinarium. As one of the largest ports in France, you shouldn’t have much difficulty fishing for a hands-on activity and if you’re lucky, you may get reeled into a canneries tour, a fish auction or helping a deep-sea fisherman unload their catch.

Île-de-Bréhat

Natural Feature
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Houses on the hill in Cotes d'Armor, Ile de Brehat, France
© Rene Mattes / Alamy Stock Photo
Before you spend too much time docked on Brittany’s beautiful coast, glide over to Île-de-Bréhat. Low tide – when the bridge’s crest – above the water, is an ideal time to amble about these car-free islands. You’ll want to be out on the water for high tide, though, so you can drift as close as possible to the puffins, gulls and other sea birds that nest on the rocky pink coast.

Porquerolles

Natural Feature
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An aerial view of Porquerolles Island marina from Fort Sainte Agathe in France
© Borges Samuel / Alamy Stock Photo
No shirt, no shoes, no cars? The island of Porquerolles – the largest of three in the Îles d’Hyères, scattered along the French Riviera – has remained as charming as when its village was constructed in the 1820s. Most of the area is a protected national park, so despite bumping elbows with tourists in high season, you won’t see a vehicle in sight on the island itself. A perfect place for an undisturbed picnic and a little alone time on two wheels, your time in Porquerolles can be a short, sweet and sublime departure from livelier islands.

Martigues

Historical Landmark
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The village of Martigues and its boat harbour in Provence, France
© Art Kowalsky / Alamy Stock Photo
Your yacht is undoubtedly attractive, but there’s something about the wooden boats bobbing in the Martigues wharf – a coastal commune northwest of Marseille – that’ll make you long for a simple life of fishing in the canals from a creaky old canoe. Tie your boat up and wander the cobblestone streets until you reach the quayside fish market in Carro. Munch on poutargue then hike to the Chapelle Notre-Dame des Marins in Martigues – a chapel where mariners have prayed for safe voyages since the 1600s.

Sète

Architectural Landmark
Map View
The Port de Se`te in Occitanie at sunset in France
© | Mlbariona / Alamy Stock Photo
After sailing across shorelines that have witnessed waves of history, you might think you’ve seen it all. Then, you’ll dock at Sète – in the Occitanie region – and witness water jousting. This commune near Montpellier will knock you off your boat with its Venice-like canals, collection of model ships at the Musée de la Mer and La Pointe Courte fishermen’s district that will convince you to embrace lagoon life.

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