Who doesn’t love France – the food, the culture, the history. But let’s look at this fantastic country with a different lens – a coastal one. Somewhat square shaped, the country has two long and popular stretches of coastline – one to the north and west, stretching along the English Channel and then dipping down along the Atlantic Ocean. And then there is the glitzy and fabulous southern coast, the French Riviera. Let’s highlight some great towns and spots for you to enjoy a great break, whether its a weekend or a week.
This old port town is a charming village that has direct flights from the UK and high speed TGV service from Paris. The town is north of the city of Bordeaux, making it a quieter alternative to sipping wine and walking along the shore. You’re on the ocean but you can even take some boats and ferries out to nearby islands to explore old forts and beaches.
Pornic is a small sea town outside of the city of Nantes. It’s more popular with the French tourists but you’ll find plenty of accommodation, restaurants, and don’t miss an ice cream – they’re famous in Pornic! Combine your visit with the interesting island of Noirmoutier, accessible via a land bridge.
Brest is a lovely old sailor’s town on the northwest tip of France. Admit it, you laughed saying the name out loud, but don’t judge until you see some of the town’s interesting museums, public gardens, and other sights. Brest is near ferry service to Plymouth, England.
Not far from the major ports and ferry crossings/rail lines between France and the UK is this classic old sea resort town. Many Parisians come here for their sunny breaks, and one beach is even called the “Paris Beach” because of it. The town has a lot of brand hotels meaning if you look around you can find a good deal.
Menton is located along the southern coast, just a couple of miles from the Italian border. It’s known as the “lemon festival capital” – and you’ll want a refreshing lemon beverage because this area is known to be a bit warmer than elsewhere on the Riviera. Much of the town is pedestrian streets, making it a wonderful experience to explore the centuries of history and culture.
Just a bit southwest of Nice and just east of Cannes, Antibes is often the beach of choice for a family holiday in France. There are plenty of great things for the kids to do, and the adults will enjoy attractions like the Picasso museum too – he once lived here. Can be crowded – this one is worth planning in advance.
You get 3 islands in one when you visit this seaside city on the southern coast. From incredible gardens and mansions to simple beaches, experience a huge variety of the French seaside culture here.
Drinkers will be familiar with the famous liqueur that comes from this area. But it’s also a lovely, albeit sometimes busy, beach and seaport town. Lots of fantastic seafood restaurants line the waterfront, so come hungry. Also, don’t miss a trip to nearby Calanques.
In a somewhat remote stretch of the southern Provençal coast is the town of Arles. It’s steeped in history and culture, with small and almost hidden museums, all surrounded by beautiful architecture. Few realize that Arles is actually a UNESCO World Heritage town, so worth the visit.
Last but not least, the seaside town of Agde is known for its unique architecutre – made with dark local stone – but walking around town you’ll also notice many statues and sculptures. This town was founded in the 5th century BC by the Greeks, so it’s certainly been around for awhile!
Posted : Thursday, August 4th, 2011 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.