is all about the good life, but you don’t have to be a millionaire to hire a
lounger at a beach club. For a more down-to-earth trip, you can explore coastal
paths, unspoilt islands and historic towns.
Cap Ferrat, a
wooded peninsula between Nice and Monaco, has more than eight miles of
eucalyptus-scented walking paths, with magnificent views all the way. All the
itineraries are easy going; the tourist office at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has maps. One suggested walk (1½ hours) follows the coastal path to
Pointe Malalongue with its lighthouse and on to Passable beach.
smallest national park was created in 1963 to protect the three-square-mile
island of Port-Cros and the waters around it. Today,
walkers can explore 20 miles of marked trails. The Sentier des Plantes is a
lovely aromatic trail that wends its way for a mile past wild lavender and
rosemary to Plage de la Palud, a beautiful beach on the island’s northern
shore. Here, you can also follow a signposted snorkel and scuba trail (ferry
from £23 return).
exception of Monaco, you can walk the dozen-mile stretch of coast from Cap
d’Ail to Menton without passing a car. The path is well signposted – take it in
stages or make a day of it, with beach and lunch stops. The Sentier du Littoral
follows the rugged coastline from Plage Mala in Cap d’Ail to Plage Marquet just
west of Monaco. After lunch, pick up the path at Larvotto at the other end of
Monaco and walk along the wooded shores of Cap Martin until you reach Menton.
The hang-out of
superstars in summer, and a strangely quiet, pretty seaside town the rest of
the year, St-Tropez has by far the best beaches on the coast.
About 2½ miles southeast of town is the start of Plage de Tahiti and its
continuation, the famous Plage de Pampelonne, studded with drinking and dining
haunts, such as the legendary Club 55.
influx of daytrippers, the island of Porquerolles is wholly unspoilt: most of
its white sandy beaches and pine woods are protected by the Parc National de
Port-Cros. Potter around rough trails on foot or by bike, breaking with a
picnic lunch and a dip. Beaches stretch along the north coast from Plage du
Grand Langoustier in the west to Plage Notre-Dame in the east (ferries
including from La Tour Fondue; £16 return).
there are some free public beaches along the strip, if you’re in Cannes, you
may as well embrace it for what it does best. Designer swimwear, oversized
sunglasses and cocktails are de rigueur for a spot of sunbathing at Zplage
private beach club at Hôtel Martinez. Book ahead for one of its sea-blue
sunloungers – the top spot is on the exclusive pier (73 Boulevard de la
Croisette; beach lounger from £27, pier lounger from £34).
Vieux Niche – Nice’s old town – is a mellow rabbit-warren
of alleys that has scarcely changed since the 1700s. In the morning it teems
with shoppers at the market square, Cours Saleya. In the afternoon, visitors
stroll along the boutique-lined alleyways, admiring the Baroque heritage (check
out the 17th-century Palais Lascaris) and lapping up ice creams.
boat-decked port, 16th-century ramparts and narrow cobblestone streets
festooned with flowers, lovely Antibes is
the quintessential Mediterranean town. It’s home to the Musée Picasso, and the
historic quarter, Vieil Antibes, which has a pleasant mix of shops and
restaurants. Check out the views from the sea walls as far as the snowy peaks
of the Alps.
Monaco, the world’s second smallest country, is more
about skyscrapers, yachts and unabashed hedonism than historic sights, although
there are some fine Belle Époque buildings, including the marble-and-gold
Casino. For some uniquely Monégasque experiences, witness the daily changing of
the palace guard at 11.55am and dress up for a game of blackjack at the Casino.
British Airways, easyJet,
Flybe, Jet2 and Monarch fly from most major UK airports to Nice (from £90),
while Ryanair flies from Stansted to Toulon (from £120). You
can also travel by train: take the Eurostar to Paris then the TGV to Nice (around 9 hours,
from £120). Driving around the Côte d’Azur is easy and essential for exploring
the smaller towns, but be aware that in July and August there’s lots of traffic
on the roads. Car hire at Nice airport starts at around £30 per day with Europcar.
Where to stay
A hotel with a
b&b feel, Hôtel La Jabotte is a minute’s walk from the sea and 20 minutes
more to Vieil Antibes. Its ten whimsically decorated Provençal-style rooms all
look out onto a lovely patio where breakfast is served from spring to autumn
(13 Avenue Max Maurey; from £90).
Hôtel Ermitage draws inspiration from ’50s to ’70s-era
St-Tropez. Rooms are designed by celebs, including Chloë Sevigny, and the
hotel’s off-the-beatenpath hillside location adds to its exclusivity (Avenue
Paul Signac; from £170).
been known to drop in by helicopter at Le Mas du Langoustier, an exceptional hotel on Porquerolles, with great views from its
seaside perch, and two restaurants, one with a Michelin star (Apr–Oct; from
The article 'Mini guide to coastal Côte d’Azur' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.