Best Beaches for a Winter Walk on the Riviera

Mention the French Riviera and people will immediately think of its glamorous summer scene. But its fame was actually born as a winter destination. As early as the 18th century, a taste for travel developed among the British aristocracy, eager to escape the harsh English winters. If you’re planning a winter escape to the Côte d’Azur, here are the 10 best beaches to visit.

Best Beaches for a Winter Walk on the French Riviera

1. Plage de la Garoupe (Cap d’Antibes)

Located in the heart of Cap d’Antibes, Plage de la Garoupe boasts crystal-clear waters and fine sandy shores. Garoupe Beach, a private beach club now long closed, hosted many famous visitors including John F. Kennedy (in his 20s, before he became US President), and French musicians Edith Piaf and Sacha Distel. In winter, the beach transforms into a peaceful haven. Enjoy panoramic views of the Mediterranean, the snow-capped mountains and the iconic Antibes lighthouse. If you are a keen walker, embark on the 5km Sentier du Littoral, a picturesque coastal path that ends at Villa Eilenroc.

2. Plage du Ponteil (Antibes)

Another gem in Antibes, Plage du Ponteil offers a long sandy stretch, as well as a broad promenade, perfect for a winter stroll. With the Old Town’s ramparts and the Alps as a dramatic backdrop, this beach (with plenty of benches along the promenade) provides a serene setting for reflection. And don’t forget to thank your lucky stars that you are visiting outside of the summer hustle and bustle. For a longer stroll, you can continue along the promenade to Plage de la Salis which ends where Cap d’Antibes begins.

3. Plage de la Gravette (Antibes)

Located near the historic Old Town of Antibes, Plage de la Gravette offers a charming setting for those wishing to have a moment to themselves. With its calm waters and close views of the ancient ramparts, this sandy beach nestled in a small cove is perfect for a winter stroll. If you want to please your step tracker, head up to the ramparts.  Then continue alongside the Port Vauban harbour to catch a glimpse of the imposing 10m high Le Nomade sculpture (direct access will be closed to visitors until April 2024 due to ongoing works).

4. Plage du Midi (Golfe Juan)

Stretching between the Camille Rayon Port in Golfe Juan to Juan-les-Pins, this sandy beach is a firm favourite among locals. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon or a picnic with the kids. Wade into the sea up to your knees to practice gentle water aerobics or, provided you have a wetsuit, you could go in for a refreshing swim. Please note that dogs are not allowed, even on a leash (although between October and mid-April several locals do tend to walk their dogs along the shore). You can continue your stroll all the way to Juan-les-Pins and finish with an aperol spritz and some people-watching at one of the restaurants on the promenade.

5. Promenade des Anglais (Nice)

While not a traditional sandy beach, the Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea and Nice’s famous pebble beach. As you walk along this iconic promenade, lined with palm trees and Belle Époque buildings, take time to soak in the winter sun. Chairs dotted along the Promenade offer the perfect excuse for a rest and to admire the azure waters below.

6. Plage de la Mala (Cap d’Ail)

Tucked away in Cap d’Ail, near to Monaco, Plage de la Mala is one of the most spectacular beach spots on the Riviera coast. With its turquoise waters and rocky cliffs, this secluded beach provides a peaceful backdrop for a leisurely winter stroll and breathtaking views of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Only accessible via a scenic but challenging coastal path, it is not recommended for families with babies in strollers or people with mobility issues.

7. Plage Paloma (Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat)

Found on the exclusive peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Plage Paloma is a hidden treasure with pristine waters and dramatic coastal scenery. A perfect place to admire the glorious views of the surrounding cliffs and villas. This pebble beach has attracted many famous names to its shore, including the painter Henri Matisse, and Winston Churchill. And more recently Elton John and Tom Cruise have been sighted here.

8. Plage de la Baumette (Agay)

Situated between Saint-Raphaël and Cannes, Plage de la Baumette offers striking views of the Massif de l’Estérel mountain range. In fact, surrounded by lush greenery and rocky coves, this beach is sure to inspire the hidden artist in yo. So bring a sketchbook and a couple of pencils, just in case.

9. Plage de Pampelonne (Saint-Tropez)

Made famous by actress Brigitte Bardot whose iconic film Et Dieu Créa La Femme (And God Created Woman) was shot here in 1955, the Plage de Pampelonne stretches along a 4.5km coastline. Known for its celebrity sightings in summer, this beach becomes a calm oasis in winter, to the delight of visitors. Enjoy a brisk walk along its sandy shores, lined with quaint beach clubs and admire the shimmering water stretching as far as the eye can see.

10. Promenade de la Croisette (Cannes

Finally, if your idea of a walk is a 15 minute stroll followed by some people watching, then this is the spot for you. Overrun by actors and wannabe starlets during the Cannes Film Festival, the Croisette belongs to locals during the winter. Comfortable blue metal chairs facing the sea are available all along this famous promenade as are coffee vans and fluffy crêpes (near the Palais side). Or you can hire a sun lounger (matlas) on one of the private beaches open during the winter (pictured above). If you’re feeling energetic, join a game of beach volleyball on one of the public beaches after your promenade stroll.

Isabelle Bryan
Isabelle Bryan
Isabelle is a co-founder and editor of Riviera Traveller. She has lived in France, the UK and Australia and is equally at ease writing in English and French. She has been coming to the South of France since she was a child and now lives here with her young daughter. She has been published in ELLE, Premiere Movie Magazine, the Melbourne Age, the Australian Financial Review magazine and the Herald Sun. Isabelle loves swimming in the turquoise waters off the Iles de Lerins or strolling around the outdoor sculptures at Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence.

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