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Explore French Riviera hidden gems from the comfort of a yacht
Explore French Riviera hidden gems from the comfort of a yacht

Explore French Riviera hidden gems from the comfort of a yacht

19 May 2023

The French Riviera, with its glamorous reputation and stunning coastal landscapes, is renowned for its popular destinations like Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez. However, there are hidden gems and lesser-known spots tucked away along this picturesque coastline, accessible by boat, that offer a more secluded and enchanting experience.

1. Hidden gems of the Var : lesser known beaches

Tranquil Coves and Secluded Beaches: Hyères golden islands, la Bastide Blanche

Although it can be windy from time to time, the Golden Islands are a must for any French Riviera charterer. The Golden islands includes 3 islands: Porquerolles, Port-Cros and ile du Levant.

Porquerolles island: Notre Dame Beach, the Most Beautiful Beach in Europe

This island is located off the coast of Hyères and is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and lush vegetation. It is a popular destination for hiking, swimming, and sunbathing.  Porquerolles has two distinct coasts. The southern coast is rugged and dramatic, with steep cliffs and secluded coves. The northern coast, on the other hand, is more gentle, with sandy beaches and calm waters.

Notre Dame Beach is a stunning stretch of white sand and turquoise water located on the island of Porquerolles in the French Riviera. In 2015, it was voted “the most beautiful beach in Europe” by the European Organisation for the Promotion of Culture and Tourism in Europe (European Best Destination).

It is facing north-east, in the extension of the Courtade, and is sheltered from the mistral to the west and from the east wind to the east. The beach is lined with pines and oaks, creating a wooded bay in a blue setting.

Notre Dame Beach is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. The water is clear and shallow, making it ideal for families with young children. There are also several restaurants and cafes located nearby.

French Riviera hidden gem to discover by boat

La Courtade beach: La Courtade Beach is a family-friendly beach located on the island of Porquerolles in the Hyères Islands. The beach faces northeast and has progressive bottoms, making it ideal for swimming and sunbathing. The sand and pebbles alternate, and the beach extends by coves to the east, where you can find shelter from the east wind. The eucalyptus forest, which borders the beginning of the beach, offers a corner of shade that is very appreciated in the heat.

Port Cros island: hiking paradise

Port-Cros National Park is a car-free paradise for hikers. The wildest and best-preserved of the Golden Isles, Port-Cros is home to a network of marked trails that wind through arbutus and cistus trees, past cicada-filled forests, and along stunning coastal cliffs. Among other Mediterranean species, divers will encounter large groupers.

Three main trails offer a variety of hiking experiences:

  • The Coastal Trail is a 10-kilometer loop that offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Inland Trail is a 6-kilometer loop that takes hikers through the heart of the park’s forests and meadows.
  • The Discovery Trail is a 3-kilometer loop that visits the park’s most important cultural sites, including the Notre-Dame de Constance chapel and the Fort de la Gavaresse.


Since 2021, the Port-Cros National Park, including Porquerolles, has imposed a daily visitor quota of 6,000 individuals. The park’s maritime transport companies have committed to adhering to this limit, while bike rental services have also agreed to control the number of bicycles available to visitors.

Levant island for naturism

The main part (90 %) of Le Levant belongs to the French army and is used as a launching base for submarine missiles. However, if the island is so famous, it is not so much for its military prowess than thanks to the Drs Gaston and André Durville who, in 1931, created on the other side of the island the Domain of Heliopolis (the city of the sun), a community celebrating a new
mode of harmonious living based on nudism, self-respect, respect of others and Nature. Spanning over 197 acres, the island’s lush vegetation counts some of the most beautiful arbutus trees in Europe

La Bastide Blanche

La Bastide Blanche Beach is a hidden gem located south of Pampelonne beach. It is only accessible by sea or a half-hour walk from Escalet Beach, which means that even in the busy summer months, it remains an oasis of tranquility.

La Bastide Blanche is renowned for its numerous rocky inlets. This picturesque location is characterized by its rugged coastline and the presence of several small, rocky coves. These inlets offer a unique and enchanting setting for visitors to explore.

This long, sandy beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery. The crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. There are also several hiking trails in the area that offer stunning views of the coastline.

If you are looking for a secluded beach to relax and escape the crowds, Bastide Blanche Beach is the perfect destination.

Heraclée Beach in La Croix Valmer is another hidden gem, likely to be less crowded during the summer months.

Beach clubs: Club 55, Nikki Beach and other most famous beach clubs of the French Riviera are just 15 minutes by boat from la Bastide Blanche.

2. Hidden gems of the Alpes-Maritimes : best beaches

Lérins islands

Located a stone’s throw away from Cannes (1.5Nm from the old port), the Îles de Lérins are a small archipelago consisting of two main islands – Île Saint-Honorat and Île Sainte-Marguerite. These islands offer a serene escape from the bustling Riviera. Île Saint-Honorat is home to a tranquil monastery where Cistercian monks reside, and visitors can explore the beautiful vineyards and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Sainte-Marguerite: visitors to the island can enjoy the unique experience of walking along the shoreline, where the beach is covered in smooth, rounded pebbles instead of sand.

Île Sainte-Marguerite boasts unspoiled nature, with pine forests and hidden coves waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, the Lérins islands (especially Sye-Marguerite) are crowded in July and August.

The Cap d’Antibes and the Baie des Milliardaires are just 20 minutes by boat from the Lérins Islands.

Restaurants: la Tonnelle and la Guérite (crowded in summer).

Bay of Villefranche sur Mer

Villefranche’s natural harbour was used by the Greeks and Romans.

Villefranche-sur-Mer is a picturesque village located on the French Riviera, just a short drive from Nice and Monaco. The village is perched on the Bay of Villefranche, which is known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning scenery. The Old Town of Villefranche cascades down the hillside to the sea, and the bay’s sandy beach offers great recreation throughout the year.

In addition to its beautiful setting, Villefranche-sur-Mer is also home to a number of historical and cultural attractions.

The village is home to the 17th-century Church of Saint-Michel, which features a beautiful Baroque facade. The village also has a number of museums, including the Museum of Marine Archaeology and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Visit the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and the small port of St-Jean Cap ferrat.

Seafood restaurant: Mère Germaine

Safety tips

There are numerous rugged coves along the untamed shoreline, but caution is advised due to turbulent waves and the presence of sea urchins.

Paloma beach

Paloma Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the French Riviera. Located in the exclusive peninsula of St-Jean Cap Ferrat, Paloma Beach is known for its crystal-clear waters, and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Pebble beach facing East to enjoy in the morning.

The beach is also home to a variety of amenities, including a beach club, restaurant, and water sports rentals. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand, swim in the sea, or take a dip in the pool, Paloma Beach has something to offer everyone.

In addition to its beauty and amenities, Paloma Beach is also a popular spot for celebrities and other high-profile individuals. It’s not uncommon to see A-listers sunbathing or swimming at the beach, making it the perfect place to people-watch.
Beach club: Paloma beach


Get up early to enjoy this east facing pebble beach which is shaded at noon.

La Mala

This secluded beach is home to azure waters, a warm pebbled beach, and high cliffs. The beach is also home to a vibrant beach bar, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the Mediterranean sun.

Plage Mala is located in Cap d’Ail, a small town just east of Monaco. The beach is accessible by a steep set of stairs, but the views from the top are well worth the climb. Once you reach the beach, you’ll be greeted by crystal-clear water.


Crowded and a bit bling bling in August.

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Updated on May 1, 2024
About the author:
Remi van der Deure – French Riviera Charter broker.


I am the senior Yacht Charter Broker at Charterminute, a well-known yacht charter boutique in Antibes.

I have served in the yacht charter industry for over 15 years and have gained a strong reputation among my clients, as evidenced by consistent 5-star ratings on Google Reviews and TripAdvisor.

My specialty is organizing corporate yacht charters for startups and large companies during popular events like the Cannes Lions Festival, MIPIM, TFWA, and MIPCOM.

I am also proud to be a member of esteemed yacht broker associations, e-MYBA and ECPY, demonstrating my unwavering commitment to providing exceptional yacht charter services and memorable experiences in the French Riviera.

You can contact me directly at +33 (0)662.465.991 or

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