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French Riviera best beaches

French Riviera: The region's best beaches
Paul Wade
Last Updated: 11:29AM BST 17/07/2008
In the first of a new series, Paul Wade chooses his three favourite beaches in the South of France. 
Plage de Notre-Dame, Porquerolles - French Riviera: Best beaches
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'Painted ships float on peacock-green and blue water' at Plage de Notre-Dame in Porquerolles 
 
On the north-east coast of Porquerolles, the Plage de Notre-Dame is straight out of an old Bounty bar advertisement. A crescent of sand outlines the bay, where painted ships float on peacock-green and blue water. One of the Iles d'Or, Porquerolles lies just off Hyères. The island is the French Riviera the way it should be: eucalyptus and pine trees perfuming the air, sandy paths to beaches, mountain bikes rather than cars, and outdoor restaurants serving locally caught fish. Most of the island is conserved as a national park; smoking is banned outside town.


Who goes?

Greta Garbo-types who "want to be alone".


What is there to do?

Swimming, snorkelling and goggling at the view. Take your time over a picnic, with a bottle of the island-grown organic rosé from Sébastien Le Ber's Domaine de l'Ile.


Bars and bites

Unlike the island's more popular Plage d'Argent, with its eponymous restaurant, there is no snack bar at Notre-Dame. So it is back to the village for your apéro at one of the cafés on the main square, before dinner under the trees at Villa Sainte-Anne, next to the church (0033 498 046300).


Getting there

The crossing takes 20 minutes on the regular TLV ferry that leaves from La Tour Fondue on the Giens peninsula, near Hyères (€16 return, www.tlv-tvm.com ). In high season, boats also leave from ports such as Toulon and Saint Tropez. From Porquerolles village harbour, the beach is a 45-minute stroll or a 20-minute cycle ride away.


Plage de L'Estagnol, Bormes-les-Mimosas
Tourist office: 0033 494 013838, www.bormeslesmimosas.com


Why go?

If it's good enough for the Sarkozys, the coastline three miles south of Bormes-les-Mimosas must be good enough for us. The president of France has use of the Fort de Brégançon; citoyens enjoy the nearby Plage de l'Estagnol, a cove backed by pine forest, with a quarter of a mile of sand-edged lagoon.


Who goes?

Families love this safe beach for its clean and shallow water. Plant a sun brolly in the silver sand, roll out your towel and doze off to the sound of little ones gambolling in the water.


What is there to do?

A game of pétanque under the pines provides just the right level of exertion. Or stroll along to the Coustelette headland.


Bars and bites

Choose between two beach restaurants: Chez Richard or the Cruché family's L'Estagnol, with its Provençal favourites such as anchoïade and grilled beaux-yeux (similar to bream). Order its classic bouillabaisse for four at least 48 hours in advance (0033 494 647111).


Getting there

From Bormes-les-Mimosas, head for Brégançon. Drive through the Château de Brégançon vineyards and follow signs for l'Estagnol and the shaded car park (0033 494 647876). For €8, you get a parking spot close to the beach and showers.

 

Plage de La Paloma, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Tourist office: 0033 493 760890, www.saintjeancapferrat.fr


Why go?

East of Nice, the rocky peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is no secret. The high-class villas and hotels have long been a favourite with the jet set. But anyone can sunbathe on the tiny Paloma beach, the shingly shoreline of a cove that faces north-east rather than out to sea. For €16 you get a red matelas, or sunbed, outside the Paloma Beach restaurant; real cheapskates can take their own lilos, pick up a sandwich in the village and follow the steep steps down to the plage. Either way, the view is the same: yachts and sailboats, the resort of Beaulieu, the cliffs at Eze and Cap d'Ail.


Who goes?

The platinum credit-card crowd turn up at the Paloma Beach restaurant. Last year, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Shane Warne were spotted there at James Packer's pre-wedding party.


What is there to do?

Swim off the pontoon; rent a pedalo or jetski from the restaurant.


Bars and bites

At the Paloma Beach, starters might include courgette-flower beignets or a trilogy of fish, shrimps and marinated salmon. Main courses include stylish pizzas and pastas (0033 493 016471).


Getting there

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is six miles from Nice. Park by Port Saint-Jean and then walk. The beach is five minutes away, off the Route de Saint-Hospice.

 

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