Recently I spent some vacation in South of France. In today’s article you will find a guide to places to visit in South of France and more exactly in the Esterel massif and the best beaches on the Corniche d’Or, one of France’s most beautiful road.
First thing first, if you go to South of France I would suggest to rent a car. It is the best way to enjoy everything South of France has to offer. Indeed, there are many things to see in South of France and all are not too far from each others. Relying on public transportation is not really an option. Also, the serpentine roads in South of France are quite funny to drive.
So let’s go on a road trip together.
Places to visit in South of France – Les Adrets de l’Esterel and the Saint Cassien lake
Les Adrets de l’Esterel is where we had our apartment. It is a very cute and typical village of South of France situated in the mountains and 30 minutes from the best beaches. From les Adrets the l’Esterel, you can also access the artificial Saint Cassien lake that is a perfect alternative to the (crowded) beaches. We rented an Ebike at Moovbike and went for a ride in the forest around the lake. From there you can access the Fondurane Ecological Reserve from which you can observe 182 different species of birds. If you decide to enjoy the lake’s turquoise water, you can also decide to swim, go on a pedalo or do some stand up paddling.
You can find all activities HERE.
Hike at Mont Vinaigre in the Esterel massif
The Esterel massif is perfect to go on a hike. The Mont Vinaigre is the highest point in the Esterel massif and perfect for a hike. There are many places from where you can start a hike in the Esterel region but the hike to Mont Vinaigre was advised to me by many locals. From there you will have a view over the forest but also over the coast.
You can access by car and then hike up for around 45 minutes. In the summer time some part of the Esterel can be closed because of fire. Inform yourself before going. You will find a map with all informations HERE.
Architecture wonder of South of France : Palais Bulles by Antti Lovag (Bubble Palace)
The Palais Bulles is a very interesting for it’s architecture. It is not open to public but it is still nice to go see it from outside.
Places to visit in South of France : hilltop villages of Fayence
Back in the middle age, people would build their home in the mountains so that it would be difficult for attackers to access. From this time are 9 hilltop villages left in the region : Bagnols-en-Forêt, Callian, Fayence, Mons, Montauroux, Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, Seillans, Tanneron and Tourrettes All are pretty impressive for their settings and you will find also some medieval architecture like castles, chapels, churches etc.. Those villages are also famous for it’s handicraft and a good option to buy souvenirs made in France!
Not to miss in the perched villages of Fayence :
Have lunch or dinner at “La gloire de mon père” in Seillans
Go to Mons for Sunset over the Côte d’Azur.
Esterel massif – Take the Corniche d’Or one of the most beautiful road in France
One of the most beautiful routes in France is in the south. It is the Corniche d’Or that is going from the city of Fréjus to the City of Mandelieu la Napoule. It runs alongside red-ochre rocks and the mediterranean coast with breathtaking views over the sea. Some parts of the road even makes you feel like you are somewhere in Nevada. There is a reason one this road is one of the most beautiful road in France. Also the many serpentines make it very fun to drive.
Swim and sunbath at some of the top French Riviera beaches
Along the Corniche d’Or you will also find some of the nicest beaches of the french riviera. And what better places to visit in South of France but the beaches?!
I will pass on the public and very touristic beaches and I will rather concentrate on some creek mostly known by locals only.
Beaches at pointe de l’Aiguille
At pointe de l’Aiguille you will find 2 creek and 1 nudist beach both accessible from the Corniche d’Or. Coming from Théoule sur Mer you will pass the town as well as the main beaches and you will park after the road climb. There is one small parking from which you can access a small way that will lead you to the beaches (20 minutes). The easiest way, with stairs will lead you to the pointe de l’Aiguille creek, while the other creek and the nudist beach are more difficult to access as you will have to climb the rocks.
Calanque de Saint Barthélémy
The Saint Barthélémy creek is by far my favorite spot. It is again situated along the Corniche d’Or. Turn on your GPS to know exactly where to stop and park your car along the road. For this creek you should pack with you flippers, mask and snorkel as you can do some nice snorkeling. The beach is quite small but it was never too crowded and you have an amazing setting with the typical red-ochre rocks of the area in the background.
Calanque de Maubois
Calanque de Maubois is also situated along the Corniche d’Or. It is the only beach accessible by bus. The bus stops right in front of the stairway leading to the beach. If you come by car, like always, you can park along the road for free. With it’s easy access it is the perfect beach for families. Also the sea is not that deep so that children can go in the water on their own.
Note that all beaches mentioned above have no facilities like restaurant, WC, etc but in the high season a boat from which you can buy sandwiches, ice cream and drinks stops every 2 hours.
Public beaches :
Along the Corniche d’Or you will find some public beaches. I don’t like crowded beaches so I did not explore them all.
Plage des Baumettes
Plage des Baumettes (Baumettes beach) is situated next to Agay. There we rented a SUP and a kayak at Paddle House. Many of the most beautiful creek are accessible only from the sea. Plage des Baumettes is the perfect start for a Kayak tour as from there you can explore 3 of those creek plus one small Island. Here again pack your flippers, mask and snorkel!
The landing beach of the Dramont and Île d’Or
Another famous beach is the landing beach of the Dramont where the GI’s landed during WWII. There is not much left from the history on this beach, just a memorial but it is still very touristic. Many people come for the history or to go on the Ile d’Or right in front of the beach. This island is what inspired Hergé for The Black Island in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin series.
To be honest, even though it is quite interesting for it historic point of view, I am not a big fan of this beach as it is quite crowded and the pebbles on the beach are very big and therefore not so comfortable to lay on.
Where to sleep in the Esterel Massif ?
There are many options from camping to luxury hotels. Use the tool below to find a good deal!
For more article about France you can read about:
The best Saint Tropez beaches : Escalet beach and Cap Taillat beach
Cool things to do in St Tropez
Road Trip in Provence, Itinerary in the Verdon Canyon
*Pictures : Me and Esterel tourism