We are often asked of our favorite swimming escapes and beach recommendations, so we’re sharing our top spots and hidden gems for a glorious day spent at the the finest beaches of Provence. We’ve also included our favorite off the beaten path spots for a seaside lunch to make your daytrip escape complete… cherry on top.
Newly updated with our most recent discoveries, now is the ideal time to head to the beach and enjoy the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Calanques by boat or well-deserved swim following a hike-in. If easier access is required, the breathtaking beauty of the Lac Sainte-Croix awaits along with it’s famous Gorge du Verdon with several access points to discover. Or just simply dive right in and enjoy. With all of our selections, you can expect heavenly turquoise waters and swimmable bliss.
For the more adventurous, this tiny island is accessible only by boat. This gem features a handful of calanques and amazing swimming away from the crowds. Located just 1.5 kilometers, or a 15-minute ride by navette, from La Ciotat’s Vieux Port. The navette leaves every hour in the summer months, but be sure to arrive early to secure your place. To make the escape complete, reserve a table (a few days in advance) at the island’s chilled restaurant for a perfect day trip escape for a simple but delicious grilled seafood lunch with friendly service and only the sound of the cicadas, rosé glasses clanking and waves at your feet.
Pros: Due to the limited accessibility you can truly escape the crowds and spend the day relaxing. The island is a nature sanctuary for birds and offers excellent diving, fishing and snorkelling, along with bird watching.
Cons: Don’t forget your (french) checkbook or cash, there are no credit cards accepted here, nor for the navette over. And also no public toilets which contributes to making this island slightly less accessible. Due to the island’s status as a protected nature reserve all water is brought over and there are no toilets on the island.
Not for the faint of heart, but plan to be rewarded sweetly after a vertical climb up and 30-40 minute hike in via the entrance parking lot of Luminy to the Plage Sauvage of Morgiou. This tiny crescent turquoise gem of a beach is situated between the Calanques of Morgiou and Surgiton. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a picnic and enjoy the dramatic, stunning scenery.
Calanque en Vau (pictured above), Between Cassis / Marseille
Arrive in style by yacht, or take the more rigorous, yet rewarding, 2-hour hike via Port Pin to one of the most breathtaking places we’ve ever seen. This calanque features some of the highest cliffs in the area and dazzling waters, situated between La Ciotat and Marseille. The Calanque En Vau is stunning when reached by foot, which is a relatively steep hike in. The views from the hike and vantage points above are spectacular. If you depart from Cassis near Port Miou, you will arrive at the Calanque Port Pin first, a gorgeous destination itself. However, if you want to be royally treated for your efforts, continue 45 minutes further to En Vau. Try to arrive on the off-season in June or September, or in the early morning hours before the larger masses of tourists arrive during the busy summer months.
Mugel & Petit Mugel Calanques and Botanic Park, La Ciotat
Warm, clear waters with little waves, ideal for an early morning snorkel or reserve a table in advance at Le Mugel Restaurant for a spectacular end of day sunset reflected on the Ile Verte (Green Island – listed above) under the sweetly scented fig trees. The quaint, no-frills beachside restaurant offers simple plates such as delicious grilled fish and seafood kebabs, or the “Salad Mugel” always a favorite, with a changing daily menu. Mugel and it’s Petit Mugel are real local treasures, lesser-known than the other calanques in the region, and neatly tucked away in the recently re-birthed yachting town of La Ciotat, complete with its own protected natural tropical gardens. The park, twelve hectares in size and is at the foot of a massive rock, Le Bec d’Aigle (Eng: The Eagle’s Beak), 155 meters high, which shelters the site from the wind, while the Mediterranean warms it in the winter, and keeps the temperature down in the summer. The tropical gardens contain thirty different species of palm trees, as well as mimosa, bougainvillia, bamboo, banana, and other tropical plants. It also features a garden of aromatic plants. A garden of lavender is planted just below the main house.
Escape to the Island of Porquerolles and discover one of the finest beaches of Europe. One of our all-time favorite places, you can discover our complete guide to this area here.
A must-see destination on any tourist’s list and incredible place to spend the day in Provence. The Lac de Saint Croix and it’s Gorge du Verdon is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful. It is about 25 kilometres long and up to 700 meters deep. Rent either small electric boats or kayaks from the ville of Saint Croix and cruise slowly around the man-made lake. The lake color is almost unbelievable and was created by damming off the Verdon and sinking the original village of St Croix de Verdon. You may also choose to rent kayaks at the mouth of the Gorge du Verdon itself or Quinson to experience the beauty of the gorge. Prepare for a splendid natural journey through tall white limestone cliffs and turquoise waters. You may be treated with views of visiting goats along the way. Be sure to visit one of the area’s charming villages of either Saint-Croix (a personal favorite) for a relaxed visit with views over the lake or nearby Moustier-Saint-Marie for it’s dramatic cliff setting on the western entrance to the Gorges du Verdon. For the art-lovers, the village of Moustier has been a center of the pottery trade, especially faïence, for centuries and a must-stop for ceramic-lovers. A spring flows out of the cliff and creates a waterfall in town, providing water power. At twilight when the sun on a clear day strikes the south-facing cliff, a diffuse pink light glows across the village.
Calanque de Sormiou (Marseille)
A hike-in is required, however, we learned the local’s secret to drive in (thank you Laura) if you arrive to gate before 8am you may have simpler access even in the bustling summer months. Access is restricted in summer due to the risk of fire, so check ahead to be sure access is available. It’s definitely worth an early start to arrive before the masses regardless and enjoy a peaceful moment in such an authentic setting just minutes from the bustling streets of Marseille. Be sure to hike in bit further to the left of the beach, to discover its tiny inlets with bobbing small fishing boats surrounded by pine trees.
Les Lecques in Saint Cyr sur Mer
A great family-friendly beach, Les Lecques offers a wider span than most of the narrow beaches in the region and is ideal for small children. The large sandy open beach offers public parking lots and simple, little snack shops and basic, beach front restaurants. Spots fill up early.
Blog Author and Photography by: Founder/Creative Director, Tarik Koivisto