The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur is an epitome of a luxurious sailing vacation. Its impeccable azure waters, sandy beaches, charming towns filled with history, and grand buildings and infrastructure, complete with world-class marinas, attract thousands of sailors every summer. Add calm seas, agreeable wind force, not-too-hot temperatures, and rich social life, and you will get a clear result - one of the most popular sailing destinations for beginners.

Why the French Riviera?

The French Riviera has two faces - one represents the glitz and glamour, a movie festival in Cannes, numerous social gatherings, deluxe restaurants, mega yachts, celebrities, and secession hotels. Another face reflects the typical carpe diem way of living - tiny fishing villages, romantic trails, stunning views and a glass of wine in your hand.   

Ultra wide angle high level panorama of Villefranche bay, Nice, Cote d'Azur, France, showing Mont Boron to the West and Cap Ferat to the East, with the clear turquoise meditaerannean sea in the bay under a clear blue sky
Viilefranche Cote d'Azur

It's easy to sail in this region. You can mix top-notch marinas with beautiful tranquil bays. One day, you are enjoying the bustle and hustle of a seaside town like Saint Tropez, and the next day, you listen to cycads chirping on one of the Golden islands. You take a short trail in the forest and exotic gardens in the afternoon, and then in the evening, you stroll on a promenade lined with palm trees.  

Panorama of St. Tropez (view from the citadel), French Riviera.
Pine Trees above St. Tropez

Visiting the Côte d'Azur by water allows you to reach places you would not be able to explore by car, or it would take a long time because of traffic jams on the roads. 

Sailing and weather conditions

The best season to spend a week in this area is in the summer, however, excluding July and August. The whole area is designed for light sailing but changes into a popular (aka overcrowded) sailing playground in the school summer. May, June, September and October are better choices. 

The probability of enjoying a sun-soaked week is very high, considering the amount of 300 sunny days in a year. Winds are rather weak during the usual sailing season, with the average wind speed being less than 10 knots. The prevailing wind blows from the NW direction. The wind picks up in the late afternoon, and it gets faster, stronger and unpredictable in the open sea.

Mistral has been a phenomenon in this region for centuries, and it is particularly strong in the Gulf of Lyon where it reaches its full force. The contradictory Mistral wind has shaped the French Riviera to the form we know it today. A mild Mistral is a sailor's best friend, but a gusty Mistral with big waves and gales can turn to foe.

Winter storm waves crash on Antibes old town ramparts. Mediterranean coast between Nice and Cannes, South of France.

Because of the forceful Mistral and the cold and dry weather it has brought (mostly in winter and early spring months), several ports had to be built next to each other to provide shelters for sailors and maritime traders coming to this area in bad weather. Those beautiful towns and ports dotted on the French southern coastline are, in fact, a strategic response to strong winds. Thanks to this legacy sailors can nowadays enjoy a well-established and dense sailing infrastructure

Recommended 7-day itinerary 

The route offers endless options and combinations. You will comment on every day in superlatives. 

As a starting point, we chose Port de Hyères - a beautiful Provencal port just a few minutes from the international airport. From this marina, you can conveniently set sail to three quaint islands and the chic Saint Tropez. 

See the map with the itinerary here

Day 1 - Port de Hyères / Porquerolles - 0-5 nm

The base marina is conveniently close to the airport. Hyères is a typical Provencal and Côte d'Azur town to stroll around - a perfect place to start your voyage. Although the town is beautiful, we have a suggestion for you. Get all the necessary check-in obligations done, buy groceries and leave the marina for a short trip to Îles d'Hyeres islands. These islands are better known under Îles d’Or or Golden Islands mainly because of their overwhelming beauty. The largest of these three islands is Porquerolles. It is still a small but walkable island. Renting a bike is a highly recommended activity for your Sunday morning. The island has several paradisiacal beaches and impressive views. 

Beach of Alycastre in Porquerolles, South of France
Beach of Alycastre in Porquerolles

What to see?

If you stay in Hyères, soak up the vibrant village atmosphere. Visit local craft stores, small markets and bars. Take a circuit path, Itinerary of Arts - it will lead you through villas from the Belle Epoque era, galleries, and Templar Tower across two parks to the ruins of the chateau at the hilltop. You just need to follow the signposts. 

The island of Porquerolles is famous for its pristine beaches on the northern coastline, washed by turquoise waters. One of the most iconic beaches is Plage Notre Dame. There are no cars, and the island is best explored by bike - you will find rental services in the harbour. 

Cycling on the island of Porquerolles, part of the group of 3 islands that make up the Îles d'Hyères that is a 15 min ferry ride and a mere 3.6 miles from the Giens Peninsula on the southern coast of France.
Did you know that the only way to get around Porquerolles island is by cycling? It's a unique way to explore the island and enjoy the beautiful views!

Where to stay?

You can either moor at a harbour or choose one of several anchorages. 

Anse du Bon Renaud enables you to anchor safely in the sandy bottom and be protected from the W, S and SE winds. The anchorage lies close to the popular Plage d'Argent beach and at walking distance from the town. A similar setting offers the Courtade Bay, which is situated next to the town and close to small beaches. Visit a historic wine estate - The Domaine de l'ile located in Notre Dame plain, for a wine-tasting experience. An outstanding dinner choice is a new restaurant, Le Fly Deck with mouth-watering French culinary specialties for a reasonable price. In case of good weather or as a stopover anchorage, go to the rather wild yet beautiful Lobster Bay / Baie du Langoustier on the west side. 

Day 2 - Port de Hyères / Porquerolles - Cavalaire or Cap Taillant  (19 - 22 nm)

Although sailing is undoubtedly the most popular leisure activity in the French Riviera, the second most practised sport is hiking. Today, you head towards Saint nt Tropez alongside the southern French coastline and stop at the peninsula Cap Taillant. 

What to see

We recommend taking your time and having a slow morning on Porquerolles island - rent a bike or walk around. If this is your first sailing day, head to Cap Taillant and make some stopovers en route. One of the pretty paradisiacal stops is the anchorage Pointe du Trésor with an iconic French Riviera scenery. Steep and green hills, patches of sandy beaches reachable only from the sea and a practical anchoring spot protected from the northern winds - a combination that creates a setting for a perfect lunch break. 

If the weather allows it, end your today's trip in the bay of Cap Taillant. Hiking to the top of the hill is a must here. Don´t forget to set your camera on a panoramic view.  

Where to stay

The anchorage in the Cap Taillant Bay is wide, well-protected from S to NW winds and famous for its magnificent backdrop and tranquillity. The bay tends to be very busy in the summer and during the day. After your trail uphill, have a nice beach time on the Plage de la Douane. Today, you will eat your own dinner on the deck, as there are no options for dining out. That also means there is no loud music from the settlement since the bay is inhabited only by sailors. 

Cape Taillat, also called Cape Cartaya, is a French cape located in the Var department, south of the Saint-Tropez peninsula.
Cape Taillat, also called Cape Cartaya

Cavalaire is a safe alternative if the weather turns bad and you need to sleep in the marina. The port belongs to one of those slightly cheaper and less luxurious, but the friendliness and nice welcome are priceless. The town comes with the usual port’s buzz full of bars and restaurants. Get fresh seafood or tapas at L'Amer Bar, situated just at the end of one of the quays. 

Day 3 - Cavalaire / Cap Taillat - Saint-Raphaël (Santa Lucia) (22 nm) 

This day, you will sail in the part of the riviera called Var - a more quiet corner of the French Riviera. You will stay overnight in a marina in Santa Lucia, part of Saint-Raphaël, a resort town situated in the heart of Côte d'Azur. The marina is very close to the downtown of Saint-Raphaël. If you need to resupply your provisions, this port is the right spot. However, the best activity in this seaside town is to lay the towels on one of its famous beaches.

What to see?

On your way to the final destination of today, stop for a swim and lunch break at Les Sardinaux, a bay with a sandy beach and bar Prao Plage with lounge music. 

The seafront of Saint Raphael in the evening sun, with the Basilica overlooking the streets, shops and marina. The scene is reflected in the calm water of the Mediterranean.
Saint Raphael

The centre of Saint-Raphaël is reachable with a free shuttle from the marina. The town has been a popular summer resort with numerous beaches for centuries. It is one of the oldest resorts, dating back to ancient Romans. A public park, Jardin Bonaparte, near Saint-Raphaël's main harbour, has a large play area, which is an attractive spot for kids.

The historical downtown is a vivid place thanks to daily markets with vegetables. Stroll through the alleys and climb up the tower of the Museum of Archeology. A breathtaking view is a nice reward after all those steps up. 

Where to stay?

The marina in Santa Lucia offers top-notch service with friendly staff and a warm welcome. The port is well-protected from prevailing winds. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and bakeries close to the marina, but not as many as in the downtown of Saint-Raphaël. A reasonable dining option is Le Coelacanthe restaurant - a lively venue with a terrace overlooking the port. 

If proximity to the centre of Saint-Raphaël town is crucial, opt for the marina Vieux Port de Saint Raphaël. The marina is slightly more expensive and much noisier than Santa Lucia but you will really be in the center of town with a vivid and loud ambience. You will not regret visiting the gastronomy venue of La Table restaurant. which serves an inventive Mediterranean cuisine. 

Day 4 - Saint-Raphaël (Santa Lucia) - Port Grimaud - Saint Tropez (22 nm) 

It is time to slowly return to the starting point. Visiting the French Riviera without seeing Saint Tropez would feel incomplete. Moreover, Saint Tropez lies in the vicinity of another remarkable town, Port Grimaud - a little French Venice built on water. 

Colorful buildings are lined up along one of the several channels of Port Grimaud, a seaside town in southeastern France
Port Grimaud

What to see

If you book a berth directly in the Port Grimaud in the town marina, you will find yourself in the heart of a spectacular village reminiscent of Venice with its canals, bridges and restaurants. Port Grimaud is a must-stopover when sailing in this area. We recommend taking a boat ride to see the sights of pastel houses and water alleys in this charming little town. 

Channels and colorful buildings of Port Grimaud
Port Grimaud

Take a shuttle bus, ferry or taxi from the marina in Port Grimaud to Saint Tropez. Shuttles to Saint Tropez go every hour until midnight. The town of St Tropez is small and entirely walkable in a day. This chic and posh coastal town full of expensive cars and yachts is riddled with restaurants, bars, nightclubs and art shops. Walk to a lovely square, Place des Lices, to visit a market or just observe people playing petanque and boule. On Tuesdays, the square transforms into a big, colourful market protected by the shade of trees. Buy local plants or artisanal products such as straw hats and baskets. Climb up to the Citadel to enjoy a glorious view of the town. A must-eat in Saint Tropez is its gastronomical flagship - a pastry called La Tarte Tropézienne. 

Where to stay?

We recommend staying in the colourful Port Grimaud or in the marina Marines de Cogolin. Cogolin lies only 6 km from Saint Tropez, which allows you to spend a calm night away from the hustle and bustle of Saint Tropez. 

Cote d'azur Port Grimaud drone photo
Port Grimaud

Port Grimaud is tiny and squeezed but has several excellent eating options. Lily´s restaurant will satisfy both your stomach and eyes. The view, the food presentation and the delicious dishes are all superb.

The Port of Saint Tropez is, of course, another option for berthing, although considerably more pricey since you pay for the location. The port is busy in the summer, and one of the biggest drawbacks used to be the awful state of sanitary facilities; however, these facilities should be renovated by the summer season 2024. 

Day 5 - Port Grimaud - Le Lavandou (22 nm) 

On your voyage back, you will stop by several beach locations until you reach Le Lavandou, a place with a long stretch of sandy beach surrounded by green and steep vegetation. 

Le Lavandou
Le Lavandou

What to see

Shortly after leaving Saint Tropez Bay, you will sail alongside the famous Pampelonne beaches in the shape of a crescent moon. There are not many liable anchoring spots; Cap du Pinet, right at the beginning of the 7-kilometre-long beach, is probably the safest option when you forget about jets and motorboats. 

Continuing with the beach hunting, you will proceed closer to Cavalaire town. The section between Saint Tropez and Cavalaire is dotted with numerous beaches on every kilometre; choose one according to wind direction that day. 

Finally, you will reach the area around Le Lavandou, situated in the arms of the Maures massif. The town is called “The City of Dolphins and Whales” because of its fishermen's history. Nowadays, the area is world-famous among divers and beach lovers. Here, depending on your taste, you have 12 gorgeous beaches at your disposal. Almost all of them have been awarded some labels because of excellent water quality, seabed or diving and snorkeling options. Kids-friendly beach, busy beach with water sports activities, unspoilt cove, small or vast, it is up to you. 

If you are tired of beach fun, take a nice 3 km coastal trail, Le Sentier Du Littoral, from the Port du Lavandou and pass through Saint Clair and La Fossette. Who knows, maybe you will find another superb beach in the end. The port itself is an interesting attraction too. Next day, plan your walk to the old town to visit the Provencal market held on Thursdays in the morning. Taste local specialities and buy local crafts. 

Where to stay?

The marina in Le Lavandou is huge. We still recommend booking a berth in advance. Professionally managed port with great services, competent staff, recently renovated facilities and closeness to the downtown - there is not a better and safer option for overnight.

Marina of Le Lavandou in the Department Var of the province Provence-Alpes-Cote d´Azur
Marina of Le Lavandou

Day 6 - Le Lavandou - Port-Cros (7 nm)

After the morning's stroll around the stands on the Provencal market, enjoy the slow-paced life on the enchanting beach Plage de Saint-Clair, famous for its scenic beauty. Today's sailing part to Port-Cros island will be a short one, so you've got plenty of time to relax on the fine sandy beach and swim in azure waters. 

What to see?

The magnificent island of Port-Cros is the most wild and hilly island out of the idyllic trio of Golden Islands. Breathe in the scent of pine trees and eucalyptus, and indulge in the calmness. The island is more renowned for its numerous hiking trails than beach culture, so definitely grab your shoes and go walking. The views are calling. Sometimes, you will really feel like Robinson Crusoe while hiking in the lush vegetation. 

Plage de la Palud on the Island of Port-Cros
Plage de la Palud on the Island of Port-Cros

Where to stay?

The island is a natural marine reserve and is mostly uninhabited. Anchoring is strictly prohibited, but there are several ecological mooring buoys close to the port or you can find a berth in the port itself. Facilities in the port are basic so come prepared with sufficient supplies of water, electricity and food. There are a few restaurants to choose from, mostly rather expensive, but freshly caught fish is the best idea on this island when eating out.

Harbor of Port Cros, Cote Azur, France
Port Cros

Day 7 - Port-Cros - Port de Hyères (10 nm)

Swim, relax, do nothing or take a morning trail. That's the summary of your activities on this heavenly, beautiful island. When you have enough, return to Hyéres. In case you haven’t had a chance to sail to Porquerolles island on the first day, use your last opportunity today. When coming from Port Cros, stop by the Bay of Alicastre with the famous Notre Dame beach in front. The crystal clear waters with turquoise lights are simply unparalleled. 

The Azure coastline, Côte d'Azur or French Riviera, is a place of sun, wonderful food, simple pleasures and beautiful beaches. You won't get tired of this region. Take a slow breakfast with croissants, sail to a nice bay with a beach, grab a glass of rosé and observe the azure idyll from your boat. Then stroll in a town until you find a glamorous venue with the best dinner. Sailing in the Côte d'Azur is simply exquisite.  

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