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Iconic Southern France Coastal Road Trip

Planning Your Southern France Coastal Escape: Essential Tips for the Perfect Itinerary

St Tropez Southern France road trip

Cruise along sun-drenched coastlines, charming seaside towns, and lavender fields in full bloom with our guide to the iconic Southern France coastal road trip. This journey isn't just about the destination; it's about the unforgettable experiences along the way. We'll whisk you through must-see stops along the French Riviera, from dramatic cliffs to hidden coves. Get ready for breathtaking scenery, charming local flavors, and unique adventures that will leave you wanting more. So, pack your bags, fuel up your wanderlust, and join us as we navigate the perfect itinerary for your Southern France coastal escape!


Local Flavors and Hidden Gems: Unforgettable Experiences Off the Beaten Path

The French Riviera boasts world-famous beaches and glamorous towns, but there's a whole other side to southern France waiting to be explored. Here are our top 4 hidden gems to add a touch of local flavor and unforgettable experiences to your iconic coastal road trip:


Èze & the Nietzsche Path

Nestled atop a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the medieval village of Èze offers breathtaking panoramic views.  While the village itself is charming, the real hidden gem here is the Nietzsche Path.  This scenic trail winds its way up the mountainside, offering stunning vistas and a glimpse into the life and inspiration of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche .


The Camargue

Escape the crowds and discover a unique ecosystem unlike any other in France. The Camargue is a vast delta region known for its sprawling salt flats, wild horses, and pink flamingos. Explore the charming town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, take a horseback riding tour through the wetlands, or go birdwatching in the Pont de Gau Ornithological Reserve .


Villefranche-sur-Mer

While Nice and Cannes may steal the spotlight, the seaside town of Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a more relaxed and authentic atmosphere. Explore the colorful harbor, stroll along the pebble beach, or visit the 16th-century citadel for panoramic views. Foodies won't want to miss the chance to try Socca, a chickpea flour flatbread that is a local specialty .


The Calanques National Park

This breathtaking national park boasts a rugged coastline with stunning inlets, hidden coves, and towering cliffs. Take a boat tour to explore the calanques, go for a hike along the cliffs, or relax on a secluded beach. The park is also a popular spot for kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving .


Seaside Towns and Scenic Drives: Capturing the Essence of Southern France

Southern France Coastal Road Trip

Here is our epic Southern France coastal road trip itinerary.


Collioure: The perfect start to your Southern France Coastal Road Trip
Collioure, France
Collioure, France

Kick off your southern France coastal adventure in the enchanting village of Collioure. Nestled on the rocky shores of the Mediterranean, this technicolor town is where the Pyrenees mountains meet the sea. Immerse yourself in Collioure's rich history by exploring the Château Royal, a formidable medieval fortress, or wander the charming streets lined with colorful houses. 


Art lovers will be captivated by the vibrant artistic legacy, with the Museum of Modern Art showcasing works by Matisse and Derain. Don't miss a stroll along the harbor, savoring fresh seafood while basking in the sun-drenched scenery. Collioure is the perfect launching point for your French Riviera adventure, offering a delightful blend of history, art, and coastal charm.


Sète: Unveiling the Heart of France's Mediterranean Coast on Your Road Trip

Sète, a vibrant port city nestled on France's southern Mediterranean coast, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Often referred to as the "Venice of Languedoc" for its charming canals, Sète boasts a rich maritime history, a thriving cultural scene, and an infectious joie de vivre (joy of living).  Here's a list of the top things to see and do while visiting Sète on your next French road trip:

  • Explore the Canals and the Port: No visit to Sète is complete without wandering along the picturesque canals. Lined with colorful houses, bustling cafes, and bobbing boats, the canals are a photographer's paradise. Take a canal cruise or rent a kayak to explore the waterways from a different perspective.  Be sure to visit the impressive port, where you can admire the impressive fishing boats and yachts.

  • Immerse Yourself in Maritime History: Explore the fascinating Musée de la Mer (Sea Museum) housed in a 19th-century fort, and learn about the city's fishing traditions and maritime past.  You can also visit the Cimetière Marin (Marine Cemetery), the final resting place for many Sète sailors, offering stunning views of the Mediterranean.

  • Climb Mont Saint-Clair for Panoramic Views: For breathtaking views of Sète and the surrounding coastline, hike or take the petit train (little train) up Mont Saint-Clair.  At the top, you'll find the charming Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Salette, a perfect spot for a picnic lunch.


Le Grau-du-Roi, France

After soaking up the culture and history of Sète, continue your French coastal road trip to the laid-back seaside resort of Le Grau-du-Roi. Here, trade bustling markets for pristine beaches and lively promenades.  Families will love the safe, shallow waters perfect for splashing around, while watersports enthusiasts can try their hand at kitesurfing or windsurfing in the coastal breeze. 


Explore the charming marina or rent a bike to explore the surrounding salt marshes, a haven for birdwatchers. In the evenings, savor fresh seafood while watching the sunset paint the sky in vibrant hues. Le Grau-du-Roi offers a delightful dose of relaxation and natural beauty on your southern France adventure.


Unforgettable Experiences in Martigues, the Venice of Provence

Martigues, also known as the "Venice of Provence", is a captivating town located on the French Mediterranean coast. Nicknamed for its canals that weave through the colorful town center, Martigues offers a charming blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Here's a list of the top things to see and do while visiting Martigues on your next French Riviera adventure:

  • Explore the Canals by Boat:Just like in Venice, a gondola ride is a must in Martigues. Glide through the charming canals, admiring the colorful houses, quaint bridges, and bustling cafes that line the waterfronts. Boat tours are a great way to learn about the town's history and hidden corners.

  • Delve into History at the Musée Ziem:History buffs will love exploring the Musée Ziem, housed in a 17th-century mansion. The museum showcases an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, offering a glimpse into Martigues' rich heritage.


Marseille, France
Marseille, France
Marseille, France

Here's a list of the top 3 things to do in Marseille, France:

  1. Explore the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica and witness breathtaking panoramic views: No visit to Marseille is complete without setting foot in the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica. This Romanesque-Byzantine church perched on a hilltop overlooking the city is a magnificent landmark.  Climb the 80 meters to the top of the bell tower and be rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of Marseille, the harbor, and the Mediterranean Sea. Inside the basilica, admire the ornate decorations and the beautiful golden Virgin Mary statue, the guardian of Marseille.

  2. Immerse yourself in history and culture at the MuCEM: Marseille's Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, or MuCEM for short, is a must-visit for history and culture enthusiasts. This architectural marvel, designed by renowned architect Rudy Ricciotti, houses a vast collection of artifacts that tell the story of the Mediterranean basin from prehistoric times to the present day. 

  3. Wander the vibrant Le Panier district and soak up the local atmosphere: Le Panier, meaning "basket" in French, is Marseille's oldest district. This charming neighborhood is a maze of narrow streets lined with colorful houses, trendy cafes, and independent shops.  Get lost in the labyrinthine alleys, discover hidden squares, and admire the beautiful street art.  


Cassis Calling: 3 Must-Do's for Your French Riviera Road Trip Stopover

Cassis, a charming town nestled between dramatic cliffs and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, is a perfect stop on your French Riviera road trip itinerary.  Here are the top 3 things you can't miss:

  1. Explore the Calanques National Park by Boat or Hike:  The jewel in Cassis' crown is undoubtedly the Calanques National Park, a breathtaking series of limestone inlets, coves, and cliffs carved by the sea over millennia.  You can explore this natural wonder in by hiking it but we recommend taking a boat tour.

  2. Wander the Charming Port and Sample Local Delicacies: The picturesque port of Cassis is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.  Stroll along the harbor, lined with colorful fishing boats and bobbing yachts.  Watch the fishermen unload their daily catch, and savor the fresh seafood at one of the many waterfront restaurants. Don't miss out on trying a "tielle sétoise," a delicious savory pie filled with squid, octopus, mussels, and tomatoes, a local specialty of Provence.

  3. Soak Up the Sun on a Cassis Beach: Cassis boasts several beautiful beaches, perfect for a relaxing afternoon under the Mediterranean sun.  Choose from the pebble beach of Plage de l'Anse de Corton, the family-friendly Plage du Bestouan with its shallow waters, or the Plage de la Calanque de Port-Miou, a secluded cove accessible only by foot or boat.


Grimaud, France
Grimaud, France
Grimaud, France

Escape the ordinary and immerse yourself in the magic of Grimaud, France. This charming village perched on a hilltop overlooking the glistening Gulf of Saint Tropez offers a delightful blend of history and relaxation for your French Riviera holiday. Wander through the cobbled streets lined with pastel-colored houses and charming boutiques, soaking up the Provençal charm. Explore the medieval Grimaud Castle, a testament to the region's rich heritage, and savor breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards and turquoise waters. Afternoons can be spent basking on the golden sands of Plage de Grimaud, indulging in fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant, or exploring the vibrant nightlife scene.


Saint-Tropez Stopover: A Touch of Glamour on Your French Riviera Road Trip
Saint-Tropez, France
Saint-Tropez, France

Saint-Tropez – the very name conjures images of luxury yachts, celebrities, and glitzy boutiques. While this playground of the rich and famous is undeniably glamorous, there's more to Saint-Tropez than meets the eye.  On your French Riviera road trip, consider a stopover in this iconic town to experience its unique charm for yourself.


Start your day with a stroll along the harbor.  Marvel at the impressive yachts lining the quay, or admire the colorful fishing boats bobbing gently in the water.  


For a dose of history, head to the Citadelle de Saint-Tropez. This 16th-century fortress offers stunning panoramic views of the town, the harbor, and the surrounding coastline.  Explore the ramparts, learn about the town's fascinating history, and soak up the breathtaking vistas.


Saint-Tropez boasts some beautiful beaches, perfect for soaking up the sun and taking a dip in the refreshing Mediterranean waters. Pampelonne Beach, with its rows of chic beach clubs, is a popular choice for those seeking a luxurious experience.  Alternatively, Plage des Canebiers offers a more relaxed atmosphere, with calm waters perfect for families.


No visit to Saint-Tropez is complete without indulging in some retail therapy.  Explore the designer boutiques on Rue Gambetta, or browse the local shops for unique souvenirs.  If you're feeling peckish, pop into the covered market (Marché aux Halles) and lose yourself in the vibrant displays of fresh produce, local delicacies, and artisanal products.


Cannes, France

Immerse yourself in the glitz and glamour of Cannes, France, during your French Riviera road trip. Stroll the iconic Promenade de la Croisette, following in the footsteps of celebrities who've graced the Cannes Film Festival red carpet.  Take a break at a chic cafe, sipping espresso and watching the world go by.  


For a touch of history, explore the Le Suquet, the old town perched atop a hill, offering charming streets, a captivating art museum, and breathtaking panoramic views of the French Riviera.  


Picasso, Pastries, and Fortresses: Unveiling the Magic of Antibes
Antibes, France
Antibes, France

Steeped in history and artistic charm, Antibes awaits on your French Riviera adventure. Explore the imposing 16th-century Fort Carré, guarding the harbor entrance, and delve into the town's rich maritime past.  Art lovers will be captivated by the Picasso Museum, housed in a 17th-century castle, showcasing the master's prolific Antibes period.  


Wander the charming maze of streets lined with colorful houses and local boutiques, stopping for a coffee and a pastry at a sidewalk cafe to soak up the vibrant atmosphere. Antibes offers a delightful blend of history, art, and Provençal charm, making it a perfect stop on your French Riviera road trip.


St Paul de Vence, France
St Paul de Vence, France
St Paul de Vence, France

St. Paul de Vence is a medieval village perched atop a hill, offering breathtaking views of the French Riviera. Imagine strolling along cobblestone streets lined with ochre-colored houses overflowing with vibrant flowers.  


Gaze upon ancient ramparts guarding the village, whispering tales of a bygone era. This captivating blend of history, art (having been a haven for artists like Picasso and Chagall), and natural beauty makes St. Paul de Vence a jewel waiting to be discovered on your French adventure.


Nice Work! Exploring the Nooks and Crannies of Nice, France

Nice lives up to its name! This vibrant city on the French Riviera offers a delightful mix of history, art, and sun-soaked fun.  Explore the charming Cours Saleya flower market, a feast for the senses with its colorful blooms and local delicacies.  Stroll along the famed Promenade des Anglais, following in the footsteps of countless celebrities.  Delve into the city's rich history at the Château de Nice, perched on a hilltop with panoramic views.  


French Riviera Escape: Villefranche-sur-Mer's Hidden Gem
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

Villefranche-sur-Mer shimmers like a sapphire along the French Riviera, often overshadowed by its flashier neighbors. But this quaint town offers a delightful escape for travelers seeking a charming atmosphere. Picture a horseshoe-shaped bay lined with pastel-colored houses, bobbing boats, and crystal-clear waters.  


Wander the labyrinthine streets, overflowing with vibrant flowers and overflowing with local shops.  Art lovers will appreciate the Jean Cocteau chapel, adorned with the artist's whimsical frescoes. Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a perfect dose of serenity and beauty on your French Riviera adventure.


A Serene Escape in Cap Ferrat

Cap Ferrat, a peninsula jutting into the sparkling Mediterranean, is a world away from the hustle and bustle.  Imagine trading crowded beaches for hidden coves, luxurious yachts for charming fishing villages.  Explore the picturesque port of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, lined with colorful houses and boasting a vibrant market. Hike along the scenic coastal paths, breathing in the fresh sea air and marveling at the dramatic cliffs.  


Èze: Where Medieval Charm Meets Breathtaking Views

Èze, a medieval village clinging to a clifftop high above the Côte d'Azur, is a must-visit on your French Riviera road trip.  Wander through a maze of narrow streets lined with ochre-colored houses adorned with colorful flowers.  


Explore the ruins of a 12th-century castle, soaking up panoramic vistas of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding landscape.  Èze Jardín Exotique, a botanical garden overflowing with cacti and succulents from around the world, adds a touch of the unexpected.  


Monaco Marvels: A Splash of Opulence on Your French Riviera Road Trip
Monaco France
Monaco France

Monaco might be tiny, but it packs a punch when it comes to glamour. Nestled on the sparkling French Riviera, this sovereign state is a playground for the rich and famous.  But don't be discouraged!  A stopover in Monaco on your road trip can be an unforgettable experience.


Start your day by wandering around the opulent Casino de Monte-Carlo, trying your luck (or simply marveling at the architectural extravagance).  For a dose of history, explore the Prince's Palace, the official residence of the Monegasque royal family, overlooking the harbor.  Take a stroll through the Jardin Exotique, boasting stunning cacti and panoramic views, or people-watch in the luxurious cafes of Monte Carlo.


In the afternoon, head to the famed Circuit de Monaco, where the Formula One Grand Prix takes place.  Even if there's no race on, walking the track is a thrilling experience.  In the evening, enjoy fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant or soak up the vibrant nightlife scene.  Monaco might be synonymous with luxury, but a visit here offers a glimpse into a world of opulence and a touch of Formula One fever, all within a stone's throw of your French Riviera adventure.


Menton: Top 3 Must-Do's for Your French Riviera Escape
Menton France
Menton France

Menton, a charming town nestled on the French Riviera between Italy and Monaco, is a jewel waiting to be explored. Nicknamed the "Pearl of the French Riviera" for its mild climate and abundance of citrus trees, Menton offers a captivating blend of history, art, and natural beauty. Here are the top 3 things you can't miss on your visit:

  1. Explore the Enchanting Old Town: Menton's heart lies in its picturesque Old Town, a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with colorful houses adorned with baroque wrought-iron balconies.  Wander through the charming pedestrian zones, soak up the Provençal atmosphere, and discover hidden squares and quaint shops.  Be sure to visit the Basilique Saint-Michel Archange, a magnificent 17th-century church with a striking bell tower offering panoramic views.

  2. Immerse Yourself in the World of Lemons:  Menton is famous for its abundance of lemons, celebrated every year during the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) held in February.  Explore the Maisons de Citron (Lemon Houses), unique structures adorned with thousands of citrus fruits. Visit the Musée Jean Cocteau, Collection Séverin Wunderman, housed in a 17th-century bastion, showcasing a fascinating collection of works by the artist Jean Cocteau who was inspired by Menton's lemons. 

  3. Relax on the Beautiful Beaches and Explore the Gardens: Menton boasts a stunning coastline with a variety of beaches to choose from.  Families will love the Plage des Sablettes, a wide sandy beach with shallow waters. For a more secluded spot, head to the Plage des Mandariniers, a pebble beach surrounded by cliffs.  After a refreshing swim, explore the Jardins Biovès, a beautiful botanical garden showcasing a diverse collection of plants from around the world, or take a stroll through the Jardins du Palais Carnolès, featuring impressive Renaissance architecture and lush Mediterranean gardens.


Southern France Seaside: A Coastal Journey by Car

As you cruise back along the sun-drenched coastline, the memories of your southern France adventure will forever be etched in your mind.  From the charming fishing villages to the glamorous resorts, the dramatic coastlines to the medieval hilltop towns, this journey has offered a kaleidoscope of French Riviera wonders.  So, put this itinerary on your bucket list, rent your car, and get ready to embark on your own unforgettable southern France coastal road trip.  The open road awaits!

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