You always hear about ‘The South of France‘ (it even sounds fancy!) and how gorgeous it is, but it really has to be seen to be believed. Unlike places like the Amalfi coast with it’s iconic cliffside towns, the Cote d’Azur (French Riveria) has a long list of seaside towns that all have a unique and different coastline and landscape to offer. The best part about this coastal area is that if you have some more time, there are just as many activities to do inland by the mountains meaning there is really something for everyone here.
This was my first time taking a campervan in warm weather (we took one around Iceland which you can read about here) and I’m sorry I hadn’t done it sooner! France has some of the best camp sites in Europe meaning you get first class service no matter where you stay. Most of the campsites that we pitched at had pools, or had direct access to the beach and I don’t think you can ask for much more than that! The one thing that I will say is that because you have to turn your engine off at night (meaning no A/C) is can get a little uncomfortable so avoiding the height of Summer is probably best. Also some campsites provided basics like toilet paper while others didn’t, so make sure to buy some just incase. Cost wise, our campervan came to €900 for the five days and pitches cost between €20-38. We didn’t find the coast too expensive but we also ate breakfast and lunch in our camper every day so dinner and coffees were our only expense each day.
Depending on where you want to start your trip there are several different locations that you can fly into. The best airports to start your trip are Nice or Marseille.
Here is our five day road trip itinerary for along the Cote d’Azur
DAY ONE: MONACO
As we had return flights from Nice, we decided to start our journey by going up the coast to see Monaco. Monaco is insanely, insanely small and while it’s somewhere you can’t miss along the coast, it only needs a few hours of your time to really enjoy.
Some of things that you can do in Monaco are:
- Téte de Chien – You will need a car for this, but if you have one this is a must visit to give you the best views in Monaco! Following the La Turbie road you will find this gem of a viewpoint where you can see all of Monaco. We set up our campervan here for the night and got amazing views of both the city at night, and again at sunrise – if you can make it at one of these times then definitely do.
- Casino De Monte Carlo – Arguably the most iconic building in Monaco, the Casino can’t be missed on your visit here. You can access the casino in the morning for a free but from 2pm onwards, entry is dedicated to players only.
- Larvotto Beach – If you are here for more than a few hours and looking to cool off, the only beach in Monaco is the best place for you to set up shop, enjoy the skyline and gorgeous blue waters.
- Rent a boat – There are so many boats docked in Monaco it is hard not to get jealous! If you want to get in on the action you can rent a boat for the day and there is the option to rent with a skipper if you don’t have your own licence.
- Jardin exotique de Monaco – Unfortunately this was closed during our visit but this garden is said to be home to over 900 different types of flora and is home to a beautiful walk with views of the sea behind.
- Oceanographic Museum – one of the biggest tourist attractions in Monaco, and a great activity to do if you have kids, this museum has both a full aquarium to observe sharks, turtles and more while also being home to a museum where impressive skeletons of whales, sharks and dolphins are exhibited.
DAY TWO: Cap D’il, Nice & Villeneuve-Loubet
Our first full day along the Cote d’Azur was a pretty busy one. We started the day off by decending from Téte de Chien and heading to the coastal walk (marked Sentier du littoral on Google Maps) in Cap D’il. This starts at Plage Mala and goes all the way into Monaco but we started the walk from Restaurant La Pinède and turned around at Plage Marquet which came in at just under 4km. If you have some time, you can pack swimwear and pick a place along the walk to go for a dip as there are a few different places to choose from along the way!
Our next stop was the city of Nice. We made this a flying visit but it would be the perfect place to set up your base if you didn’t have a car, or would also be a nice place to spend the night as the city has so much to offer.
One of the biggest things to do at Nice is sit back and relax at Promenade des Anglais. Stretching 7km along the city, you can rent bikes (Velo Bleu is the name of the city bikes that you can download an app to pick up and set down) for a seafront bike ride or relax and one of the many beach clubs dotted along the beach but I would recommend booking in advance as they fill up quickly during the busier seasons. I would also recommend wearing water shoes if you have them as the beach is stoney.
Other things that you can do in the city are:
- Visit the old town in Nice for a leisurely stroll (Visit the Church of Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur of Nice, a Roman Catholic church located on Rue Droite in the old town of Nice)
- Visit the park in the city centre with water fountains called the Miroir d’Eau fountains (a great place to bring your kids!)
- Do the Mont Boron hike for stunning views over Nice.
We then headed to the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, a seaside town between Nice and Antibes. The waterfront here is really cute and not as busy as the beaches in Nice if you are looking for something more remote. We didn’t go around the town much itself as we spent the night further inland at Cagnes-Sur-Mer. If cute little old towns are your thing then you will LOVE Cagnes-Sur-Mer! It was definitely our favourite stop along the route as it was such a pleasant surprise. The town is a mish-mash of tiny winding streets, gorgeous stone façade buildings and climbing plants on every single surface. There is a little square here with a few restaurants but I recommend booking in advance for one of these if you know you are visiting as they were all full the evening that we went. There isn’t a huge amount to actually do in Cagnes-Sur-Mer but it is a feast for the eyes and a great way to spend a few hours.
The campsite that we stayed in for the night was: Camping Parc Des Maurettes and there is a beach only a ten minute walk away from here called Plage Des Maurettes.
DAY THREE: ANTIBES & PORT GRIMAUD
On our third day we headed straight for Antibes. Antibes was such a gorgeous town and again, it would be a perfect place to base yourself for a holiday if you didn’t want to move around every day. At the beginning I wasn’t sure what Antibes had to offer as we started our day at the harbour which is impressive – but we had seen a lot of harbours in our last few days! As the day went on the town grew on me more and more with it’s riveria town charm.
Things that you can do in Antibes are:
- Walk from the harbour walls down along into the town (where there are huge markets on Saturdays!). There are so many cafés dotted along the streets making it a really nice place to sit and chill for awhile and the boutique shops are all very cute.
- Picasso Museum which is only €8 for entry.
- The Bay of Billionaires/Sentier du Littoral Cap d’Antibes: this area is beyond stunning and I highly recommend you put aside some time to visit here if you like swimming. There are a few different ways to reach the water I think, we took the path to the right beside the entrance into Château de la Croë which took us directly down to a stoney beach. Here you can go cliff jumping or if you had a paddle board it would be a great place to go out for the day as the water is crystal clear and very calm.
After Antibes we headed to Port Grimaud, another favourite of ours along our trip. You pass Cannes along the way so you can choose to stop here to make the 1.5 hour drive shorter but we were visiting Cannes on our way back so we drove straight through.
Port Grimaud is like a little French Venice! The town is built over a series of canals and with colourful buildings on every turn it’s such a nice place to stop and enjoy. It also had quite a few campsites and resorts in the area and looked like it would be a great place to bring a family for a holiday. The best thing to do in Port Grimaud is to enjoy your time at the beach, stroll through the town and take a boat ride along the canals.
We stayed in the campsite called Camping De La Plage and managed to get their last pitch which was a 30 second walk to the beach! This is one of the most beautiful campsites I have ever stayed in in terms of location as not only is it right by the beach, but it is also a short walk into the centre of Port Grimaud.
DAY FOUR: Saint Tropez & Cannes
On our last full day in France we first enjoyed the sunrise over the beach in our campsite before heading in for one last walk around Port Grimaud. We then headed down the coast from Port Grimaud to Saint Tropez. Saint Tropez was for me, exactly how I expected to be honest. This town exudes an opulent and luxurious vibe, and if you don’t understand what I mean, there was a Dior Café in front of where we parked! If you are a fan of high end/luxury shopping this is definitely the town for you as the streets are dotted with Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga to name but a few. The town is made up of cute narrow streets hidden behind yet another harbour lined with cafés so you can enjoy a drink while you people watch with yachts as the background! There isn’t many activities to here but it is a gorgeous place to sit back, relax, enjoy a drink and visit one of the many beaches.
Once we were done in Saint Tropez we drove back towards Cannes (as our flight our was further up again the next day from Nice). We were almost upset that we stopped in Cannes, not because it’s not gorgeous, but because we had left ourselves such limited time there that we felt we should have left it to be a weekend break on it’s own! The city isn’t absolutely huge, but there is plenty to do to keep you busy.
A few activities that you can choose from are:
- Rent bikes and cycle along the waterfront. We did this and it was a magical way to see the full coast. Two bikes for two hours were only €13 each.
- Spend the day at one of the many beach clubs along the water – we didn’t visit any but they all looked stunning and a great place for a group to go.
- Go window shopping along the Boulevard de la Croisette. La Croisette has the highest concentration of designer boutiques on the French Riviera!
- Pose on the iconic Cannes red carpet outside the Cannes Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.
- Explore the old town Le Suquet Cannes which you can see above Vieux Port.
- If you are in Cannes for longer than a few nights you can visit the Lérins Islands (Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat) which are an archipelago on the Bay of Cannes.
In Cannes we stayed in Le Ranch campsite a little outside the town which means you would have to get a uber into the centre and back. It was the most child friendly of all the campsites that we visited and we also found the staff really welcoming (unlike camping parc bellevue which were a little less than welcoming when we asked if there was an available pitch!!)
On the morning of our fifth and final day we rented bikes to cycle along the waterfront in Cannes before returning our campervan and getting our flight home.
With limited annual leave time we managed to squeeze a lot into our few days on the French Riveria, but if you were visiting all of the locations mentioned above I would recommend giving yourself a week if not more. There were a few things that we didn’t get to do like visit the Lavender and Sunflower fields in Provence or Kayak The Gorges Du Verdon (which looks out of this world!) but they are all the more reason to take a trip back some other time!
Have you ever been to the South of France? After reading, is it somewhere you would like to go? Let me know!