The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

How to enjoy pebble beaches on the French Riviera

The French Riviera, or Côte d'Azur, is known for its gorgeous coastline that stretches roughly from St Tropez in the west to Menton in the east, with literally hundreds of beaches of all shapes and sizes. From long sandy stretches to tiny rocky coves, we've got it all covered, but what many people don't realise is that a great deal of these beaches are pebbly.  Don't be disappointed!  If you're not initially a fan of pebble beaches, don't worry, here's my guide on how to enjoy them and maybe even see their advantages.

      pebble beach azure sea

As a rough rule of thumb the beaches from Menton to Antibes are pebbles and Antibes westwards are sand. There are some exceptions such as the beaches on Cap Ferrat which are sort of gravelly, not quite sand but not pebbles either.  The sand can vary greatly in its grain, from coarse and red around the Estérel to fine white along Pamplonne beach near St Tropez.  Like I said, we've got it all! The pebbles in this area are actually large flat grey stones called "galets" which contribute to making the sea colour the vibrant blue that it is around here.  They are much loved by the local population and are part of Nice's heritage. 

      plage de galets

So how can you make the most of a pebbly beach?  First and foremost you need shoes!  Young children can usually run around on the pebbles barefoot but adults struggle.  But even the toughest of young feet find the stones can get very hot without shoes.  As a bare minimum flipflops are a start.  At least you can cross the beach to the water's edge comfortably, but then you're going to find it quite a struggle to get out of the water in bare feet.  As a next best bet, use Crocs, which you can keep on while swimming, though they aren't known for being tight and can come off easily in the water.  My advice is to equip yourself with proper beach/swimming shoes, sold cheaply along the seafront in towns like Cagnes sur Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet and Nice.  Large supermarkets in the area stock them as does Decathlon, the sports megastore.

      beach shoes

Next tip is to invest in a fold-up mattress to soften the bumps while lying on the beach.  While these make a pleasant difference (and cost very little) funnily enough because the stones are flat they aren't actually uncomfortable to lie on.  However, if you're staying with us at Lou Messugo we will happily lend you a mattress or even a fold-up sun bed, as well as a parasol. 

      pebble beach evening picnic

As for the advantages of a pebbly beach, think of walking on the stones as like having a reflexology session - for free!  How about sandwiches without sand?  Yup, picnics on pebble beaches are much easier and more relaxed affairs than on sandy beaches.  And, it's not just while eating that you can appreciate no sand.  You know those days when the wind whips sand into your eyes, or even just bitingly across your ankles on an otherwise gorgeous beach?  Well, that doesn't happen either. You don't get sand in your clothing/towels and the car stays much cleaner.  What's not to like?

      pebble beach fun

Any family with young boys will know that they can stand and skip or throw stones into water for what seems like hours!  Infact it's not limited to young boys...I know a fair few in their mid-fourties who do the same.  My experience with girls is limited but surely there are some who also like throwing stones?  So there you have hours of free and easy entertainment.  Much better than throwing sand.

      beach V-L apero

Pebble beaches are great for collecting stones too.  Try looking for different shapes and colours and the odd bit of seaglass.  We always come home with extra kilos in the beach bag from interesting specimens found by the kids and judging from the piles left on the terrace of the gîte after each lot of guests leave, so do many of our guests!

      pebble castle2

And finally, building castles doesn't have to be limited to sand castles.  Creating structures with stones can be just as fun.  So much fun that there's even an annual World Championships held on one of the beaches nearest to us!  Click here to read all about this rather unique event.  

      Nice plage Nice beach

If this has convinced you that pebble beaches are good but you don't want to carry around a mattress or even some beach shoes, there are options...go for luxury.  Hire a sun bed and parasol on one of the many private beaches for the day.  Some even have matting or wooden pathways down to the edge of the water to avoid getting that reflexology session!  Prices vary from beach to beach from around 14€ per person upwards (a lot upwards for the chicer beaches).  If you're only in the area for a day or two (and not staying at Lou Messugo) then this is the obvious choice but it can get expensive for longer stays. Bear in mind that you are not allowed to bring your own food to a private beach so you have to factor in the cost of a meal too, but for special occasions, there's nothing better than lying on a sunlounger with waiter service on the beach on the French Riviera.

      plage de galets Villeneuve Loubet pebble beach

What do you think of pebble beaches?  Let's get a discussion going, who prefers what?

 

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Comments

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Thursday, 05 May 2016

    Hi Pheobe. I love all beaches and do love pebble beaches. Being from Maine, USA there are a lot of pebble/rocky beaches. I have visited pebble beaches in Canada (Campobello Island), in Normandy and in Scotland too. I have lots of stone from all over. :) I'm wodering if you have any advice about where to beach comb in the Saint-Tropez area? My family and I are going to be there next week and we love to collect beach treasures. Glass, pottery, drift wood, shells and stones. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 05 May 2016

    Hi there, I don't know the beaches very well around St Tropez I'm afraid other than the lovely big sandy beach Pamplonne which gets quite a lot of drift wood on it. I hope you have fun!

  • Guest
    Nandika Monday, 04 April 2016

    Wow! They don't sound so bad! Yep, I don't like it when sand gets into everything. Looking forward to going to the pebble beaches this summer!

  • Guest
    Girl Gone Gallic Friday, 03 July 2015

    I've just had to send my camera in for repairs to get the sand out of it, so here is another great reason to love pebble beaches ! Plus, you can blog on the beach without worrying about the sand

  • Guest
    Adelina Tuesday, 17 June 2014

    What an interesting perspective! I generally don't really like pebble beaches cause they hurt my feet and they're just not comfortable. I don't like sandy beaches either cause sand gets everywhere! I might have to rethink my pebble beach ways now that I've read this. Great points to think about :)

  • Guest
    frankaboutcroatia Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Oh, I am totally pro pebbly beaches. Would never change them for any sand beach. And I am being totally serious! It's great that you provide a mattress, a fold-up sun bed, and a parasol to your guests. That's what I call care-free holidays! How do they regulate private beaches in France? Are people still allowed to come to the beach with their towel and put it down, or not?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 16 June 2014

    Good to hear from another pebble fan! In France you are not allowed to own right onto the water, there has to be public access along the edge. In reality this can mean precarious rocks or a very narrow path but on the private beaches the sunloungers can't go right to the water's edge. There's always a metre or 2 of public space that people can walk along and theoretically put their towels down on. I say theoretically because in most places the metre or so of public space is where the waves crash and usually not useable by sunbathers. If it is useable, sometimes non-payers will set up camp there but they can't use the facilities of the private beach. There's also always some space on the sides of the private beaches for public use.

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    We've been to the south of France and I remember how hard it was to walk along the beach. You definitely can't lay on the rocks. We rented beach chairs while we were there and left our sandals close to the water.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 16 June 2014

    Sounds like you did the right thing Carmen if you were only around for a short while.

  • Guest
    Marissa Sunday, 15 June 2014

    You have me convinced! Pebble beaches actually don't sound too bad!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 16 June 2014

    Great Marissa! :)

  • Guest
    http://Lisa at Wanderlust Women Sunday, 15 June 2014

    This is not unlike the south of Italy. As a New Yorker, I am spoiled with the long white sandy beaches of the east coast USA. As much as I live in Naples, I still can't get used to those rocks, pebbles is too kind a word! ;)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 16 June 2014

    Ours really are pebbles! Rocks would definitely be too harsh for our soft flat pebbles!!

  • Guest
    Corinne Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Phoebe, With all your beaches in the south of France, you're making me think I should have gone south this summer, instead of to Brittany!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 16 June 2014

    Brittany is gorgeous Corinne, you'll love it. Come to the south next time!

  • Guest
    Emma Sunday, 15 June 2014

    I actually prefer pebble beaches sometimes... Much better for picnics! :D

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    They sure are easier for picnics Emma!

  • Guest
    Michelle Saturday, 14 June 2014

    That looks gorgeous and you have made very good points. Amazing photos!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Thanks Michelle :)

  • Guest
    Californian Mum Friday, 13 June 2014

    I am not a fan of pebbly beaches, but you've made me want to go and enjoy one with the tips you have given.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Great! If I can convince a Californian to try that's a good start!!

  • Guest
    Catherine Thursday, 12 June 2014

    I do prefer sandy beaches. I was brought up on them. However you have made some pretty persuasive points and I maybe could be converted. They really do make the water a gorgeous colour. Can't wait to be at lou messugo again and go to the beach. Could even treat us to a luxury private beach.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    I know it's hard to imagine pebble beaches can be as lovely as sand, but there are plenty of good points about them and I'm glad I've started to persuade you of them Catherine!

  • Guest
    Helen @ Witty Hoots Thursday, 12 June 2014

    Well you've convinced me! I'd never thought of making pebbles structures instead of sandcastles!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Well if there can be a World Championships then we all need to practice!!

  • Guest
    Boo Roo and Tigger Too Thursday, 12 June 2014

    I'm not sure I could take Tigger here, he's want to bring all the pebbles home with him.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    It is one of the hazzards with little boys!

  • Guest
    Faye Thursday, 12 June 2014

    Love this blog, Phoebe, and would add the entertainment value of watching people who havent cottoned on yet (and heaven knows i was one of them!) struggling to get in or out of the water!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    That's so funny Faye, and who'd have thought you'd be the one to bring that up?!! But I agree with you, it is fun to watch!

  • Guest
    Eduardo Thursday, 12 June 2014

    I'm a boy, in my mid-forties and I love throwing stones!!go for pebble beaches!!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Ha ha Eduardo!!

  • Guest
    Victoria Thursday, 12 June 2014

    I never liked pebble beach and if we had to pick a holiday it was and will a sandy one as i think there is much more fun with sand, but sometimes you cant be too picky

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Best not to book a holiday in Nice then Victoria as you'd be disappointed. :(

  • Guest
    Hannah Budding Smiles Thursday, 12 June 2014

    It looks absolutely beautiful there and is a part of the world I'd love to see. Thanks for these tips!xx

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Thanks for reading Hannah. I hope you make it here one day.

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault Thursday, 12 June 2014

    Sand is one of the reasons I'm not keen on beach days - not so much the sand on the beach itself but all the sand in SANDwiches and the car and all the bags/clothes etc we bring home! Yup - give me a pebbly beach :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    When are you coming to stay then Rosie???

  • Guest
    Steph Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    We love the pebble beaches as it means less sand in the car and in the hair ;) Usually in low tide anyway you have a mix of sand near the water's edge and then pebbles to rinse off on ;)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    That's a good point Steph, there is usually a little sand to be found somewhere if the kids want to play in it.

  • Guest
    The Intrepid Misadventurer Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    You've got to see these pics to refresh your understanding of 'Azure', spellbindingly gorgeous! Great tips on surviving pebble beaches, wish I had read this two years back as we made rookie errors like not going prepared in the least and therefore, have memories of painful feet on the beach! Nicely written and beautifully photographed, Phoebe! x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Thanks Kanchan. The water here really is an amazing colour. You'll just have to come back, well equipped this time.

  • Guest
    there and back Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    I love them, I think they're great for giving a workout!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    I agree!!

  • Guest
    Rin Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    you have convinced me!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Goodo! :p

  • Guest
    Jen Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Fantastic tips. I love stones and my boys always collect them no matter where we go.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Boys and stones! We have piles and piles... :)

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