Everyone loves the French Riviera. And what’s not to love. After all, the South of France has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, plus a seemingly endless supply of golden sunshine. Once the season kicks off, the chic resorts of Monaco, St Tropez and Cannes are busy all summer long.
But the French Riviera is much more than just beaches and glittering nightclubs. From tiny villages perched high above the Mediterranean to sun-drenched islands in the Var, there are hidden gems all over this paradise land just waiting to be discovered. And to help you find them, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 secret locations to explore up and down the coast.
Next time you want to leave the noise and hustle of the city behind, head straight to one of these little-known spots and spend a few hours enjoying the glorious natural beauty of the French Riviera.
This pretty little village is one of the official Plus Beaux Villages de France, but it is almost completely overlooked by visitors to the French Riviera. Set in the mountains on the Italian border just above Menton, Sainte Agnes looks like it has come straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. Cobbled streets and arched passageways lead to beautifully restored 15th-century houses and the village even has its very own chateau complete with a lovely Medieval garden.
Recognised as the highest coastal village in Europe, the views from the chateau over Menton and Italy are truly breathtaking and well worth the climb up from the village centre. One visit and we think you’ll agree, life in the French Riviera backcountry has never been quite so romantic.
Paul Ricard Islands
You probably know the name Paul Ricard as the creator of that most famous of all French Riviera aperitifs, the pastis. But you may not know that he was also a keen environmentalist and developer of 2 lovely private islands in the South of France. Ricard purchased the islands of Bendor and Les Embiez off the coast of the Var in the 1950’s and turned them into a nature reserve and sanctuary for artists.
These days you can visit the islands by boat and explore pristine beaches and hidden coves, or dive in the turquoise waters around the bay and discover the exotic marine life hiding among the shipwrecks. With a winery, oceanographic institution and several museums and art galleries, these little-known islands are an easy day trip from Cannes or St Tropez for an authentic taste of life in the Mediterranean.
Les Gorges de la Cagne
While a dip in the sea is a great way to cool off, the beaches along the coast tend to get very crowded during the summer months. So why not head for the hills and enjoy a refreshing dip in a secluded natural swimming hole instead? Les Gorges de la Cagne is a relatively unknown spot near the village of Saint Jeannet with a magnificent waterfall and swimming hole.
Walk along a scenic path next to the La Cagne river, and head for the beautiful natural pool with its crystalline water and idyllic surroundings. Hidden away amongst lush green trees and surrounded by picturesque villages, the area around Les Gorges de la Cagne is a dream come true for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Overshadowed by her glamorous next door neighbour St Tropez, Gigaro is a lovely little resort just down the coast from Ramatuelle. Peaceful and quiet, it has none of the glitz of St Tropez but it does offer visitors stunning scenery and crystal clear waters alongside a narrow strip of sandy beach.
The bay is the perfect place to go swimming or snorkelling and a coastal path leads off it through 10 km of rocky coves and pine forests, all topped off with some fabulous views of the Mediterranean. Throw in the 2 excellent beach restaurants in Gigaro which serve some of the freshest seafood around and you have the ideal spot for an exclusive day out on the French Riviera.
Away from the beach, just 25km north of Grasse, the little village of Audibergue is a fantastic family ski resort which most people including the locals, have never heard of. With over 28 kms of pistes for all abilities plus 6 cross country ski runs, it's the ideal place for an easy winter getaway.
The village centre is small but very charming and there are some great restaurants at the foot of the slopes for a leisurely lunch or a glass of vin chaud to warm up after your day in the snow. And Audibergue is just as nice during the summer as the little resort offers all sorts of adventure sports from mountain biking to a treetop adventure park.
With so much to do, plus some of the most magnificent views over the Bay of Cannes in the area, Audibergue is definitely one French Riviera secret destination you won’t want to miss out on.
These are just some of our favourite secret spots along the French Riviera but of course, there are hundreds more unique locations tucked away along the coast. To add your own discoveries to the list, reserve one of our luxury French Riviera rental properties today and start planning the holiday of a lifetime in the beautiful South of France.