There's so much to do here on the French Cote d'Azur that it's always good to receive spot-on travel tips as you plan your trip. Best of all is to hear it from locals or folks who have just returned from an excellent French Riviera vacation. You hear about that special trail, that special beach, that right-on tip as you're planning your vacation to the French Côte d'Azur.
So we're thrilled to hear from Mariette and Lorne, two fellow hikers from Vancouver Canada who recently returned from an awesome trip to the western French Riviera.
Although they hadn't planned it that way, Mariette and Lorne hiked along the region's Sentier du Littoral (Coastal Path) by gems such as the Cap Lardier and all along the sandy path by Le Lavandou. As it turns out, the hikes made for some of their most memorable experiences.
Here's what they say about their adventure:
M&L: We're empty-nesters keen on a holistic lifestyle. We live on the west coast of Canada, another place with amazing urban and back country (including coastal) hikes. We were open to try a few hikes on our trip to Southern France. Our initial plan was to visit St Tropez and perhaps fit in a short hike around the peninsula, time permitting.
After an experience with "code red" type traffic (note: visit was in July, around peak tourism time when many coastal roads experience grid-lock) when heading from Gonfaron to Cavalaire-sur-Mer, we stopped by Plage St Clair eager for a breath of fresh air. This was our first taste of coastal hiking on the French Riviera.
Aside from beautiful vistas, we also observed that this section of the trail is very well constructed and well marked. And it was a surprise to us that the segments of the trail remained quiet for a Sunday in July. After short hikes along the rocky shoreline and into the more urban areas which had us stroll through a beautiful marine, we were sold. We were going to discover more about these gorgeous coastal footpaths of the Cote d'Azur!
AzurAlive: What was your favorite hike on the French Riviera?
After a 1 1/2 hour drive from Gonfaron, a "Parking Gratuit" sign in Cavalaire-sur-Mer caught our attention. This is where we started our 4.5 hour round-trip trek by Cap Lardier. The hike was pure in-the-moment bliss! No iPods, no Backberry's to distract us.
Our day would be best described as "un festin sensuel". Just the serenade of the cigales (cicadas) under brilliant blue skies enchanted us. And what colors best describe the Mediterranean? A pale sky or deep blue or turquoise? All of them, depending on where you look.
The path was well-marked, well-worn and not too arduous. We were only slowed down by the beautiful vistas that called us out to stop.
We found very distinct sectional differences along the trail which provided diverse coastal views. On some segments of the trail a canopy of trees provided welcomed relief from the sun, other sections had not much more than low coastal shrub. We also traversed popular and busy beaches including the Plage de Gigaro where we felt somewhat over-dressed. I'm certain we looked like the march of the penguins.
Plage de Jovat on Cap Lardier was the perfect more quiet spot for a quick refreshing dip and lunch.
AA: Any specific recommendations for this hike, other than to be well equipped with plenty of water, hat, sunscreen and a few bites to eat?
M&L: In retrospect, we could have parked closer to Gigaro and bypassed some of the beach to reach the beginning of Cap Lardier. A better plan would actually have been to start our hike earlier and to allow more time to appreciate this coastal region. I do recommend this hike!
AA: Other great coastal treks on the French Riviera?
M&L: Around Cap Sicié. We were told that roads through the Massif du Cap Sicié were closed for summer. That was a perfect excuse to leave our rental car parked for the day and to head for the trails.
We walked along the beautiful sandy beaches of Plage des Sablettes before turning in toward the more urban La Seyne sur Mer. After returning to the coast, we passed by Plage de la Verne, a pebble beach much like that of Nice and Plage de Fabrégas and its black sand. Pine and other tall foliage gave way to low coastal shrub.
In contrast with Cap Lardier, we found a significant part of this trail to be quite open. Hikers will need appropriate head wear and protection for the sun. We also found this hike to be more physically challenging. In a few places, the trail winds, narrows and runs steep.
After a wonderful hike, we retreated to the nearby beaches for a seaside feed of moules-frites and a cool rosé wine. It couldn't get any better.
AA: What was your favorite aspect of hiking the Cote d'Azur?
When we left Canada, we had only limited information about the local coastal trails. We did not know how extensive the network of coastal trail, or just how many opportunities exist on the French Riviera for wonderful outdoor experiences. We're so glad to have found out about them.
Our favorite things about hiking here? Wonderful views, no need for GPS systems, heavy survival kits or weather gear!
AA: Thanks Lorne and Mariette for the trip report and for the tips on veering off the car roads into the picturesque Sentier du Littoral footpaths of the Cote d'Azur. We hope you come back to visit soon.
Click here to read more about Hiking Cap Lardier.
For a colorful hiking guide to the western Cote d'Azur with maps and photos, check out the new "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Côte d'Azur" below on Amazon.com.
france hiking riviera