Les Bateaux de Saint-Rapahel, which serve a number of local ports with their ferry boats, currently recommend that travelers book their ferry tickets 48 hours in advance during this busy summer season.
If you're heading to St Tropez from the eastern side of the French Riviera (Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Agay, etc), taking the train to Saint-Raphael and then the ferry to Saint-Tropez is a great way to travel during the busy season.
Photo: Plage du Veillat, Saint-Raphael, French Riviera, France
I hesitate to place the Plage du Veillat beach on our list of Best Beaches for the French Riviera, as it is anything but secluded and I like more secluded beaches.
That's my bias, and you may not agree with me so...
Here's the scoop on the Plage du Veillat. It's sandy, fairly deep and long and smack in at the tip edge of Saint-Raphael's main high street. It is watched over by a number of lifeguards during the summer, and is large enough not to feel cramped and packed and horrible. It does get busy in the middle of summer, especially with families. Ice cream shops, restaurants, restrooms and showers are not too far away so all is convenient. There's even a swimming instructor by the beach corner - you can hire him to teach your budding swimmers that stylish front crawl motion.
What's not to like about it?
Well, if you enjoy a bit more space and if you don't necessarily want to hear about the lives of your beach-towel neighbors, you might walk on a bit further to our list of Best Beaches.
July 14th marks the anniversary of the taking of the "Bastille" prison in Paris by hungry & disillusioned parisians in 1789. They stormed the Bastille and set in motion the wheels of the French Revolution that brought down the monarchy.
Each year "Le Quatorze Juillet" or Bastille Day in English is celebrated as the country's most important national day. In Paris, the celebration center around military displays of tanks, planes, troops marching down the Champs Elysees.
How is Le Quatorze Juillet celebrated on the French Riviera?
Fireworks. Lots of fireworks or "Feux d'Artifice". Fireworks with the entire population poured onto the streets, the piers, the beachside promenade to watch.
Every single town will have its fireworks tomorrow.
Where there's the sea, they usually take place over the bay. On the French Riviera, this is the case in Nice, in Cannes, in Saint-Raphael, in Sainte-Maxime, in Saint-Tropez.
Watch out for the time.
You might expect the fireworks at midnight, but they're usually around 10PM or 10:30PM.
Before then, you might be treated to some festive music along the promenades such as in Nice.
Nice's Prom Party begins at 9:30PM on July 14th this year around the Palais de la Méditérannée. Valbonne with also host music at the Place des Arcades at 9PM. In Saint-Tropez, you will be able to dance at the local bal starting around 10:30PM while the fireworks will start at 10:45PM.
The jagged coast between Saint-Raphael and Agay hosts a number of coves and beaches, some of them with sand.
One I enjoy for swimming is the Plage d'Arene Grosse. Actually, it's just beyond that beach, immediately after the Port of Boulouris as you head east.
Why do I love this beach?
In general, it's far less crowded than the better-known public beaches nearby such as the beaches of Saint-Raphael, Frejus or even Agay. Few visitors know about it, unless they're staying in Boulouris right next door.
Because the beach faces the open sea rather than a sheltered cove, the water is usually very clean. You can check the current water quality status at the entrance by the port of Boulouris as water samples are taken and analysed regularly all summer long.
The other thing that may keep some beach-lovers out are the rocks. Most of the beach is sandy, but under the sand lays layers of rocks stretched flat. They create a gentle surf as the sea breaks on the rocks. While they're not sharp, you'll probably be more confortable wearing water shoes. Personally, I wear fins as I love to swim beyond the reef to the open waters.
Where is the beach?
If you don't have a car, it's a walk from St Raphael to reach it, though a very pleasant one if you decide to take the coastal path instead of the main road. That probably keeps many folks away.
Interested in local hikes on the Western side of the French Riviera from Cannes to Hyeres? Take a look at this hiking guide available on Amazon:
Queen Victoria arrived in the French Riviera resort town of Saint-Raphael early this morning. With her black hull , red chimney and pointed nose, she seemed elegant despite her imposing figure. She's 32 metres tall, 296 metres long, and weighs... too rude to mention.
While a number of its 2,208 passengers were whisked to shore to visit Cannes or St Tropez or just to stroll around lovely St Raphael, a number of us stared at the cruise ship and wished we could visit.
She has 12 restaurants, 13 bars, 3 swimming pools, a theater, a casino.
The Thomson Dream sneaked into the bay of Saint-Raphael early this morning, early enough to surprise most beach-goers as they spread their beach towels in front of the bay and the large cruise ship that sat in the middle.
By mid-morning, local sailing schools had little sails criss-crossing in front of the 243 metres giant as it rested in Saint-Raphael, after a night sail from Livorno, Italy.
Some of the children on the windsurfers felt intimidated and dropped their sails as they approached the curious white ship with its 12 docks rising to the sky.
But the cruise ship is a friendly giant, and everyone around it soon became comfortable around it. By mid-afternoon, no one paid much attention to it anymore.
Soon, Thomson Dream will continue its journey onto Barcelona before heading back to Majorca where its journey began. Bon voyage!
Tomorrow, Queen Victoria will sail into Saint-Raphael. Stay posted for more on her visit.
Les Bateaux de Saint-Raphael is the one and only ferry boat company which operates from the French Riviera town of Saint-Raphael to Saint-Tropez, but also to Cannes, to Sainte-Marguerite (the larger of the Islands of Lérins in front of Cannes), to the coves between Saint-Raphael and Agay and now to the island of Porquerolles.
When do the ferry boats run?
It varies by time of year. The ferry boat service from Saint-Raphael to Saint-Tropez runs from mid-April to the first of November. It offers more frequent runs during the summer months. Check their web site for current schedule: http://www.bateauxsaintraphael.com/ -> Shuttles & Excursions -> Saint-Tropez -> Timetables & Tariffs
How to reserve?
Currently, you need to reserve your ferry boat ticket in person at the office. You cannot reserve online (at least, not yet), nor can you reserve by phone.
For travel during the busiest months of the year, July and August, les Bateaux de Saint-Raphael recommends you reserve your tickets 2-3 days in advance.
When does the Saint-Raphael Office Open?
In July and August, the Saint-Raphael office is open 9AM to 7PM every day + from 9PM to 10:30PM on Friday evenings. In April, May, June and September, the office is open 9AM-12PM and 2PM to 6PM - closed on Sunday mornings in April and May. In October, 9AM to 12PM and 2PM to 5PM - closed on Sundays and Monday mornings.
How long does the journey take?
The ferry from St Raphael to St Tropez takes about one hour, but weather can occasionally slow it down.
Note that horrible weather could cancel or delay a departure, for safety reasons. If the weather forecast calls for strong Mistal winds or a storm, call the ferry office for an update as to ferry operations. This is fairly rare during the summer months, but it can happen.
How much does the ferry crossing cost?
Fares are subject to change. At this instant, the adult fare from St Raphael to St Tropez is €15 one-way, and €25 round-trip. Check their web site for the current fare.
Are return trips guaranteed?
Yes. If you have purchased a round-trip ticket St Raphael-St Tropez and you return on the same day, you have a guaranteed spot on your return trip.
You can purchase a St Tropez to St Raphael one-way ticket at the St Tropez docking station, but this is provided spaces are available and it is risky in the midst of summer. Keep in mind that at the Bateaux de St Raph ferry dock in St Tropez, credit cards are not accepted so co;e prepared with cash if you decide to purchase a one-way ticket in St Tropez.
Your ticket is valid for a specific trip on a specific day. You cannot change it after the time of departure.
Taking the ferry to St Tropez adds a dash of excitement and adventure to a trip! In mid-summer, it's also a matter of keeping sane... the coastal road to St Tropez stops to a crawl from mid-July to mid-August - sailing into town makes a welcomed alternative.
For a quick view of what the ferry boat looks like, take a peek at our YouTube video about getting to St Tropez by sea.
Map to the Bateaux de Saint-Raphael Office & Departure Quay:
Stand up paddling may have originated in Hawaii where surfers longed to paddle further out to sea to catch the perfect wave, or possibly even earlier in Australia. One thing is for sure: over the last 3-4 years, it has taken off on the French Riviera.
The idea is simple. Take a long, stable, buoyant surf board. Take a paddle with an adjustable length. Set the paddle length to just above your shoulder height. Tie the board safety loop to your ankle. Push the board off the sand into the sea. Hop on. Hang on. Hope the sea stays calm and the legs sturdy. Paddle.
Stand up surf was listed last year as the most popular outdoors activity among first-time participants. Why would it be so popular?
For one thing, it's relatively inexpensive. Here on the French Riviera, you can rent a paddle board for an hour from anywhere between 8 and 20 euros. Yes, there's a large variation according to where you are. In most resorts, count on about 15 euros per hour.
It's accessible to anyone who can stand up. And has a reasonable sense of balance. And can swim too, preferably.
It's fun! Go with friends and family across age groups. You get to see the beach and the surrounding areas from a whole new perspective out in the bay.
Where to stand up on the sea?
Most resorts all along the French Riviera, from Nice to Hyères, will rent paddle boards.
Why? It is a pebble beach, not a sandy one. What's more, pebbles here are large rolling ones, more like rounded rocks which makes it impossible to comfortably lay down and lounge on the beach with just a towel. And getting out of the water back to the beach is a wobbling stumble upwards.
So why did the Plade du Débarquement at Le Dramont make it to our list of favorites?
Its large pebbles keep the some of the crowds at bay. This evening on July 15th, the beach felt deserted and we had no trouble finding space to spread out. Note that this is likely to change as the summer rolls foward all the way to mid-August as the beach is close to a number of campgrounds.
Its seaside promenade along the rocky shores further out towards the Poussaï port makes for a great seaside stroll or a longer exporatory hike.
It offers showers, public bathrooms and large shaded picnic area. A reasonable beach-side restaurant called Restaurant La Plage de l'Ile d'Or serves salads & burgers and a 'Plat du Jour" that will not tear your wallet to pieces (currently 10€ for a very generous daily special - children's menu available).
Next to the restaurant, a friendly outfit rents out stand-up paddles, pedal boats and kayaks for added fun. They rent plush transats with mattress and parasol too. Open in July & August.
There's plenty of FREE parking in the large open lot above the beach (when it isn't overly crowded, of course).
The water is the clearest I have seen thus far this season along the coast. Probably, once again, thanks to the pebbles. Pebbles can be nice.
Bring your water shoes as you will appreciate them for comfort getting in & out of the water.
If you have young children or generally prefer the added safety of a lifeguard, stay in the designated swimming area which is fairly narrow in the centre of the beach.
The beach can whip up waves and froth on windy days as it is open to the sea.
Where is La Plage du Débarquement?
Plage du Débarquement at Le Dramont sits between the resort towns of Saint-Raphael and Agay.
For specific location & directions, take a look at the below Google map.