The Mediterranean coast in the South of France is one the most popular sailing destinations in the world. It offers a variety of destinations, from large cities to sandy beaches, from historical towns to nature reserves.
The Mediterranean French coast goes from the Pyrenees, in the border with Spain, to Menton, in the border with Italy. The most attractive regions are the Golfe du Lion, the surroundings of Marseille, and the Cote d’Azur.
The entire coastline is filled with numerous marinas and top-notch repair facilities, making it a great alternative for a boat holiday for both experienced boat owners and beginners looking for an adventure in France.
The weather in the South of France is particularly nice in the summer. From May to September, you can benefit from high temperatures, lots of sunlight and calm winds. Sadly, this means it is harder to find spaces in marinas. Those bold enough to defy the winter winds can also visit from October to April, taking advantage of the lower prices.
We will now list the most popular cities and towns in the Mediterranean coast, why each place is worth visiting, and all you need to know in order to sail there (how easily accessible the marina is, the facilities they offer, tips and advice).
Port-Vendres is less than 10 km away from the Spanish border. It is known as a fishing town, with a rich variety of fish and seafood restaurants. Port-Vendres has a castle from the 13th century, and is adjacent to Perpignan, a historical city worth visiting.
Port-Vendres is the only reasonably accessible port on the French coast of the Pyrenees next to Perpignan. The marina offers most services and includes basic repair facilities. However, the region’s strong winds and rugged shoreline, it can be problematic for beginners who are looking for a calm sailing trip.
Cap d’Agde is one of the largest seaside leisure resorts in Mediterranean France. The area is extremely new: back in the 60s, it consisted of only a few small houses, whereas now it is a massive tourist destination. Agde is well-known for its naturist beach called Port Ambonne, which is right next to the city. Other tourist attractions near Agde include the medieval constructions and fortified cities in the area. The closes medieval city is Béziers, at only 20 km, and definitely worth visiting.
Cap d’Agde is the main port in the Golfe du Lion, offering every service necessary and numerous facilities. The entire Golfe du Lion is known for its particularly strong shore winds, which is why accessing the marina can be difficult.
Camargue is a natural park, known for its pink flamingos and sandy beaches. It is a huge wetland that offers a wide variety of landscapes, vegetation and animals. It is the perfect destination for adventurous people who love nature and photography. Camargue is very close to Montpellier, a large city with a rich culture marked by its students (roughly one-third of the population consists of university students).
Port Camargue is a man-made port located on the West coast of the Camargue wetlands. It is a large marina that offers shelter and various services and repair facilities. Accessing the port can be difficult because of the narrow entrance, particularly in the summer when boat traffic is intense.
Marseille is the second-largest city in France. Although Marseille is not as attractive as other southern French cities, it has a rich cultural life with numerous historical buildings, museums and churches. Marseille is also known for its famous dishes, particularly the Bouillabaisse, a delicious fish stew. When visiting Marseille, it is worth taking a day to visit Aix en Provence, the beautiful city with delightful cafes and restaurants, just 30 km away.
Marseille offers many options for sailing yachts and small boats, particularly the Vieux Port to the south and the Port Estaque to the north. All services and repair facilities can be found in Marseille, and usually it is possible to find a place in one of the marinas any time of the year.
Cassis is a small town just 25 km east of Marseille. The town itself is very pleasing, but it is an extremely popular destination because it is right next to the Calanques National Park, a beautiful area of steep cliffs and valleys with spectacular panoramas. It is a great attraction for hikers and rock climbers.
Cassis is a port of entry. The marina is not very large and is usually full during the summer. Cassis offers some basic services, but it doesn’t have many repair facilities. If any maintenance is needed, La Ciotat is a good alternative less than 10 km away.
La Ciotat is a small picturesque city between Marseille and Toulon. It is larger than Cassis and very close to the Calanques National Park, making it a good alternative to that town.
La Ciotat has a popular port for superyachts called the Vieux Port. This port has a wide range of services and facilities, and offers good protection.
Toulon is one of the largest cities on the Mediterranean coast of France. The city offers an interesting contrast between the old city, with its cathedral and narrow cobblestone streets, and the constant movement from commerce. Toulon has a large military harbor and is the home of the French Mediterranean Navy fleet. The National Museum of the Marine is a very popular attraction for tourists who enjoy sailing.
Toulon has several ports, all of them easy to access and offering good shelter. All of these marinas offer the necessary services and maintenance facilities; however, it is advised to avoid getting in the way of a possible military procedure.
Hyères is a small city with beautiful beaches and a lovely historical part with old castles and churches. The main attraction for sailing trips are the islands facing the city of Hyères: the Porquerolles Island and the Levant island. These islands offer beautiful sights and a variety of activities including camping, snorkeling, and kitesurfing.
Hyères-Plage is the seaside resort on the coast of Hyères and it includes a large marina where it is most likely certain find a place. Hyères-Plage offers most services but doesn’t have repair facilities. If any maintenance is needed, Toulon would be the closest large port at less than 20 km.
Saint-Tropez is one of the most famous tourist resorts of the Mediterranean – and arguably of the world. Saint-Tropez was made famous by French artists first, and by the American Jet Set next. Saint-Tropez offers beautiful beaches and an incredible atmosphere that will make you feel like a celebrity from the 60s.
Saint-Tropez has a port called Vieux Port, with numerous services but limited repair facilities. The Vieux Port is usually full during the summer, but other ports are available nearby. Port Grimaud and Port Cogolin are good alternatives, also offering maintenance services.
Fréjus is one of the few calm, small cities in the Côte d’Azur where you can spend some time relaxing and admiring the historical architecture without all the tourism movement of celebrities characteristic of other nearby cities such as Cannes and Nice. Fréjus has the largest concentration of Roman Era constructions and several churches and museums worth visiting.
The Marina at Santa Lucia is the usual destinations for yachts and small boats, and it usually has available places. It offers most services and it provides basic maintenance and repairs.
Cannes is a famous city with luxury hotels and restaurants, mostly known for hosting the annual Cannes Film Festival and other international conferences. Cannes is definitely worth visiting if you enjoy luxury. Facing Cannes is the island of Sainte-Marguerite, where you can find the Fort Royal from The Man in the Iron Mask. This island has a protected nature, offering an impressive contrast with Cannes.
Because of the film festival, Cannes is equipped with numerous marinas built for yachts and boats of all sizes. All the ports offer the best services, and most of them include repair facilities. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a place in one of the marinas, except during the film festival (mid-September). If you are unable to find a place in Cannes, Mandelieu-La-Napoule is an excellent alternative on the west side of the Cannes bay, just 8 km away. If you want some inspiration, check this boat itinerary around Cannes.
Nice is one of the largest cities in France, and it is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Nice offers a unique mixture of beautiful views, historical architecture and cultural activities that make it an extremely attractive city for every demographic, regardless of what you like and enjoy. Nice, nicknamed Nice the Beautiful, was the chosen vacation destination of aristocratic families and artists from the 19th and early 20th century in the French Riviera. Nowadays, it is possible to see evidence of those times in the numerous museums like the Matisse Museum and the Marc-Chagall Museum.
Nice has a marina for yachts of every size, called the Port Lympia. It is easily accessible and has every necessary service and it offers good shelter. Some repairs can be done on this port.
Although Monaco is an independent principality, it is a place you cannot miss out on. Famous for hosting the Formula 1 race every year and for appearing in the James Bond movie Casino Royale, Monaco is arguably one the most beautiful cities in the world. The main attraction in Monaco is the Montecarlo casino, but Monaco is a wonderful place to get lost walking around and admiring the numerous museums, restaurants and parks.
There are two ports in Monaco, but it can be hard to find a place in any of them. Instead, there is a marina just across the border with France called Port Cap d’Ali, which offers great shelter and facilities.
Menton, known as the Pearl of France, is the last city in the French Riviera before the border with Italy. It is a very small city with a notorious Italian influence in its culture and architecture. Menton has a very picturesque old town. The Basilica Saint Michel and the Jardin Botanique are the two main attractions of this beautiful city.
Menton offers an old port, mainly for commercial use, with few available places and limited services. Another marina is located slightly to the north, in a region called Menton-Gravan. This port has all the necessary services and offers basic maintenance and repairs.
Corsica is a large French island in the Mediterranean sea, located closer to Italy than it is to France. Corsica is an incredibly attractive island, offering a unique contrast between its mountains, cities, beaches and the sea.
The island of Corsica is a great destination for a sailing holiday. It offers excellent cruising, marvelous panoramas and a very particular culture. All along the coast, Corsica offers several anchorage spots, excellent marinas and top-notch repair facilities.
The best time of the year to visit Corsica is in the summer: high temperatures and calm winds guarantee that a relaxed yacht sailing experience. During the French and Italian holidays (July and August), the island of Corsica – and the neighbor island of Sardinia – experience a high traffic of yachts and small boats. This means it can be difficult to find a place in a marina. During the rest of the year there is no problem with high traffic or finding a place in a marina, but stronger winds can make it difficult for beginners.
Although the entire island of Corsica is worth visiting, it is the west side that gets the most visitors. It is on that side that the best beaches and landscapes can be found. On a normal tourist rhythm, it takes approximately two weeks to sail the entire west side of the island, and a month to circumnavigate the entire island.
We will now list the most popular cities in Corsica, why each place is worth visiting, and all you need to know in order to sail there (how easily accessible the marina is, the facilities they offer, tips and advice).
Ajaccio is the capital of the island of Corsica, and it is well-known for being the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. This means there are several historical attractions in Ajaccio, including the house where Napoleon grew up and the Cathedral where he was baptized. There are also numerous natural places worth visiting, such as the Iles Sanguinaires and the Lac de Tolla. Ajaccio is a beautiful city, and because it is on the southern half of Corsica, it has a warmer climate, making it a great destination even during the winter.
Ajaccio offers two marinas, in a port protected by a peninsula with a citadel. It can be difficult to find a place during the summer. All services and maintenance facilities can be found in the port, but access can be difficult with occasional strong winds.
Calvi is located to the north of Corsica. It is a very popular city for tourists, with an excellent balance of nature and historical buildings, and offers a large variety of restaurants and cafes with the best food from Corsica.
Calvi offers one marina with various services and acceptable repair facilities, but it is often full and access can be quite chaotic. However, there are several buoys nearby that offer a reasonable alternative, especially for those who plan on just spending a few days in Calvi.
Bastia is located on the eastern side of Corsica, facing Italy. It is the second largest city – after Ajaccio – and it a perfect place to wander and visit churches, museums and local shops. Bastia is the main port of Corsica, and it is a city with a wide range of cultures and influences, with 10% of its population being immigrants. This means Bastia is one of the best cities in France to experience new food and drinks, particularly in La Citadelle.
Bastia has one main port in the city, the Vieux Port, which is mainly used for commerce. It offers all facilities and maintenance services. Alternatively, Port Toga is only 3 km away, it offers great shelter, has a variety of services, and provides several transport options to the center of Bastia.
Bonifacio is located on the south of Corsica, facing the island of Sardinia. It is arguably the most beautiful city in Corsica, with incredible landscapes, warm beaches and surrounded by a spectacular nature. It is a popular tourist destination and quite an expensive one. The main attraction in Bonifacio is a natural reserve, which is a mandatory visit for anyone in Corsica.
The port of Bonifacio is rather expensive and is often full. It offers all services and includes basic maintenance facilities. If you want a cheaper place just to anchor Cala Paragnanu is just 30 minutes outside of Bonifacio.