HEADING TO THE BEACH IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE – TIPS FROM LOCALS
Our little family loves heading to the beach particularly at the start of the season when things are still calm enough for you to enjoy without the crowds. But frankly part of going to the beach in the Summer IS all about the crowds – they don’t really bother me except when it is time to either find parking or get out of parking. Still there are plenty of ways to ensure that your beach-going experience will be stress-free and full of of sun, sand & fun.
Pick the perfect beach
It pays to ask those who’ve lived here for some time about the best beach options. My advise is to ask several people as tastes and opinions will vary. If you don’t have a lot of time to experiment to find your perfect beach pick, I’ve got two suggestions for you. For us two choices apply within about 1 hour from Uzès, Grau du Roi or La Grande Motte.
While some people might have some reservations about La Grande Motte, I like this beach with its soft white sand and nice choices for places to eat. The beach is long so you have several points of entry to choose from and when one or two for those heading there with their dog. We tend to head to a spot on the beach not far from two restaurants, La Voile Bleue and La Paillotte Bambou both of which celebrated their 20 years of existence in 2017. Both are located on the part of the beach known as La Grande Traverse.
Before heading to the beach, it is possible to reserve a transat (beach chair) or bed but you have to reserve ahead of time if you ever hope to get one in the high season. Prices of course go up in high season as well. Parking is included at La Voile Bleue if you have reserved with them and same goes for Paillote Bambou except I think you also have to pay about 4€ additionally. Personally I think any spot from La Paillotte Bambou till Access 58 of the beach is pretty nice.
Let’s head to Camargue:
Another favorite beach of ours is the Espiguette near Grau du Roi in the Camargue. We’ve done both, the picnic on the beach as well as reserving at a restaurant. If you want to reserve a restaurant transat, a nice choice is Les pied Nus. The food is pretty decent and the prices are comparable to those I’ve found at La Grande Motte. Many locals will tell you that this is their favorite beach. It is less developed than La Grande Motte, probably because it is in the protected Camargue so you won’t see as many built-up restaurants here. If you have reserved at Les Pieds Nus, they will pick you up at the Espiguette parking lot to bring you down to the water – believe me you will be grateful as the sand goes on forever at this part of Espiguette. It adds to the secludedness of the location.
Plan your meal
As mentioned above, you can reserve a dining experience at one of the beach front restaurants. La Voile Bleue offers a huge indoor restaurant as well as a (loud), bar-scene with a number of bartenders whipping up delicious cocktails. La Paillotte Bambou also has a similar set up and both establishments offer a beachside service with a special menu. La Voile Bleue is the slightly more expensive one of the two. When you are heading to the beach with kids, the beach chair is probably not worth the money.
The key thing to remember if you do want to dine in the beach front restaurants is to reserve ahead of time. Maybe even a week ahead in the really high season.
If you prefer to have a picnic – even better. Remember the umbrella and your sunscreen and select your spot. I head to the beach with probably more stuff than I need but I am not a fan of eating sand. We of course have our cooler, a bottle of wine in a cooling sleeve, the wine bottle opener unless it is a screw top (handy), ice pack (or freeze a large bottle or two of water), paper towel, plastic bag for trash, a few re-useable utensils and a folding lightweight table (picked up at the sporting goods store). I know if you are just visiting the area, you may not have the latter so be creative on the keeping your food off the sand – Pinterest is full of hacks.
Our picnic basket:
Wine (of course)
jar of pâté
ice pack or frozen bottle of water
tomato salad or other salad
cut up fruit (cantaloupe, water melon)
People will pass by selling coffee and ice-cream and other unhealthy things your kids will love.
And if you head to the Espiguette beach and don’t want to either book into Les Pieds Nus or picnic, you can always eat in Grau du Roi before you head to the beach. One suggestion is a tiny fish restaurant hanging over the water, called L’Aquarium.
Arrive ahead of the crowd
The early bird catches the worm as they say. If you can do it, my suggestion is that you get to the beach in high season (July & August), by 10:30. Droves of people start to arrive around noon and parking will be nearly impossible. Why start off your day at the beach with frustration and swear words?
If you are heading to Grau du Roi, you can park almost right across from Access 58 in the parking lot of the Grand Traverse for 5 euros. Arrive early enough and you’ll even have a spot in the shade. This by the way is where the public toilets are (bring toilet paper as last time I was there, they hadn’t bothered to restock), which could be worse.
As stated earlier when you reserve at Les Pieds Nus, you have a free navette that will bring you across the stretch of sand to the sea. You still have to walk a bit before that though.
Yes, it is Summer. Yes, it is crowded but life’s a beach . . . Enjoy the sunshine and the sand. These are the moments that make life worth living.
Parking – If you are lucky enough to find free parking or don’t mind walking a while before you hit your preferred spot, parking will cost you about 4-6 euros for the whole day.
Transat (beach lounger), rental – 14-20€ for a basic lounger with or without a table; 40-55€ for a bed for 2-4 people depending on the beach
Restaurants in the sand – 11-34€ for an appetizer (l’entrée), 20-145€ (ouch!) for the main course, desserts from 8€
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