About boat trips in Saint-Tropez
Charter a boat for the day or week and take advantage of the spectacular coastline and deep blue water of the French Riviera.
Long summer days, the stunning Mediterranean light and icy cold rose make boating on the French Riviera very pleasurable, whether you are on your own private yacht or a day boat trip. If you prefer a shorter trip, or one where you can sit back, relax and let someone else do the work they there are numerous boat trip companies along the coast who can take you out in a shared boat or ferry, drop you off, pick you up and point you in the right direction for all the local sights and attractions. This can also be a good way to test your sea legs before you hit the open waters in a yacht. Although the Mediterranean is thankfully a very calm sea...
Of course, the best way to see the area is to charter a large yacht for a few weeks and meander slowly up the coast from Marseilles to Monte Carlo- but we understand that not everyone can spend a summer swanning about the South of France in a superyacht. Shame really- but here are our top tips for boating trips to make you feel like a billionaire - even when eating a ham and cheese sandwich on a dinghy.
Bandol: While it’s not technically part of the Riviera, the whole coastline down to Marseilles is tremendous- start at the village of Bandol to find lovely inlets and sandy beaches edged by pine forest- as well as some seriously good Bandol wine from local vineyards.
Cassis is closer still to Marseilles and is a gloriously pretty town with staggering views across cliffs and sea, with lovely coves to anchor in. This is an unmissable stop if you’re venturing this far down the coast, a haven for nature lovers.
To the south-east of the Golfe of St Tropez you will come across Les Isles d’Or (The Islands of Gold), the most famous of which is Porquerolles. This island is a favourite stop for superyachts as well as boats of every description- with beautiful harbours, national parks beaches and cliffs, this island is perfect for exploring. Hire a bike to make the most of it, or just snorkel, swim and hike the day away.
To the north-east, a trip to Frejus is lovely for spending a day at the wide sandy beach and exploring the Roman ruins. Boat trips can take you to Port Frejus or berth up in nearby San Raphael, a bustling beachside town with a large marina.
Iles de Lérins: Everyone just calls these the Cannes Islands, lying just a short way off the glamorous city of Cannes. Perfect for a dayboat trip, or anchor here overnight to avoid the high berth fees in Cannes.
The larger island is called Sainte Marguerite, a forested island rimmed by little beach coves and perfect clear waters. It is famous for being the place where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned and you can visit his cell, or you can just roam around the island on dirt tracks, birdwatching at the small lake or looking for the hidden sculptures in the fragrant pine and eucalyptus forest. There are only a few houses on the island and no cars, so while it gets busy with tourists and yachts in the summer months it is a lovely place to get back to nature. Spend a day on the beach snorkelling and having picnics, or just float in the water waiting for the snack food boats that come and deliver pizza and sandwiches and wine. A glorious day out.
The other island is Ile Saint Honorat, a small island that has been home to a colony of monks for over 1500 years, and where a Cisterian Abbey still produces its own wine. This is an island rich in history- a place that has been pillaged and passed between nations for centuries, while remaining a place of pilgrimage and worship almost continuously. There is still a working monastery with 30 monks; the modern abbey is closed to the public but you can visit the The Abbey of Lérins and the 15th Century fortified monastery. Please dress modestly when visiting the island and note that smoking is forbidden.
Cannes: Walk along the palm-lined Croissette past the famed Palais de Festivals and the grand hotels of the Belle Epoque, their white facades looking out across the superyachts clustered in the port. This is a town of sophisticated piano bars and trendy super-clubs, although you can find a bit more local heart in the narrow cobbled lane of the old town. Image is everything in glitzy Cannes, so leave the waterproof jackets and flip –flops on the boat if you care a jot about fitting in.
Antibes has been a port since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and the Crusaders stopped here on their way to the Holy Land in medieval times. It’s only been in the last 50 years that it has become a mecca for sailing yachts and vast superyachts, which line up on the International Quay like hulking white palaces worth many tens of millions of pounds. (A small yacht on this quay is worth 60 million euro, and to buy a berth will cost you 20 million, just for the lease.) However, the rest of the port is filled with berths for small and medium sized boats, although it’s often hard to get in. You can rent a dayboat here very easily and spend a day pootling around the stunning Cap d’Antibes, where tremendous villas owned by oligarchs and old aristocratic families loom high over the sea. There are gorgeous coves and beaches and a lovely high coastal path on the cliffs that will take you to the grotto at Millionaire’s Bay. Or you can wander through the narrow cobbled lanes of old Antibes, taking in Provencal markets that smell of lavender and visiting the Picasso museum that sits high in a tower on the ancient ramparts.
Cap Saint Jean Ferrat is a famous headland covered in grand villas with spectacular gardens and a lovely coastal path along the cliffs. There’s the exceedingly posh Hotel Cap Ferrat, a small beach and a whole host of yachts anchored off- some superyachts spend weeks and even months anchored here in the summer as their guests flit between villa and yacht. It’s all rather refined, and very, very pretty.
Villefranche is probably our favourite of all the small port towns along the coast. Clinging onto the cliffs that run all the way from Nice to Monaco, this splendidly pretty medieval village and its stunning bay really catches your eye. It gets quite busy in the summertime, but there’s enough room for you and the fleet of boats and even cruise ships that come to anchor in this little yachting paradise.
Cap d’Ail is another gorgeous spot just before Monaco. Plage Mala is one of the best beaches on the Riviera and good to anchor off. It has a couple of good beach clubs (one very fancy, one very fun), and there’s a brilliant coastal path that runs between the town of Cap d’Ail and Plage Mala. Thoroughly recommended.
Monaco: And so we arrive at the final stop on the Riviera, the towering, moneyed cliffs of Monte Carlo. Known for Grand Prix, giant yachts, grand casinos and the royal family living out their tabloid lives in their palace on the cliff, Monaco is a sight to be seen. The port is full of giant yachts and restaurants with terraces for some seriously good people-watching, especially during the Grand Prix.
There’s some good deep sea fishing off the coast, with tuna, marlin, swordfish and sea bream, and there’s some good tour expeditions running out from major ports along the coast. Or of course you could just hang a line over the edge of your boat and sit back and wait for the bite, or fish off the rocks for a relaxing afternoon.
You have a few options for fishing charters with a range of budgets, from 50 euro per person for a casual affair to 2800 for 10 people for the day for the charter of a luxury sports fisher with professional fishermen. Most of the fishing excursions along this stretch of coast operate out of Golfe Juan or Mandelieu-la-Napoule, near Cannes. There are also small local operators along the coast who don’t have websites- you’ll see their signs saying ‘Peche au Gros’ in the port.
The bigger excursions where you charter the entire boat will pick you up in St Tropez, but be aware that you will be billed extra for fuel so if you’re watching the budget then ask for an estimate of how much it will add to the bill.
The best trip for you will depend on how many people are going along- many of the larger boats charter out the entire boat to one group rather than to individuals.
Special occasions & events
The yachting and boating scene on the Cote d’Azur is both wonderfully glamorous and extremely relaxing- although there are certain exciting events where the only way to do them justice is to hire a boat and watch them from the water. If your budget allows, charter a yacht for a week- these events tend to make hotel prices skyrocket ashore, so once you’ve factored in a few couples sharing accommodation on a yacht it can work out surprisingly well.
The regatta season begins in June with the Voiles d’Antibes, and moves along the coast with regattas in Cannes and Saint Tropez in September, with Monaco Classic Week also in September.
Check out our Events Calendar for dates and more information.
While the winds tend to be quite gentle in the summer months, France is subject to the Mistral, a howling cold northwesterly wind that can reach up to 100 kms an hour. You don’t want to be out on a boat in that. The mistral tends to visit in the winter and spring, and is particularly violent in the transition between those seasons.
The cruising along the French Riviera is very close to the coastline, so unless you’re planning to spring off to Corsica in your charter yacht then just keep a good eye on the weather and ask at your boat rental company for advice if in doubt.
Also always bring a waterproof jacket in case the weather turns or a wind comes up- it can get cool on the water at night.
As mentioned above, the water gets very busy along the Cote d’Azur in summertime- be alert at all times. If you have any doubts about your sailing capabilities whatsoever and no-one on your boat is a skilled sailor, then just fork out the money and hire a skipper. You’ll enjoy yourself more without the stress of wondering who has right of way when a big yacht comes bearing down on you!
Sailing with Children
Make sure your children wear a lifejacket AT ALL TIMES, never let them run around the boat or be unattended on deck, and make sure they don’t swim alone. Don’t take really long trips between ports, rather stop off along the way for treasure hunts and beach picnics to keep them occupied.