For secluded anchorages nonpareil, the French Riviera certainly delivers. Widely regarded as the quintessential yacht charter destination, it can sometimes be forgotten amid the starlet-strewn streets of Cannes or Monaco's roaring, rarefied bubble that the South of France equally excels at solitude.
Sunsoaked breakfasts can be spent gazing at tiny fishing villages from a nearby island as if painted in an Impressionist pastel vision. Drowsy summer days can pass by dipping into mellow waters and out onto sedate, silky arcs of sand, cooling off on fig-scented countryside strolls. Idle pitstops can involve sipping thé à la menthe at sleepy, harborfront cafes, as bordering cliffs are stacked with terracotta-topped villas like dominoes. This is the French Riviera you didn't know existed.
Sequestered from the razzle-dazzle of some of the country's more exuberant offerings, these are the quiet, go-to superyacht hotspots well-worth exploring.
Porquerolles is less champagne-spraying decadence, more pure Provençal authenticity
A lush finger of land, protected from development, drivers and even the Mistral, Porquerolles is less champagne-spraying decadence, more pure Provençal authenticity. Yachts slink into its balmy waters for the promise of hushed beauty — and they aren't disappointed. Whispering eucalyptus and the melodic clink-clank of Pétanque-playing men in the square are the island's only soundtrack — and it's absolutely glorious.
Take a tender towards the majestically wild Plage Notre-Dame, where pines drunkenly lean towards iridescent shallows and into a vast stretch of peacock blue. It's justly considered one of France's best beaches. Be sure to slip on some snorkel gear to marvel with clarity the shoals of silver, glassy-eyed bream that can be found here, and don't forget to make room for nearby Plage d'Argent too.
Yacht charter guests can make the most of being the lucky few to be able to access the island's southern coast. You'll be rewarded with golden bays with precious little wind or swell, and discover gentle beaches like Plage du Langoustier.
Head inland for an afternoon bike ride through an endless furl of mandarin, lemon and juniper trees hanging above and pockets of lavender nestled below for a thrilling olfactory kick. And you must seek out a trip to one of Porquerolles vineyards: Chanel produces its rosé on the 50-acre Domaine de L’Ile estate. Now there is a stamp of approval if ever there was one.
Part of the trio of islands that make up the Îles d'Hyères archipelago, Porquerolles little sister, Port-Cros, is an Aleppo-pine scented village less than a mile long. Translucent waters are shaded by burly oaks and the entire isle is a passionately protected national park — not even bikes can roam its myrtle and olive tree-lined paths. Scuba and snorkel aficionados will love the aquatic adventures here: notably, the signposted underwater trail that begins at Plage de la Palud which traces an almost ethereal underwater savannah.
If the French Riviera had a beauty pageant, the serene port town of Villefranche-sur-Mer would certainly win it. Demurely huddled between Nice and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, its throng of restaurants and cafés sit in a dreamy sea of corals, ochres and peaches on the waterfront, like the prettiest of pictures.
Linger for a sunset apéro under rose-gold skies as the salty night air hugs your skin
Its sheltered, horseshoe-shaped bay is ideal for kayaks and paddleboards, just as it is as a jumping-off point for exploring nearby coves.
Yacht charters can choose to either berth in the harbor or take a tender ashore to see Villefranche-sur-Mer's highlights. Opt for a refreshing glass of rosé en piscine at one of its bistros before meandering towards its Vieille Ville and admiring artist Jean Cocteau's frescoes at La Chapelle St-Pierre, which dance off the walls in all their colorful vitality. Stay for a sunset apéro under rose-gold skies, the warm salty night air hugging your skin, before returning to your onboard jacuzzi to watch the town's lights glimmer on the horizon.
Flanked by Villefranche-sur-Mer and Èze on either side, this serene, candy-colored coastal town is where the beau monde convenes for repose before the bright lights of Monaco beckon. It's a tiny delight, with a distinctly 1920's feel to it — even F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote fondly of the town in Tender is the Night. Step ashore at the surprisingly large marina to feast on a tangle of langoustine and octopus, lapping up the Belle Époque mansions that line the hillsides. Try and catch its magnolia-fragranced market laden with the temptations of Provence before you go: all vine peaches, woven baskets and carefully hand-stitched quilts.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer's two beaches: the more petite Plage des Fourmis on the west and the palm-fringed La Petite Afrique to the east, curl around a calm cove. The latter benefits from a unique microclimate, which means it's usually several degrees warmer than the rest of the coast.
And if being draped across a sunlounger isn't for you, then you might enjoy a bet at the town's casino among the high rollers.
This sultry stretch of headland fizzing with green has long been adored by the aristocracy, Hollywood royalty, and luminaries like Chagall and Matisse. Many artists have left a delible mark on the town, having lived or partied at one of the town's iconic country manors like Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild or Santo Sospir, the latter being the poetic oasis of Cocteau. The echoes of this golden age are still very much felt here, adding to its allure. This manifests in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat as being busier during certain months (July and August) so keep this in mind if pursuing peace and quiet is the utmost priority.
There are six enclosed bays to select from, and you'll soon find that nothing is ever longer than a few minutes tender ride away on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Cruise towards Plage de la Paloma — a beach named after Picasso's daughter — where vistas of a vast expanse of jade towards Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Cap d’Ail have an almost blinding diamond sparkle. Private beach Plage de Passable is also worth considering if you are looking to eschew people entirely. And for the adrenaline-inclined, this area is also a superb spot for whipping out water toys.
It's almost hard to believe this desolate paradise is only a mile away from the glittering hullabaloo of Cannes. Consisting of four islands, there are only two in Îles de Lérins that command your attention to drop anchor at: Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat. Before visiting Île Sainte-Marguerite, ask your crew to craft a luxury hamper for a picnic beneath the feathery pines, the perfect treat after a satisfying snorkel delving into its coves. Then, take a leisurely stroll through the fragrant maquis of clematis and honeysuckle leading to Fort Royal, where the real Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned.
Relish the novelty of being on an pedestrian-only island occupied by winegrowing monks
On Saint-Honorat, relish the relative novelty of being on an idyllic pedestrian-only island occupied by winegrowing monks. All this isle requires of you is to simply 'be': passing days in a sun-drenched haze, floating in its gin-clear waters. Before you leave, head to the monastery shop at the abbey to sample some of the monks' produce: they transform Saint-Honorat's herbs into a sumptuous blend of lavender oil, honey and wine.
For guests looking to book a yacht charter this year in the French Riviera, we advise that you consult your chosen yacht charter broker as soon as possible. Availability this season is especially limited, due to many outstanding bookings from 2020 being rolled over to 2021, so acting quickly should be your top priority.