There are white cliffs in the far north and the old fashioned seaside resorts of the English Channel and Mediterranean coast.

It can be hard to know where to start when there are so many places to lay down your towel. We'll show you the best beaches in France.

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Palombaggia, Corsica

The best beach in Corsica is for families.

Corsica is one of the best places in the Mediterranean. The coastline of this rugged, mountainous island has been spared the rampant tourism over development that has scarred so many Mediterranean beaches thanks to fierce local resistance, strong environmental protection and tight building rules. The result is an island with old coastal forests and white sands.

Palombaggia is one of the prettiest beaches on the island and is located in the sun trap southeast. Rose-tinged granite boulders, electric-blue waters, stumpy olive trees and sugar-white sands make it look like the French stole this beach from the archipelago.

In July and August it can be difficult to find a place to put your towel down. You can come in June, September and October.

Waves crashing on a pink granite coast Sentier des Douaniers (old customs officers Path) and a view of the Ploumanac'h lighthouse
 The Côte de Granit Rose is one of the most enticing seascapes in France © Manfred Gottschalk / Getty Images

Côte de Granit Rose, Brittany

The best beach in northwest France is for people of all ages.

The Cte de Granit Rose is one of the most exciting places to visit in France due to its secluded bays and blue waters.

It is a Brittany coastline that is custom made with beach fun in mind. You can paddle a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, build sand castles with the kids, hike a family-friendly coastal path, and eat seafood in the pretty harbor village.

Les Calanques, Cassis

The Cte d'Azur and Provence have some of the best beaches.

It's possible that calling Les Calanques a beach is overstepping the mark. They are more of a gathering of pebbles and sand set deep into a series of knife slit in the Mediterranean cliffs.

The idyllic coves can only be reached by boat or on foot from the western edge of the beach town of the same name.

Most people are happy to spend hours trying to figure out which is their favorite. The Mediterranean must have looked a century ago because of the lack of development.

Rocky shore of the island of Porquerolles and blue water of the Mediterranean Sea on the French Riviera
Car-free, stress-free Porquerolles is part of a protected marine-conservation area © Monika Lewandowska / Getty Images

Porquerolles Island, Hyères

It's the best beach in Provence and the Cte d'Azur.

This is the reason you came to the Mediterranean. The isle of Porquerolles floats in limpid seas just a short way offshore.

One of the best beaches in Europe is located on the island and is ideal for walking and cycling.

If you want to find a bit of quiet, we recommend heading to the remoter south coast.

Étretat, Normandy

People walk on the best beach in Normandy.

On the opposite side of the English Channel, you can find the white cliffs of tretat, which are just as impressive as the white cliffs of Dover.

There is a pebbly beach in the small town of tretat. White chalk cliffs with hats of green fields bookend either side of the town and beach, and over the centuries, the waves have carved some unusual shapes into them.

This is a great kids' beach holiday destination, with a place for long clifftop walks and ice cream on the seafront.

Person cycling past a lighthouse on lighthouse on Île d’Ouessant, France
Île d’Ouessant is an ideal place to rent a bicycle and peddle to hidden coves © Maurizio Photo / Shutterstock

Île d’Ouessant, Brittany

The best beach in France is on the west coast.

You might think you have reached the end of the world when you disembark from the ferry boat. People used to think that this wild, storm-tossed island was the final stop on the planet.

The island is covered in heathland and has a magnificent coastline. When a weather system strikes the island, it becomes dark and sinister, and you understand why it has claimed so many ships over the centuries.

In spite of its forbidding nature, le d'Ouessant is an ideal place to rent a bicycle and peddle down country lanes. Although Plage de Corz is a safe, sandy and stunning beach, you may not want to actually swim in the often icy, rip-strewn waters, but just sitting quietly and meditating is reward enough for most.

Bassin d’Arcachon

There is a best beach in the south of France.

The Dune du Pilat is Europe's tallest sand dune and is located in the middle of the Bassin d'Arcachon.

There is an endless stretch of golden sand on the Atlantic coast of France. The Bassin d'Arcachon is a huge circular inlet of calm, intensely blue waters filled with small islands and shifting white-sand bank beaches that can only be accessed by boat.

Humans haven't done too bad either, even though there's no doubt nature's creative talents. There are little wooden fishing cabins on stilts far out into the waters of the bassin, and an ensemble of art-deco houses in the vicinity of Cap Ferret, which is one of the most desirable beach towns in the southwest. You have a place for the most discriminating sailor, fisherman, surfer, or sand castle builder if you add in oysters.

Plage de l’Amour, St-Tropez

The best beach on the French Riviera is for rich people.

Can there be a more glamorous stretch of coast on Earth than the Cte d'Azur's Gulf of St-Tropez?

You won't find a quiet patch of sand in the French Riviera, but that's not why you are here. Signing into one of the private beach clubs along the 5 km-long (3 mile) Plage de Pampelonne will give you access to the French Rivera experience.

It's surprising that many parts of this most famous of beaches remain unspoiled and as beautiful as they were when Brigitte Bardot first brought international fame to the town.

Grande Plage, Biarritz

The best beach in southwest France is for surfers.

Grande Plage was the beach of choice for the elite and fashionable of Europe prior to the French Riveria.

The Htel du Palais is one of the most exclusive hotels in France and was built as a summer palace for the empress of Napoleon III. Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor to European royalty.

Since the start of the 21st century, Biarritz has rediscovered its glamour, with a new audience taking to the water. Biarritz and environs has gained a reputation as one of Europe's finest surf destinations due to the fact that they do so on surfboards.

You don't need to be a surfer or a queen to enjoy the golden sands of Biarritz. Grande Plage and Biarritz are places everyone loves to visit because of the idyllic summer climate, strong Basque culture and beautiful Atlantic views.

The article was first published in July of 2020.