A Jet Set Lifestyle: The beaches of Nice – Public or Private?

Nice France is known for their blue waters, and “legendary” blue chairs that run along the coastline. The Cote D’Azur is a beautiful and magical place that will envelope you in it’s allure from the moment you begin your decent into Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport

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I’m the type of person who loves going to the beach daily, but only for an hour or so a day (crowds annoy me and skin cancer scares me) so I try to stay within a 5 minute walk from the beach. I’ve stayed at both Hotel Meyerbeer Beach and Hostel Victoria House and both took mere minutes to walk to the beach.

It’s actually quite easy to stay along the beach as the beach runs for about 3 miles from the airport to the port as you will see below (click photo to enlarge):

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Again, the beaches are beautiful, but if you’re used to the white sandy beaches, Nice is not that. I took this photo in 2013 and you can use my adult size hand as a gauge as to the size of the rocks that make up the beach.

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Before you begin writing Nice off as a loss to your beach adventures know there are ways around these rocks, or more ways on top of them, that are not so painful.

The beaches in Nice are split up into public and private beaches. Just about every other beach is public or private. The public beaches are free of charge but have no amenities. (A couple of them do have public restrooms that I have never used, so I cannot speak for their conditions.) The private beaches on the other hand offer amenities ranging from matting that runs down the beach to the water, so you don’t have to step on the hot stones barefoot, lounge chairs, umbrellas, waiter service, lockers to store your valuables, etc. (Each beach is different.)

Some of the private beaches offer package deals, others charge you by each item you rent. Also, each of the 15 private beaches are attached to a restaurant or hotel so no outside food is allowed. Nice tourism gives a decent overall description of each of the private beaches. Please note that some of the private beaches are not open year round. So if you have your heart set on a particular private beach and you are not traveling during high season, you may want to contact them ahead of time to see if they will be open during your visit. TripAdvisor has this info on private beaches:

“The cost of the private beaches varies from about 10 euros a day to about 18 euros a day. This is for one person to use a sun-lounger. Extra costs are incurred if you require a parasol and towels. Some places will let you have an account and pay at the end of the day, totting up all the coffees, drinks and ice-creams etc. All the private beaches are so different, the Beau Rivage is smart and the facilities are clean, others are fairly grim but will be cheaper. Castel Plage is quite a trendy place and is very gay-friendly. The Blue Beach has a great little pool for toddlers and the Sporting Beach next door – handy if you have teenagers wishing to paraglide. If you walk along the Prom, all the private beaches have their costs and menus on display so you can compare the differences. Some are affiliated to Hotels along the Prom and offer a small discount to hotel guests. During high season, it may be necessary to reserve your sun-lounger in advance.”

But for me personally, I spend an hour tops at the beach, so I’ve never felt the need to pay for the amenities of a private beach. With staying on one of the 25 public beaches there are some great tips and tricks that could be useful to you. Here’s another paragraph from TripAdvisor that I find useful.

“If you wish to use the public beaches in Nice, just come down the steps, pick your spec and put down a towel. The pebbles are very uncomfortable so a padded beach mat is useful, plus a small parasol for shade. A pair of plastic ‘jelly’ shoes for swimming is extremely useful – those pebbles make going for a swim very painful work. There are very limited facilities on the public areas, a few open showers and portaloos. There are however about three public beaches in Nice that have good facilities for a small fee, for example the Plage Publique de Beau Rivage. For a few euros, there are nice loos, showers, changing rooms and security lockers, makes life far more pleasant on the public beach. It’s a nice place to have a picnic, you could buy the food you need from the market at the Cours Saleya. If you forget, don’t worry, there are several sellers doing the rounds on the beach selling beer, doughnuts, coffee etc. It’s also ok to go a buy a coffee or a beer from a nearby private beach and so earn the right to use the facilities if you’re desperate!”

If you are still not convinced these beaches are for you, there are some beaches outside of Nice that may be more suitable to what you are looking for. If you take a train and head east along the Côte d’Azur you can be in Villefranche in under 10 minutes. I grew up in Connecticut and lived along the beaches of Long Island Sound. Villefranche reminds me of those beaches. In Villefranche it is very small pebbles and a mix of seashells and some sand. Granted, there’s more sand along the Long Island Sound, but it’s a lot easier to get comfortable on a basic beach towel in Villefranche than in Nice. If you decide to want to head west you only have to go as far as Antibes to find sand beaches.

In 2013 I was in Villefranche. My camera dropped in Cannes and I broke the lens so I bought a less expensive one to finish out my trip. Also, the weather wasn’t bright and sunny that day, so please excuse the quality of this photo, however you can see that the “sand” is much more manageable here.

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I unfortunately don’t have any photos of my time on the beach in Antibes, but I do however have one to share from Cannes which is just west of Antibes, About 25 minutes from Nice.

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So don’t fret, you have options to save money along the Côte d’Azur while still enjoying the glamour that is the French Riviera. If you’ve been to the French Riviera please share what beaches you’ve gone to and if you went public or private, or headed out of Nice to beach.

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