Did you know that France is the largest tourist destination not only in Europe, but on the whole planet? The country has a lot to offer for its visitors including excellent food, vibrant culture and stunning natural landscape. From the patchwork fields in the Loire Valley, through the historic harbor towns of Normandy to the alluring coasts of the Cote d’Azur, this magical country easily has something to appeal to all tastes and ages. Those who love the sea and water activities will certainly find superb dive and snorkel spots in Southern France and in the French Riviera. In this article where we look at the best places to go snorkeling in France along the Mediterranean shoreline!
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Calanques National Park – Marseille
Calanques National Park of Marseille is a wonderful place to start your France snorkeling adventure. This preserved natural landscape is threaded by beautiful creeks that have been aptly compared to little jewels.
In this hugely marine bio-preserve of 107,470 acres (43,500 hectares) there are more than 60 individual patrimonial species for you to take in and experience swimming next to them. With turquoise-hued waters, excellent clarity, the beaches along the Calanques National Park’s coastline offering the best conditions if you looking for great snorkeling near Marseille. Our favorite spots are Calanque de Sormiou and Calanque d’En-Vau.
Plage du Corton
Plage du Corton encompasses a pebbly beach that lies near the town of Cassis. You have a small cafe with ice cream, drinks, and lunch available here. The coastal footpath from Cassis leads to this beach. It is a scenic and adventurous way to reach the beach, which is a great place to go snorkeling in France.
Plage de Sainte-Asile
The beach of Sainte Asile in St. Mandrier-sur-Mer lies along the peninsula’s southwestern portion. This is a sandy beach that lies in town and bears the label of “Pavillon Bleu.” is known as one of the best spots to visit if you are looking for superb snorkeling in the Cote d’Azur. To the right of the beach there is a several hundred years old lovely pinewood. It provides great shade from the scorching summer sun. To the left there is a coastal path. The area has been planted in beautiful Mediterranean thyme, Aleppo pines, rosemary, pine nuts, and other species.
Water sports here include not only snorkeling, but also diving, sailing, surfing, and windsurfing. There is also a restaurant found on the beach which is manned by a lifeguard during the summer months. Parking lies along the beach route, though it is not plentiful. Getting over to the beach from the center of La Seyne-sur-Mer requires following the directions towards Saint Man drier until you come to the signs for Pin Rolland. There is a sign showing where the beach is found.
Tip: Would you rather spend your vacation on a beautiful French island instead of the mainland? Then read our Corsica snorkeling guide to learn what beaches are the best to snorkel!
Port Cros National Park
Close to the city of Hyeres lies the French isle of Port-Cros, a protected natural parkland that is home to the best snorkeling places in France. A particularly interesting spot is the beach of Palud, situated about 40 minutes’ walk out of the village, where you can see barracudas or even octopus.
The trail is called the Rascas underwater trail, and it is well-marked with six individual buoys. Each of these contains an informational panel detailing the kind of seabed and visible flora and fauna. Should you decide to visit this fantastic snorkeling place, this Day trip to Port Cros guide explains how to get there.
Porquerolles Island – Iles d’Hyeres
In the southwestern corner of Porquerolles Island lies the Calanque du Brégançonnet which is another superb place to go snorkeling in France. This is actually a narrow crack within the rocks. It offers a great deal to see at the point where the granite cliffs find the sea. The sub-marine life here is thriving. You will be able to see dozens of wrasses swimming around the surf along with brightly-hued painted grouper.
Reaching this treasured France snorkeling spot requires that you catch a boat out to Porquerolles Island. These depart regularly from Hyeres city. In season, you will find as many as 20 round trips in a given day for a cost of around 20 euros. The boats depart from the Tour Fondue (Melted Tower) and are run by the public firm TLV-TVM. Privately run firms also operate trips out to the island in season. These leave from a full dozen nearby cities and towns including Saint Tropez, La Lavandou, and Toulon.
The best snorkeling in Antibes awaiting you in Cap d’ Antibes at the Pelagos Sanctuary. This is a bio-reserve in the Mediterranean for its flora and fauna. The visibility here is especially clear thanks to this protection. Off-shore snorkeling is good from Plage de la Salis, Plage de la Garoupe and Plage de I’Argent Faux.
If you sign up for a boat trip, you can even see white and blue dolphins here, sea turtles and pilot whales in the waters of the Pelagos Sanctuary. Thanks to the tri-lateral agreement between France, Monaco, and Italy the protected waters give shelter to many different marine animals.
Paloma Beach – Cap Ferrat
Things to do in Nice include not only strolling the Promenade and exploring the area’s historical attractions, but also snorkeling. To do some underwater exploration, the best place is Paloma Beach that lies in a little limestone rock cove in Cap Ferrat. This incredibly peaceful location offers unparalleled views of the French Riviera and the transparent waters. The parasol pines have been here for hundreds of years and make the atmosphere magical and intimate.
A significant portion of this beach is privately held by Paloma Beach, but there is enough public, freely available areas left to take in the snorkeling. The cove is sheltered, making it an ideal spot for enjoying the sun and sea during the summer months. You will see sea urchins, starfish, and various species of Mediterranean Sea fish here along the Neptune grass bottom.
This place is a 35-minute car ride from Nice city center or 30 minutes from Monaco. Arriving in the morning is critical to get a parking and beach spot. You are able to enter the water directly from the beach.
The best areas for snorkel explorations include the rocky sides on both ends of the beach, but the right side is the most fascinating. Painted comber and wrasse frequent these waters. As the water deepens and the seagrass meadows increase, you will see salema porgy and sea breams hiding in the Posidonia seagrass. Red starfish are also common here. If you want to go snorkeling in Nice, Paloma Beach makes the best choice.
Sainte-Marguerite Island lies near Saint-Honorat Island and only minutes from the bustling southern French port of Cannes. For those who enjoy combining a boat ride with water activities, this is a great spot for snorkeling in south of France. We find the island about as magical as Cannes is in general.
The beaches closest to the little port will be the busiest naturally. As you walk farther away, you will encounter fewer people. Many private dinghies and yachts ply these beaches as the island can only be reached by boat. The island does boast a floating drinks bar that makes laps around the island. All that you have to do is wave at the captain. He will come as close to the shore as he dares. It is up to you to wade out to complete your refreshments transaction.
The island also has two restaurants, one of which is a popular seafood spot called La Guerite. The Provencal market will also equip you ideally well for a picnic on the beach.
Beaches here are reached by trekking through sweet-smelling pine forests. The sea is simply amazing with colors ranging from all shades of blue to crystal clear. Beneath the surface you can see the reason for this with the combination of alternating rocks, plants, and seaweed on the bottom. The end result is a nearly unreal looking appearance of the water here as a backdrop to your snorkeling in France adventure.
Thau Lagoon (Etang De Thau) is a beautiful undiscovered germ that offers some of the best snorkeling in France. There is a saltwater lagoon here that is divided from the sea by the sand dunes. In the lagoon, many incredible creatures take shelter.
The ponton de la Bordelaise (Bordelaise pontoon) is an ideal spot to start exploring the Etang de Thau. By planning your visit ahead, you can increase your odds of seeing the unique seahorses that ply these waters along with noble pen shells, nudibranch, pipefish, and a few more rockfish species that frequent the area.
Your best chances to have great visibility and see the unique creatures living here are to go in the spring from April through May. It is when the water is cooler that the visibility is best here. By late May and early June, seaweed takes over the lagoon and destroys the water visibility.
Ouille Beach (Plage de l’Ouille) lies in Collioure. The town’s best feature is undoubtedly is convenient access to this magnificent beach and snorkeling spot in southern France. The name means a hollow pot which defines the recessed nature of the beach itself.
The beach is only around 100 meters in length with shingles covering it. The place is sheltered between cliffs and feels really empty even during the traditionally busier summer months. Thanks to the beach being hard to get to by car, it is mostly visited by locals. The views of the Cote Vermeille are stunning from here. Besides snorkeling, you can partake of kayaking and diving here.
Plage de Peyrefite
Found in the center of the original marine reserve of France is the Plage de Peyrefite (Peyrefite Beach) which is the most beloved snorkeling location in the entire Vermeille Coast. This encompasses a creek that is rocky and sheltered. The snorkel trail has been delineated here where the seabed is both well protected and full of many fish. You will see saddle sea bream, sargo, and gilt-head bream here surrounding you. You can also spot octopuses, cuttlefish and moray eels hiding in the rocks.
The Peyrefite Beach lies in between the Spanish border and Banyuls-sur-Mer in the heart of the Cerbère-Banyuls National Natural Reserve. The best way to enjoy this snorkeling jewel is to follow along the pre-set snorkeling trail that lines the bay’s northern shore. It is made up of five buoys that contain small panels with some information. These buoys also make an ideal spot to hold and when you need a rest.
The trail will enable you to encounter a number of different underwater environments and many species that call the bay home. This completely free to access trail runs for around 250 meters, but it is only supervised and open to members of the public in the summertime. You are able to rent equipment at the starting point and to join a guided snorkel tour if you wish, but out of hygienic reasons, we recommend bringing your own snorkel set.
Plage des Batteries
You will absolutely fall in love with the Plage des Batteries that is situated also in Collioure, not so far Plage de l’Ouille and offers ideal conditions to go snorkeling in France. The ambience here is magical. Besides the amazing beaches, you have the world-famous Les Aigles de Valmy Park of animals and also a Venetian park. Argeles Adventure Park and Luna Park are two theme parks that are worth your time when you are not busy snorkeling. Other outdoor-themed activities available here include cycling, hiking, and mountain biking.
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