About boat trips in Cannes
Charter a boat for the day or week and take advantage of the spectacular coastline and deep blue water of the French Riviera. Regardless of whether your boat is a kayak or a superyacht, the Cote d’Azur is your watery playground.
It’s very hard to go wrong when cruising the South of France in a yacht: the coastline is stunning and there are plenty of places to stop and anchor your yacht and dive off into the cool water, or to go ashore to explore the winding cobbled lanes of ancient Roman villages. Long summer days, the stunning Mediterranean light and icy cold rose make boating on the French Riviera almost obscenely pleasurable.
Or if you would 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. (Having worked on superyachts for billionaires I can tell you that the people on the dinghies appear to be having more fun.)
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 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- and I thoroughly recommend that you do. This part of the coast is for nature lovers, where the stretch between Cannes and Monaco is more busy and glamorous.
While in this magical part of the world, visit the 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.
St Tropez: The French Riviera technically begins at St Tropez, and this pastel-coloured fishing village is one hell of a glamorous spot in the summer months. Superyachts cram the port and famous DJ’s play until dawn- this is not a place for quiet contemplation in July and August, so if you like the glitz and glamour then it is an absolute highlight. It’s best by boat as you can just anchor off and go ashore to enjoy the excitement and a good meal and then float away again to enjoy the breathtaking surrounds of red rock against turquoise waters. The famed beach clubs along Pampelonne Beach just drip celebrity and Riviera chic- although there’s a few cheaper and family friendly options- read our beach club guide here. If you can get there in the quieter months you’ll see Saint Tropez as the small and lovely town it really is.
Frejus is a lovely spot for spending a day at the wide sandy beach and exploring the Roman ruins. You could 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 Saint Margherite, 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. Read our Cannes nightlife, live music and restaurant guides for more info. Berths ain’t cheap- so if you’re on a budget you’re better off heading back to the Cannes Islands to anchor.
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.
Antibes to Nice
The stretch along from Antibes along to Nice is a wonderful spot for a sail, and in summer you’ll see lots of yachts out skimming the waters across the Bay of Angels. There’s a few small ports along the way, including the marina at Villeneuve Loubet, under that vast curved building that polarised opinion along the Riviera- architectural triumph or eyesore? Regardless, the marina there is getting a good reputation as a restaurant scene.
Nice: From a boating perspective there’s not a huge amount to say about Nice; it’s a large and exciting city with lots to see and do. Spend a day at one of the clubs along the pebble beach or wander along the famed Promenade des Anglais, past the magnificent Hotel Negresco with its iconic dome. For more information on the plethora of things to do when you stop off in Nice, read our restaurant, nightlife and live music guides.
It’s rather what’s around the corner that makes this stretch of coast so special for a boating holiday.
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 my 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 catches my heart every time I see it. 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.
Eze is a medieval village perched high on the cliffs 1400 feet above the sea, it is an extraordinary sight and one well worth adding to your itinerary. There is a coastal path leading from the pretty pebbled beach (also with a good beach club), but be aware, the trail is very steep and quite slippery. It will take an hour going down, an hour and a half going back!
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. (Whether you love it or loathe it.) The port is full of giant yachts and restaurants with terraces for some seriously good people-watching, especially during the Grand Prix. Be aware, this town is exceedingly expensive (you can afford to eat out when you’re a tax exile), so read our guide on where to eat and drink on all budgets.
The bays and coves along the French Riviera almost all offer watersport rental hire and activities, including paddleboarding, windsurfing, parasailing, kayaking, banana boating, wakeboarding and waterski-ing. There’s also jetskis available- but be aware, you need a license to operate a jetski in France, following quite a lot of deaths and injuries.
The waters around the Cote d’Azur are seriously busy in the summer months- whenever doing watersports, be extremely aware of what’s around you, and listen very carefully to your rental company’s directions or instructor.
Once you have your watersports activities then there is endless fun to be had, whether a quiet paddle around the stunning Cap d’Antibes, or a screaming afternoon being pulled behind a speedboat in an inflatable banana. When it comes to watersports on the French Riviera, it truly is a playground.
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 sportsfisher with professional fishermen. Most of the fishing excursions along this stretch of coast operate out of Golfe Juan or Mandelieu-la-Napoule, or in the other direction, out of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, a port between Nice and Monaco. 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 often pick people up at any port between Monaco and 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.
Races & 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 Monaco Grand Prix is a truly exceptional event to charter a boat for- which is the reason why Port Hercules at Monaco is full of giant motoryachts at this time. Even if your ‘yacht’ is just a small dayboat, there’s something about being on the water among the megayachts, watching the tenders buzz celebrities about and the whine of the Formula One cars as they race around the Monte Carlo track, palace high on the cliff above.
The Cannes Film Festival which runs in May needs no introduction and is one of the biggest events on the global yachting calendar. Be aware that it is extremely expensive to get your yacht or boat into the port at Cannes during this time- however, this is a time when the superyachts and celebrities are out in grand force, so just being out on the water around Cannes at this time of year is an unforgettable experience. The Grand Prix overlaps with the Cannes Film Festival in May, so you could charter a yacht for a week and enjoy both events.
The Panerai classic sailing regatta circuit is a truly spectacular affair that is best watched from the water. Watch these hundred year old wooden boats race along the waves, cream canvas sails billowing and snapping against the sky. 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.
Fireworks: There are tremendous fireworks displays along the Cote d’Azur in the summertime, and there are few more special ways to see them than anchored off Cannes, Antibes or Nice, drinking champagne and looking up at the explosions in the sky. The water is busy out here for these events with yachts parked absolutely everywhere, so make sure you really know your navigation rules or get a qualified skipper. Dayboat rental companies require you to have the boat back by 6pm, so this is something to do if you charter a yacht for longer.
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.