We visited Saint-Tropez for the first time last month and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this iconic summer hotspot on the Côte d’Azur (also known as the French Riviera).
Much of the coastline in this part of France is heavily developed and old-world charm is in short supply. However, the center of Saint-Tropez has all the nooks and crannies you want and expect from a seaside village in Europe, in addition to the uber-glam port and promenade.
As you enter the harbor from the water, the line up of mega-yachts in the harbor is nothing short of surreal. It left us all giggling and gaping. Even if the jet set scene is not your thing, it’s very entertaining to observe.
The main activities in town are loitering, shopping, and beverage consumption. Kid-friendly? At night, no. Although, during the day there are many families strolling through the main promenade. The highlight for kids will undoubtedly be the candy store in the main harbor with bins brimming with candy of every shape and color.
Moms (and Dads) take note. The resort wear shopping is the best I’ve seen anywhere.
In contrast to the adult-oriented vibe of the town, the beach is filled with kids of all ages. The main stretch of the best beaches and clubs is in Pampelonne beach area of Ramatuelle — a 10 or so minute drive outside of the center of St. Tropez.
If you are traveling from June through early September and your vision of beach time includes miles of pristine sand with no one around, this beach is not for you. Even in May (pre-season!) the beach was practically body-to-body.
That said, the line of beach clubs save the day. For a per-sunbed fee, you can have a comfortable place to sit, beach beverage service, access to a clean bathroom, and a restaurant. Our lunch at the club Key West was excellent. There weren’t any special amenities for kids here, but the club was still filled with families.
There are hotels in the town of Saint-Tropez and scattered throughout the area. We stayed in a wonderful home in St. Maxime and preferred this location as a home-base. It’s much lower key so you can escape jet set buzz when needed.
There is a ferry service that runs every 20 minutes during peak season to/from Ste-Maxime to Saint-Tropez. The boat trip is only 15 minutes long so you can use it for short excursions too.
I was surprised to discover that there is no easy public transportation to the Pampelonne beach area which means you have to drive. This ruins the ease-of-use plan of taking the ferry over from Ste-Maxime and the traffic on the main road into Saint-Tropez can be a nightmare. Plan your drive times accordingly to avoid peak periods.
The view from the beach is a parade of large yachts who park themselves offshore for the day. There are clear lines for swimming and boating to keep the water safe for swimming.
Although the water is blue and pretty here, it was filled with some sort of brown material (assume it is organic) at the shore. I’m not sure if this is a seasonal thing but nobody seemed to mind. I did some poking around online and it looks like it may be cleaned up in high season. Can anyone confirm this for sure?
As far as choosing the best beach club, they all have their own style and vibe. Club 55 is extra swanky, but has a kids’ club (we didn’t have a chance to give it a go) and Plage des Jumeaux has a playground. Reservations are recommended to ensure you have a comfortable place to go.
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