Beaches, Boats and Charming Villages in France: A French Riviera Road Trip
Explore the hidden corners and well-kept secrets of the French Riviera on this nine-day self-drive itinerary, stopping in charming villages and enjoying the slower pace of Mediterranean life. From Marseilles to Saint-Raphael, this road trip itinerary takes you from cookery classes to private boat tours, as you experience the best of the French Riviera.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Explore the markets in the Old Port of Marseille
- Enjoy a cookery class with an expert chef, using fresh ingredients from the Old Port markets
- Explore the charming streets of Cassis
- Spend a day aboard an iconic Mediterranean fishing boat, a pointu for a day exploring the waters of the Calanques National Park
- Relax in the medieval village of Ramatuelle
- Enjoy the private beach of your hotel in Saint-Raphael, enjoying the beauty of the French Riviera
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Day 1: Hit the Road
Your French Riviera road trip itinerary begins today as you drive to Folkestone for the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle service to take your car under the Channel to Calais in just 35 minutes. We recommend upgrading to FlexiPlus tickets to benefit from a dedicated check-in, access to the exclusive lounge serving complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, and priority boarding on the next available shuttle so you don't have to worry about catching a specific train. You can always use this French road trip as one part of an epic road trip itinerary that starts in the UK.
Once in France it would be a mammoth drive of around 10 hours from start to finish to reach the French Riviera so we recommend spending a night in Troyes, which is around four hours from Calais, to break up your trip.
Day 2: On to Marseille
This morning your French Riviera road trip continues as you drive south for around six-and-a-half-hours, ending in the multicultural port city of Marseille, where you'll head to the Old Port area, and your hotel for the next two nights.
After your long drive, enjoy a relaxing afternoon, perhaps sunbathing on the hotel's private beach, before getting ready for dinner. If you fancy a more active afternoon, wander to the Mucem, in the Old Port - it's a museum dedicated to the Mediterranean. Here you can learn about the incredible civilisations and cultures that have shaped the Mediterranean over the years.
Day 3: A Cooking Lesson in the Old Port
This morning on your French Riviera road trip, your day begins in the city's Old Port - the vibrant heart of the city.
You'll be heading out with an expert guide to visit the local markets, starting with the traditional fish market. Here you'll choose from the catch of the day - depending on the menu you have chosen for lunch (and of course what's been caught). Continue your stroll through the city, wandering through the markets, choosing fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fragrant spices, dates and Turkish delight. With all of your ingredients gathered it's time to cook! Under the watchful eye of your expert teacher, spend the next few hours cooking up a storm in this small cookery class. You'll be rewarded for your efforts by lunch, of your own making, which will be served on the sunny terrace. Full up on delicious food, you'll probably want to take it easy this afternoon, but be sure to wander down to the sea, to watch the sun sink in the sky, painting the horizon as it falls.
This evening you will be taking to the waves for an evening at sea. Your skipper will handle the boat, so you can sit back and enjoy a local aperitif, accompanied by some local Provencal produce, for a magical end to the day.
Day 4: Heading to Cassis
After a leisurely breakfast, it's time to jump in your car and head south west, for a 40-minute drive through the gorgeous Calanques National Park to reach the charming little village of Cassis.
Tucked away at the bottom of Anse de la Grande Mer, just between Pointe des Lombards and Cap Cable, Cassis oozes easy charm. Its sun-drenched streets are a world away from the buzz of Marseille, making it the perfect base for the next two days of your French Riviera road trip.
You'll be staying in a stylish mansion with Art Deco elements and an inviting swimming pool. Framed by the sea to one side and pine forest to the other, enjoy stunning views of the Cap Canaille - which is one of Europe's tallest cliffs. It's the perfect place to relax and unwind, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the area. You'll have plenty of opportunities for relaxing today, as you have the rest of the day to yourself.
Day 5: A Boat Trip around the Calanques
Today on your French Riviera road trip itinerary, you'll be heading down to the jetty to climb aboard your pointu - a small fishing boat and iconic symbol of the area - ready to set sail for a day's adventure on the sea.
Your skipper will plot a course through the waters that surround the wild and rugged landscapes of the Calanques (calanque meaning inlet). As you navigate the coastline, you'll be able to stop at the Ile Verte (Green island), which is part of the Calanques National Park, for some island exploration, as well as stopping along the coastline for swimming and some offshore picnicking in the rocky inlets.
After a long day at sea, it's time to head back to your hotel for a delicious dinner and an early night.
Day 6: Heading to Ramatuelle
After a delicious breakfast, it's time to pack up your bags and hop in the car, heading east to Ramatuelle.
The drive takes just under two hours and will take you along the beautiful coastline of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region. Overlooking the chic streets of Saint-Tropez and Pampelonne Bay, the medieval village of Ramatuelle has managed to preserve its authentic charm, creating a welcome alternative to the glitz of its well-known neighbour, Saint-Tropez.
Framed by hills and vineyards, this walled village will be your home for the next two days. You'll be staying on Pampelonne beach for a quiet slice of the French Riviera's chic Mediterranean way of life. After settling into your hotel, enjoy a slow afternoon by the pool or play a game of tennis, before a relaxing evening appreciating the sunset.
Day 7: Club 55
Today on your French Riviera road trip, you have the day to yourself, to enjoy and explore Ramatuelle and its surroundings. You'll want to make sure you have room for some delicious food because today you have a reservation at Club 55. This legendary restaurant on Pampelonne beach is a short walk from your hotel, so you can enjoy the delights of this bohemian, family-owned restaurant, without having to travel. Enjoy a long, lazy lunch of grilled artichokes, fresh fish and chilled rose, with a healthy dash of people watching.
- Today you also have the option of spending today on the island of Porquerolles, discovering the Fondation Carmignac. Home to an impressive collection of contemporary art, the garden is dotted with sculptures, and you can enjoy the temporary exhibitions on display.
Days 8 & 9: Staying in Saint-Raphael
Today it's time to bid farewell to Ramatuelle and travel east along the coast, towards Saint-Raphael. It's takes around an hour to reach this charming seaside village, which is close to the town of Frejus.
You'll be staying here for two nights, in a hotel that overlooks the Bay of Ile d'Or. Staying slightly outside of the town means you can enjoy the peaceful beauty of the area, as well as the slopes of the Massif de l'Esterel and the hotel's private beach. You have two days to spend as you wish, exploring the winding streets of Saint-Raphael and it's numerous beaches, as well as travelling further afield, exploring the stunning coastline of the French Riviera.
Day 10: Heading Home
Sadly, today marks the end of your French Riviera road trip itinerary. It's time for the road trip back to the UK, travelling north through France. It's a long journey, so make sure you pack plenty of snacks and take regular breaks on your way.
To break up your trip we've arranged a stopover in Reims - the capital of the Champagne region - for the night.
Day 11: Back to the UK
Sadly, today marks the end of your French Riviera road trip itinerary. It's time for the road trip back to the UK, travelling north-west through France to Calais, which should take roughly two-and-a-half-hours.
As before we'd recommend we book you FlexiPlus tickets so you can jump on the first available Eurotunnel train for the 35-minute journey under the Channel, before continuing your journey home in the UK.
Harriet, Kate L and Charlotte H are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.