Glamorous, decadent, and dripping in celebrity history, the beach clubs of the Cote d’Azur have long been synonymous with the superyacht set. Yet of the hundred or so beach clubs along this stretch of storied coastline, which ones should you visit on your superyacht charter?
The best beach clubs have a seductive magic about them, an allure that goes far past the sophisticated decor, the handsome charm of the waiters, or even the softness of the sand where white-cloth tables sit before the sparkling sea. At the top beach clubs—the ones that the A-list compete to get into in the long, languorous days of a Mediterranean Summer — there’s a lingering sense of summers past, of all the famous people who have mingled, dined and danced here, passing happy days diving off pontoons and basking in the sun.
So join us as we float from the towering cliffs of Monaco down to the Gulf of Saint Tropez, dropping anchor at the most glorious beach clubs along the French Riviera.
This prestigious beach club at Monte Carlo Beach Hotel offers the most impressive selection of options of any Monaco beach club, with a private beach with watersports and luxury tents; an Olympic sized saltwater swimming pool with diving tower, and a Michelin star restaurant on a deck overlooking the glittering sea. Laze back in your cool striped cabana with a hookah pipe, go parasailing high above the Mediterranean, or dcomine on fresh deliciousness at Elsa, the first all-organic restaurant to be lauded by the Michelin inspectors. Naturally, there’s also a spa onsite to take your pampering beach club experience to the next level.
The global Nikki Beach franchise has extended its reach with a pop-up ‘beach’ club on top of the Fairmont Hotel, which will return for another bout of party madness in April 2017. All the action takes place around the pool, which is surrounded by luxurious white deckchairs, from which you can indulge in some quality people-watching or gaze out at the endless Mediterranean views. With chilled DJ beats ramping up as the day wears on, Nikki Beach Monaco feels very much like a daytime nightclub, so it attracts a young crowd bent on having a good time.
If the idea of loud DJ music and enthusiastic young things spraying Champagne makes you want to retreat with haste to a place of cool, calm exclusivity, there can be no better oasis than Note Blue. This sophisticated beach club offers a garden-like setting by the sea, with decadent daybeds with wispy curtains, soft white deckchairs by the water, and elegant dining tables shaded by graceful sweeps of canvas. At night, drink and dine by soft lantern-light as notable jazz musicians play to an appreciative crowd.
For sheer celebrity history and Mediterranean charm, it would be hard to go past Paloma, an iconic beach club nestled on a small cove in exclusive Cap Ferrat. Family-run since 1948 and named after Picasso’s daughter, the beach club offers heart-soaring views of cliffs and blue-green sea, with opulent villas climbing the steep slopes behind. Paloma Beach Club isn’t shiny and decadent— in fact it’s slightly rustic compared to its Monaco counterparts, with the same shack from 1948 serving up fresh-grilled seafood and family-style service to the dining tables scattered along the pretty pebbled beach. Paloma promises the French Riviera experience… as it used to be. After a refreshing swim in the crystal clear water, lie back on a deckchair with an icy glass of rose’ and listen to the cicadas buzzing in the nearby pines. A place of family tradition, celebrity patronage, and the bewitching nostalgia of summers past, Paloma is the French Riviera, and it would be remiss not to stop here on your Cote d’Azur yacht charter.
Return to where the French Riviera legend truly began, at the gloriously pretty Plage de la Garoupe. This stunning powder-white sand beach is where an American socialite couple called the Murphys launched the French Riviera as a summertime destination in the 1920s, clearing the beach of seaweed and fishing nets and inviting Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Picasso to sunbathe and swim in the crystal clear waters. Today, Plage Keller is the pick of the beach clubs along this pretty cove, offering excellent Mediterranean food in a sophisticated setting and beautiful views across the Bay of Angels to the distant Alps. Take a table on the silky soft sand or a deckchair on the long jetty, shaded by jaunty yellow umbrellas. Celebrity history is everywhere on the Riviera— if you only know where to look, and the refined Plage Keller beach club is the ideal beach club to celebrate the birthplace of the Riviera as we know it.
This designer-chic beach club is part of the Hotel Martinez, and is famous for its wide beach area and vast pontoon with teak decking and deliriously comfortable lounges. The most sought-after beach club experience in Cannes, Z Plage has an adjoining restaurant, a smoothie and cocktail bar, and a beach cabana offering Givenchy spa massages during July and August. Find your heaven under the shade of a white umbrella, or find an oasis of privacy between wisps of white curtains that wave gently in the afternoon breeze.
This glamorous beach club is a sister venue to the famous Baoli nightclub, and attracts the same A-list crowd of the young and genetically blessed. With a premier position by the majestic art deco façade of the Carlton Intercontinental, Baoli Beach is the perfect venue to have an elegant lunch at a table on the sand or soak up the sun on the large jetty covered in plush deckchairs. The white and cream décor is set off perfectly against the blue sea and sky, and as the day heads into afternoon there’s a party vibe in the air that carries on long into the Summer nights.
When talking of beach clubs in Saint Tropez, you simply must start with Club 55. In 1955 when filming And God Created Woman, Brigitte Bardot’s husband Vadim mistook a simple bungalow on the beach for a bistro, and asked the owner if the film crew could have something to eat. His wife kindly agreed to cook them a meal, and so history was made. That film would propel both Bardot and Saint Tropez to global stardom, and with it, the humble bungalow that would soon become the infamous Club 55.
Today, the bungalow still stands, surrounded by tall stands of bamboo and tamarisk trees that bend gently in the afternoon breezes which skip up off the water. Tables are shaded by swoops of white canvas, deckchairs are set up on the soft sand with stunning views, and as the day goes on and the inhibitions loosen, people begin to dance. Club 55 is beach club royalty, and the guest list shows it.
For a younger and wilder crowd, head to Nikki Beach where beautiful young things dance on tables to big-name DJs, and as much Champagne seems to get sprayed as is drunk. This is hedonism at its most energetic.
In Summer, expect your A-list crowd of young celebrities and racing drivers to be tempered with a crowd of party-goers keen to brush shoulders with the superyacht set. Despite the name, Nikki Beach isn’t actually right on the beach, so all the action centres around the pool, which is surrounded by the signature all-white lounges and daybeds of the Nikki Beach franchise.
Tradition is important in Saint Tropez, but it is not everything. Every once in a while, a newcomer announces its arrival with such success and fanfare that it immediately rockets to the top of the ‘must-visit’ list. Bagatelle is one such venue, expanding to Saint Tropez after success in St Barts, Rio, and New York. After a fire destroyed the club in early 2016, Bagatelle reopened and is going from strength to strength. The décor is coastal chic, with wicker chairs, white tablecloths, and flashes of bright blue — all reflecting that air of bright light and sparkling sea which makes the Riviera so entirely irresistible to anyone with a touch of romance in their soul.
Alexander Coles is Co-Founder at Bespoke Yacht Charter.