©Ville Antibes -Juan les Pins

Discover the coastal gems

of the Côte d’Azur

When you set out from the towns which are the cradle of tourism such as Nice, Cannes, Antibes and Saint-Tropez, or on the coastal trail along the banks of the Mediterranean, the Côte d’Azur is just packed with all sorts of wonders … places which are of great interest to visitors every year, as the summer season draws near. But beyond the most touristic sites, there are many spots which are every bit as charming for the holidaymakers who come to discover the Côte d’Azur. Come and discover six coastal gems which belong to the Conservatoire du Littoral, and which bring a sparkle to the Côte d’Azur.

Jardin de Serre de la Madone

Labelled a Jardin Remarquable and listed as a historical monument, the Serre de la Madone garden is considered to be one of the ten most beautiful gardens in Europe. Nestled on the heights of the town of Menton, only a few kilometres from the coast, in the Quartier de la Madone, the terraced garden is home to a multitude of rare plants from all over the world. You’ll be able to see a Quercus Semecarpifolia, two Washingtonia Filifera (desert fan palm), a big Magnolia straight from the Yunnan province in China, and even the surprising Nolina Nelsonii from Mexico. In the middle of this tree-filled environment, a labyrinth of little paths and stone staircases takes you on a wander through a cool haven where a wealth of plants and garden structures intermingle harmoniously (terraces, fountains, pools and statues), to the magnificent ochre-coloured bastide overlooking the garden. The Serre de la Madone garden is open to visitors every day except Monday all year round, except in November.

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« Cap Moderne, Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier » at Cap Martin

In Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

The Cap-Martin heritage site comprises several emblematic historical monuments of modern architecture and the territory: Villa E-1027 by Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici, the bar-restaurant « l’Etoile de Mer » by Thomas Rebutato, Le Cabanon, Les Unités de Camping Le Corbusier’s workshops listed in the UNESCO World Hritage and integrated into European cultural itineraries (« Destination Le Corbusier »). A true icon of modern architecture, Villa E-1027, Eileen Gray’s first architectural creation, was built between 1926 and 1929 on a plot of land overlooking the bay of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin opposite Monaco. It represents a manifesto, for both the architecture itself and for the fixed and movable furniture, lighting and decor that all blend so well together. Le Corbusier, a frequent visitor to the place from 1937 and a lover of the Mediterranean, painted several murals here. The 5-kilometre-long wild coastal path goes from the Pointe de Cap Martin to the very edge of Monaco, and reveals the most sumptuous landscapes of the sea, the steep coastline and the mountains… The site bears homage both to the stylist Eileen Gray and the famous artist and architect Le Corbusier. The sites can be reached by the coastal trail in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin with a visit of Villa E1027 and several constructions created by Le Corbusier: “Le Cabanon” and the « Unités de Camping », prototypes which show how Le Corbusier reflected on ideas of the standardisation, minimalism and functionality.

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The Massif de l’Esterel

Another gem on the coastline of the Côte d’Azur, the Massif de l’Esterel stretches on one side over the Mediterranean sea and on the other to the lands of Provence. The volcanic ochre massif offers breathtaking panoramas. The thousand-year old rock takes on a bright red colour, which is set off by the deep blue of the neighbouring sea. You can choose to walk on the footpaths or make the most of the beaches and creeks of the massif. Take your time and discover the treasures of the town of Théoule-Sur-Mer and Mandelieu-La-Napoule, and particularly the Esterel-Théoule Departmental Maritime Park, a sea area with many summer events to help you understand the natural riches of the Mediterranean.

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The Etangs de Villepey in Fréjus

In Fréjus, the Etangs de Villepey form a surprising wet area, which is unique on this portion of the coast and which is internationally famous for the quality of its natural environment. You’ll appreciate the authenticity of nature in a protected area covering 260 hectares, born of the wanderings of the River Argens and the reclaiming of a site which used to be exploited as a sand quarry. Take one of the many paths, dotted with steel deckings and lookouts, and discover the unique biodiversity of the ponds. The facilities make it easier to discover the different natural environments which are sometimes highly sensitive to disturbance respectfully, and allow you to observe the avifauna which is particularly varied on the site. This is the interface between river, land, ponds and te sea and it’s the symbol of nature’s wealth and also the challenges involved in protecting it faced with the large number of climate issues threatening it.

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The Domaine du Rayol – Jardin des Méditerranées

Located on the Corniche des Maures, opposite the îles d’Hyères, the Jardin des Méditerranées is also another must on the Côte d’azur. With its 7 hectares of gardens in the middle of a protected natural site of 20 ha, this landscape garden designed by Gilles Clément is a collection of varieties of plants from all over the world, which are all adapted to a Mediterranean climate, or in some cases to a more arid or subtropical climate. A real treasure of biodiversity, this highly exotic place is an invitation to travel, for the yearly 80,000 visitors who can access a wide educational offer to help them understand the marvels of nature around us. There are a number of activities according to the seasons, including a marine trail to discover the protected marine area on the edge of the site. And lastly, right in the middle of the gardens, various buildings bear witness to the seaside architecture of the first part of the 20th century and are home to exhibitions which explain the particularities of the site. This is the case of the Villa Rayolet which is listed on the complementary list of Historical Monuments, built on an exceptional site overlooking the steep banks of the coast and which has recently been restored.

Maison Foncin, Corniche des Maures, Cavalaire

Maison Foncin, the big white house which can be seen everywhere on the Corniche des Maures, opened its doors to the public in 2022. Discover this history-filled place and take a 2½-hour guided tour of the house and the surrounding area: the guided walk will raise your awareness of the natural and cultural wealth of the Corniche des Maures, and the visit of the house will take you on a trip back in time and an immersion in the Foncin family who built and lived in this house right through the 20th century and bequeathed it to the Conservatoire du Littoral. In tune with the passion of the members of the family, an exhibition on the history of cartography in the Mediterranean completes this unusual visit.

Discover the Maison Foncin