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Top sailing spots in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Whether you’re heading along the coast from Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer to Cannes, or inland to the lakes of Sainte-Croix and Serre-Ponçon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur overflows with fabulous sailing hotspots exposed to prevailing winds. A real treat for windsurfers, kitesurfers and other riders of the waves!


Around Martigues

Mythical but challenging hotspots

Let’s get the ball rolling at Carro, one of the Mediterranean’s best-known windsurfing spots. Located 10 km to the south of Martigues, this little Provencal fishing port has forged itself a solid reputation among France’s windsurfing community. And it’s true to say that Carro offers adrenalin freaks very sizeable assets: set on a rocky cape, just 30 minutes from the City of Marseille, it is exposed to all prevailing winds and retains a good amount of swell. But beware of the rocky seabed – you’ll need to kit yourself out with water shoes to avoid cutting your feet on stones or having a prickly encounter with a sea urchin… Also of note: the launch from the rocks can be tricky, making this particular spot unsuitable for kitesurfing. Conversely, the Jaï spot in Marignane, set along the wide string of dunes separating Etang de Berre sea lake and Bolmon, is ideal for a wide range of activities. The kitesurfing zone is marked out with buoys for smoother cohabitation with fellow windsurfers, windfoilers, wingfoilers, funboarders and catamaran or Pico sailors. Here – for the greatest pleasure of seasoned riders – the main source of propulsion is the gusting Mistral wind, which is particularly strong in winter and spring. Access to the spot is regulated in summer, but the “Festines de Berre” festival welcomes you with open arms in July for a series of gourmet, festive evening events!

In the gulf of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Vast, wild beaches

Let’s head west to the shores of Camargue. First stop: the expansive, golden sands of Beauduc, a very-popular spot with an ends-of-the-earth feel, often offering ideal sailing conditions. Exposed, especially in winter, to the Mistral wind, as well as southeasterly winds and thermal winds in summer, the site attracts scores of kitesurfers and windsurfers of all levels, from novices to pros. Beauduc is now subject to various regulations due to its popularity, in particular limited vehicle parking and stricter division of the various zones per activity. N.B. kitesurfers should head to the northern part of the beach. Otherwise, a little further on, Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer‘s Plage Est beach is an excellent choice for kitesurfing and windsurfing, as well as land-based activities such as sand yachting. This is one of the area’s wildest beaches and you can only reach it on foot or by bike. But it’s worth the effort: this vast spot is ideal for kitesurfers who are just starting out, offering them plenty of room to manoeuvre their kite. And if by chance there’s no wind when you arrive, pack away your kit and opt for a trusty steed instead! You’ll find lots of horse treks on offer here if you fancy a slow tour of Camargue’s stunning natural areas.

Set sail for the Var

On either side of Giens peninsula

Or more precisely, on either side of the double isthmus – the sandy arms – running from the town of Hyères to Giens peninsula, flanked to the west by Plage de l’Almanarre and to the east by Plage de la Bergerie. Almanarre beach is ideally oriented for both easterly and westerly winds. On some days the water is perfectly calm but riders enjoy offshore winds (blowing from the land); on others, it’s a lot choppier with a gusting onshore wind (blowing towards the land). You’ll find good sailing conditions all year round here, especially from March to October – a real treat for freeride and slalom windsurfers and kitesurfers. Important to note: kitesurfing is only allowed in certain marked areas and always at least 300 metres from the shore. Don’t hesitate to ask for details before you set out. Kitesurfing is prohibited on the family-style Plage de la Bergerie beach to the east, but its exposure, in particular, to easterly and north-easterly winds, makes it a very laudable spot for windsurfers. The conditions can however be challenging if the wind is gusting: confirmed riders only please! If you’re a beginner, La Badine located further to the south-east is a great place to start. If you’re visiting in summer, Giens peninsula is also home to fabulous walking trails plus an excellent choice of waterfront eateries.

Downwind in the Bay of Napoule

Something for every taste

This time, the wind has blown us all the way to Palm Beach on La Croisette in Cannes. You won’t find a red carpet rolled out for you when you arrive, but you can expect a fairly technical kitesurf launch area. Resolutely reserved for experienced riders, this hotspot has forged a name for itself thanks to its very favourable kitesurfing and wave riding conditions in both summer and winter. It owes its reputation too to its charming setting, pampering riders with breathtaking views over Cannes and its bay from offshore. Further south, in Mandelieu-la-Napoule, the sea is more accessible and the local sailing clubs offer a plethora of activities ranging from introductions to sailing to kitesurfing, wingfoiling and Optimist. The good conditions make this a very popular spot, where you can enjoy riding the waves while lapping up stunning views over the Esterel hills and Château de la Napoule. If you’ve never been there, we definitely recommend visiting to enjoy the colourful show of sails and kites dancing on the horizon.

Sainte-Croix lake in the Verdon Canyon

Because you don’t need the sea to sail

Absolutely! Some lakes offer excellent conditions for water and sailing sports and Sainte-Croix lake is one of them. Particularly reputed for windsurfing, the lake is exposed to the Mistral wind, which generally blows in winter and early spring, as well as thermal winds in summer. According to the locals, Plage de Bauduen is one of the top spots, with westerly winds promising a great day on the waves. With its dizzy cliffs plunging into turquoise waters below, Sainte-Croix lake’s fairytale setting is a sight to behold. A family favourite, this friendly spot is ideal for budding windsurfers, but you can also enjoy introductions to a variety of other water sports such as catamaran sailing, canoeing, kayaking, pedalo and standup paddleboarding. And if you’re in an adventurous mood, take to the heights on one of the many walking trails to savour dazzling views over the VerdonCanyon.

On Serre-Ponçon lake

Last but not least!

From Savines-le-Lac to Embrun, several delightful spots await water sports aficionados visiting Serre-Ponçon lake. A little more sheltered and less windy than the rest of the lake, the Embrun zone is ideal if you’re trying your hand at windsurfing for the first time. What’s more, motorboats aren’t allowed in this zone for extra peace of mind. More seasoned windsurfers and kitesurfers will definitely want a piece of the action at Savines-le-Lac and Crots. Plage des Eaux-Douces and Plage du Boscodon are the top local hotspots, benefiting from very predictable winds: calm in the morning and stronger as the afternoon wears on. Westerly and north-westerly winds offer optimal sailing conditions especially from spring through to late June. In addition to sailing sports, the lake is also a paradise for standup paddleboarders on calm days when the blue waters are sleeping: take time to admire the extraordinary scenery gracing this little treasure at the foot of Écrins National Park. If you want to make the most of the trip, head out to explore the many hiking trails on offer, or simply pitch your tent at one of the lakeside campsites to soak up the site’s unique mountain-come-lake atmosphere.