The French Riviera is undoubtedly one of the loveliest stretches of coastline in Europe, backed by hilltop medieval villages, with pretty bays and peninsulas that make boat trips a real pleasure.  Many choose to charter yachts, but, for those who prefer to be land-based, the ideal option is to rent a stunning villa and then charter a boat for a day.  Here is a look at some of the best places on the Riviera to visit by boat.

What are the Best Places on the Riviera to Explore by Boat?

The stunning peninsula of St Jean Cap Ferrat, forested with maritime pines, is home to several grand estates and villas and is one of the most exclusive secret spots on the Cote d’Azur.  The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is open to the public and boasts spectacular gardens, while the Villa Santo Sospir was ‘tattooed’ by Jean Cocteau, who drew on its bare white walls.  For a treat, stop off at Paloma Beach Mediterranean restaurant for a lunch of grilled fish. 

Boat Trips on the French Riviera Cap Ferrat
French Riviera Cap Ferrat

Natural and Authentic Islands

Further west along the coast, take in Cannes and its stunning La Croisette promenade – one of the best places on the Riviera – lined with elegant hotels and boutiques. Just opposite lie the natural and authentic islands of Sainte Marguerite and Saint Honorat, where time seems to have stopped still.  At Sainte Marguerite, discover the old fort and prison, go on a rambling nature trail or swim in the crystal clear waters.  

In 2021, an Underwater Museum of Cannes was opened near Sainte Marguerite, featuring six statues by British artist Jason Decaire Taylor, making a wonderful attraction for snorkellers.   

A community of Cistercian monks has resided on the smaller Saint Honorat since the 5th century, where they produce wine, honey, and olive oil.  Visitors are welcome to discover the fortified monastery and chapels, one of the best secret spots on the Cote d’Azur.

Boat Trips on the French Riviera, Cannes, La Croisette
Cannes La Croisette

Monaco’s Ever-Changing Skyline

A highlight for many on the Cote d’Azur is a visit to Monaco, with many boat charters offered from Nice. En route, admire the limestone cliffs and rare Mediterranean flora, as well as the glamorous villas clinging to the hillsides. The tiny principality is spectacular when viewed from the coast.  From the beautiful Oceanographic museum, clinging to the rock face since 1910, to the glamorous new yacht club on Port Hercule, and from the elegant residences on the Avenue Princesse Grace to the dramatic Odeon residential tower, Monaco’s ever-changing skyline fascinates and inspires.

boat trips on the French Riviera St Tropez
St Tropez LouLou

Boho Atmosphere

It takes just 2.5 hours to sail from Nice to St Tropez, where you can admire the harbor and enjoy a drink at the Café Sénéquier, much loved by the late Karl Lagerfeld.  Soak in the boho atmosphere by wandering through the narrow cobbled streets to the trendy boutiques and famous Place des Lices market.  Finally, head to the glorious Pampelonne beach – without question one of the most exclusive and best spots on the Riviera – and enjoy a relaxed lunch at the Lou Lou Beach Club, with its sunny cuisine inspired by the south of France, Italy, and Sicily.  

The best way to enjoy the best spots on the Riviera is to rent a luxury French Riviera villa, giving you the space and privacy you require while providing a wonderful base for exploring the coast.