About Bandol beaches
Probably best known for producing the famous AOC wine of the same name, Bandol is one of the largest and oldest seaside resorts on the French coast. Writers such as Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, Katherine Mansfield and Marcel Pagnol, and stars such as Mistinguett, Raimu and Fernandel were well aware of the charms of Bandol as a holiday spot, long before Brigitte Bardot discovered St Tropez. The small traditional Provençal seaside village has grown since then, and today Bandol’s marina boasts 1,500 berths sheltering boats of all sizes, from yachts to professional fishing boats.
There are several sand beaches in Bandol, as well as calanques (smaller inlets and creeks) dotted along the coast, some accessible by boat only. The Plage du Lido, Plage du Casino and the Plage de Rènecros are the main beaches, and the most crowded. A good range of watersports is available, including sailing, waterskiing, sea-kayaking, windsurfing, scuba-diving and deep sea fishing.
Beyond the beach:
Boat trips to the island of Porquerolles, or to Cassis and the Calanques are popular excursions from Bandol. Or you could go for a walk on the Sentier Littoral between Bandol and St Cyr sur Mer (12km/7 miles), a walking route that snakes around the coast. The path rambles around the sea and over rocks, opening up into some quiet coves. If you fancy a spot of golf, try the golf course of Frégate, route de Bandol in nearby Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer.
Sailing and sea-kayaking are two activities popular with older children. Paragliding, mountain biking, tennis and horse-riding are also available in or around Bandol. The exotic gardens and zoo (route de Sanary-sur-Mer) will appeal to younger children.
The two hilltop villages of La Cadiere and Le Castellet are well worth a visit. Both these medieval villages have retained the charm of times gone by. Exploring their narrow cobbled streets (be warned, this might involve some steep steps!) will yield timeless treasures, whether the gentle gurgle of a little fountain in a shaded square on a hot summer day or the riot of colours gracing one of the many flower-filled balconies.
Charter an old-fashioned two-mast rigging boat and take to the open sea in style. The hire price for the Cap des Palmes (www.capdespalmes.com) includes a skipper for the day, food and wine, and even photos of your day aboard to take home at the end of your adventure.