Few places draw as much “must visit” attention to the Western traveller as France does. Somehow this European destination tops the travel list of many, with first stops predominantly the Eiffel Tower of Paris followed by the beach of Nice and casinos of Monaco. But for the more intrepid traveller, there is another way to explore France: a camping road trip along the French Riviera.
Surprisingly easy, this is a travel experience that promises to turn the most ordinary of European getaways into one of independence, sun, fun and a plethora of memories. This go-to guide to camping South of France has been designed for the self contained camper who is looking to dot along the South of France pitching a tent as close to the ocean as possible.
Where to go when camping South France
Arrive Perpignan airport
Begin your camping South France road trip by first arriving at Perpignan airport. This is the Westerly most airport on the South of France and Perpignan is an international airport. Small, easy to navigate and relaxed; Perpignan airport is the perfect entry into your mini French Riviera adventure.
At Perpignan airport collect a hire car that you will return to Nice airport. Nice is the Easterly most international airport on the French Riviera and the place you will end your camping road trip. Europcar and Hertz are the most popular rental car services at Perpignan airport, prices are reasonable and each company are reputable. Pre plan your car hire to make life a little easier for your arrival and avoid any disappointment as Perpignan is necessarily somewhere you will want to spend a night. In South of France terms this would be a wasted evening when there are much more interesting and beautiful locations close by.
The Drive West to South Along French Riviera
Perpignan airport is conveniently located close to the main A and D roads that take you along the coastline of the French Riviera. When you collect your hire car you won’t need to negotiate small city streets, you can simply drive straight onto the A9 for a direct and slightly inland route or the D900. The D900 branches onto a variety of D roads which you can leisurely follow along the coastline, stopping at any of the beachside camp areas that take your fancy.
The drive from Perpignan to Nice and beyond is an easy one. The A roads allow for speeds of 110km/h and are multi-lane, well maintained highways. The D roads are popular and more scenic darting in and out of the coast for spectacular views as you drive.
Road regulations are as you would expect in other western countries however there are French police who take enjoyment from stopping tourists with false traffic infringement accusations demanding on the spot fine payment. If this happens, feel free to question the accusation and ask for proof of the fine structure; it could result in the police loosing patience and ending their attempt at momentary corruption.
Although the International airport where you will leave your hire car and depart France is in Nice, continue further to Monaco. Monaco is a short drive East from Nice and certainly worth a look. Then return back to Nice for your departing flight.
Campsites in French Riviera
What makes this travel experience so remarkable is the numerous campsites in the French Riviera. There are many situated on the water front with unrivalled views of the French coastline. Generally speaking they are clean, friendly, well maintained and have all the facilities required to make your experience a pleasant one. There are some which brilliantly boast that if you encounter days that are not sunny you will be refunded.
If you receive an inconvenient flight time and want to begin with a camp site that is relatively close to Perpignan airport, then Narbonne is a good option. This is a city which on the A9 takes just 45 minutes to drive from the airport. You can camp close to the ocean, yet be away from the commercial side of the big city of Perpignan. We recommend Camping LVL Les Ayguades
Campsite for your stay in Narbonne. Stay here for just a short time as while this is a premium campsite, there are still more spectacular ones further along the French Riviera.
At Camping LVL Les Ayguades you will receive a free night camping if you encounter more than one hour of rain during your stay. The campground offers four star facilities and is located directly on the beach front. The beach here is an extremely wide stretch of white sand and the ocean is perfect for swimming.
A little more than an hour drive on the A9 road from Narbonne is Montpellier. This is a large French city and an enjoyable place for sightseeing. For your road trip camping South France this is an excellent option to spend time. Campsite Le Boucanet Is an exquisite campground and if you are travelling with children they will be entertained for hours in the extensive onsite water park complete with slides. At Campsite Le Boucanet you will have direct access to the beach but at this campsite the only downside is that direct coastal sites are reserved for cabins which means that to pitch a tent you will be unlikely to have coastal views.
Next along the coast, travelling East towards Nice is Toulon. Toulon is just 2 hours 30 minutes drive along the A54 from Montpellier and just 54 minutes from Marseille.
At Toulon you can sightsee some of the Maritime artefacts if you choose but for your camping south France road trip, days lounging by the ocean and enjoying the true essence of lazy camping days will create time well spent. We recommend Camp Du Domaine for a campsite that has you placed directly on the beach. Facilities are extensive, prices are low and you have direct access to a fantastic swimming cover of clear turquoise water.
Next stop is St Tropez, a beach area made famous by celebrities and super yachts. In reality the beach is a very of paradise and pitching a tent on the sand can be every part as enjoyable as what the celebrities experience. We recommend Le Murs campground for a classy version of camping but with the basics covered well. At Le Murs you can pitch your tent on the sand directly in front of the ocean; how old would that temporary lifestyle feel?
Between Saint Raphael and Cannes is a beautiful small coastal village brimming with charm. Agay Plage is a small bay with the crystal clear ocean you would expect from any South France experience and campsites are directly beside the ocean. We recommend Au Soleil d’Agay for low cost camping steps away from white sandy shorelines. You’ll be camping with a backdrop of red rocky hills which are a stunning contrast to the beach life and a joy to explore.
Between Antibes and Nice
While Antibes is a beautifully romantic place to spend time, the campsites tend to be tailored to the cabin style and not the self contained tent camper. To carry on your camping south France road trip, you are best to settle between Antibes and Cannes at La Vieille Ferme. You will be 1km from the ocean, and 4km from Antibes. Spend days lazying in the ocean a stones throw from your tent or day trips to explore Cannes and Antibes for the well rounded camping south France experience.
What to Take
Camping South of France is all about the spectacular scenery and the simplicity of living. It doesn’t mean to say that you need to pack heavily and we thrive on rustic camping in some of the best places you’ll have the luxury of pitching a tent. There are A few key items that can make your experience one where you spend your evenings toasting French baguettes on the sand with bottle of French wine playing cards under the sunset.
Take a small burner complete with small gas bottle and ensure you have checked luggage. For the journey from London to Perpignan Easy Jet allows for these items to board as checked luggage and you don’t need a two person stove or anything comprehensive. Argos can fix you up for less than 20 quid.
Your meals will be basic but delicious; France is known as the destination of fresh breads and pastries and you can buy them on every corner cheaply. Purchase either fruit or a box of cereal and milk for your breakfast meal at your tent site then through the day take a short walk to purchase a fresh baguette and hot deli meat (these items are incredible common to find and take little effort). For your evening meal set up your cooker on the sand under the heat of the sun and enjoy a toasted baguette with cheese and deli meat. Your evening meal will be one of your trip highlights.
Take one plastic spork, bowl and cup each. From Argos these will set you back less than a tenner and you can leave them in France when you depart. They aren’t worth trucking back home with you but will save you time and effort looking for some when you arrive in time for your first meals.
You’ll need a lightweight sleeping back, pillow case and a thin blue roller mat. The South of France boasts hot climates so there is no need for additional blankets; your sleeping bag can go over two people. Take one sheet to sleep over and your pillow case will be filled with clothes to make a pillow each night.
Now for the tent. You don’t need anything complex and Argos can look after you for less than $50. Be warned though; tent pegs cannot be taken as hand luggage so your tent will need to be checked baggage.
Entertainment and Clothing Essentials
On the south of France you can enjoy a bottle of French wine for as little as 3 Euro. You heard correctly; walking to your local corner shop can see you collect a baguette, cheese, deli meat and bottle of wine for less than 10 Euro and this create a perfect evening with your travel buddy. All you need to bring from home is a deck of cards and camera. An underwater camera can be a fun option. Although you won’t see much marine life you will spend time in the ocean.
Along the French Riviera there are coastal walks that are enjoyable to stroll through the day between dips at the beach, while taking in new scenery. You’ll need something more sturdy than Havana flip flops and with the heat of the pavement these can melt quickly. Pack a pair of sturdy walking sandals so you aren’t held back from venturing along pristine coastline, especially in places like Cannes and Monaco.
Swim suits are essential and you might find it curious that the trend for women can be topless swimming – regardless of age. You don’t need to be concerned with wearing too little; on the French coastline minimal is expected. A lights cover-up for the evenings or sun dress, swimsuit and shorts for the day and you are all set to go.