What if you could walk out of a railway station and plant your umbrella in the sand? You can. Grab your sunglasses and climb aboard a TGV INOUI, INTERCITÉS or TER train for one of these ten beautiful beaches—all accessible by train. No car required.
You’ll find plenty to do in this charming medieval town on the Opal Coast. Start by roaming the cobblestone streets immortalized by Degas—and don’t miss the breath-taking view of the Baie de Somme from the upper town.
Then go down the hill and make your way along the river to the town’s beautifully preserved beach, where you can sunbathe, play games or relax with a drink. Feeling adventurous? Paddle a canoe or sea kayak out into the estuary for a closer look at the seals frolicking in the water or sunning themselves on the sand.
Getting there: take any of several daily trains to Noyelles-sur-Mer, where you can board the steam-powered Baie de Somme railway for Saint-Valery-sur-Somme.
1h421 to Noyelles-sur-Mer by TER. From there, the vintage Baie de Somme railway will take you to Saint-Valery-sur-Somme in about 30 minutes.
1h521 to Noyelles-sur-Mer by TER. From there, take the vintage Baie de Somme railway to Saint-Valery-sur-Somme.
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme is one of three ports on the bay: with Le Crotoy and Le Hourdel.
Temple beach and Casino beach in Houlgate
The long stretch of sand at Houlgate is popular with families—it’s perfect for building sand castles, flying a kite or kitesurfing. Promenade Roland Garros, lined with classic beach huts and old-fashioned villas, borders the beach. Walk or jog along it from Houlgate to the dunes at Pointe de Cabourg. On the way, you can stop in at the Dives-sur-Mer fish market, where the arrival of the daily catch is a favourite with tourists and locals alike.
Getting there: in the high season, TER regional trains run regularly from Trouville-Deauville to the small station in the centre of Houlgate. From there, it’s a five-minute walk to the beach.
2h511 to Houlgate, with a change at Trouville-Deauville station.
6 kilometre hike to Villers-sur-Mer at low tide
Bon-Secours beach in Saint-Malo
Bon-Secours is one of the most famous beaches in the seafaring city of Saint-Malo, with a seawater pool where you can swim safely even during the highest tides, and a sweeping view of the bay, Dinard, Grand Bé island and the Vauban fort on Petit Bé island.
Bon-Secours is accessible from the ramparts, and it’s family-friendly. Amenities include a water sports centre with kayaks for hire, disability access, a bar and restaurant with an enormous terrace—and of course the seawater pool and its distinctive diving board.
Getting there: from Saint-Malo station, take bus line 1, 2 or 8 to the Intra-Muros stop (about six minutes), then walk to the beach (five minutes).
2h391 with a change in Rennes.
2h241 with a change in Rennes.
14 m difference between low and high tides during the record-breaking “supertide” of 2015.
Bay of Biscay
Les Minimes beach in La Rochelle
This is the biggest of La Rochelle’s three beaches, with fine sand stretching from the port to Pointe des Minimes, and it’s ideal for water sports enthusiasts and families with children. Enjoy kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, shore fishing, kite-flying—and in summer, beach volleyball. Offshore, there are views of historic Fort Boyard and two striking islands—Île de Ré and Île d’Oléron,
And from the foot of Les Minimes beach, you can walk or bike along a path that hugs the coast, with stunning views of the ocean.
Getting there: from the SNCF railway station, bus lines Illico 3 and Illico 4 will drop you near Les Minimes.
2h381 to La Rochelle, with a change in Poitiers.
2h141 to La Rochelle.
2300 hours of sun a year in La Rochelle
Bay of Biscay
If you like big beaches with fine sand, you’ll love Arcachon, the most famous seaside resort on France’s Côte d’Argent, or Silver Coast.
There are many spots where you can swim or just relax on the shore—but the city’s central beach is by far the liveliest, with restaurants, cafés and shops lining the promenade. On the beach itself, there are bouncy castles and children’s clubs to keep youngsters entertained, and at the nearby Aquarium Museum, you can explore the region’s maritime life.
Looking for a different kind of experience? Try one of the other beaches along the Arcachon Basin. Eyrac is perfect for visitors seeking a little peace and quiet, and Abatilles-Arbousiers is very popular among water sports enthusiasts.
Getting there: In summer, Line 1 of the Baïa bus network will take you from Arcachon station to the beaches.
3h191 to Arcachon, with a change in Bordeaux.
52m1 to Arcachon.
7 kilometres of fine sand beaches at Arcachon
Mediterranean Coast — Collioure
After you’ve strolled the narrow, picturesque streets and ducked into the artists’ workshops in this former fishing village, take time to slip behind Our Lady of the Angels (Notre-Dame-des-Anges) church and relax. On beautiful Saint-Vincent beach, you’ll find a mix of shingle and sand where you can sit and admire the clear water or go for an outing in a boat or peddle craft.
If you’d rather take it easy, feast your eyes on the spectacular view of the church steeple and the Château Royal, which inspired Fauvist pioneers Henri Matisse and André Derain in the early 20th century. And be sure to catch the breathtakingly colourful sunset—it’s one of Collioure’s many claims to fame.
7h271 to Collioure, with a change in Montpellier and another in Narbonne.
2h301 to Collioure, with a change in Perpignan.
9 beaches in Collioure, including 5 shingle beaches
Mediterranean Coast — Sète
This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sète, a port city known for two prominent native sons—writer and philosopher Paul Valéry and singer-songwriter Georges Brassens. Located near Sète Stadium and the Quilles Canal, Corniche beach curves around two coves and is protected by a breakwater. Its turquoise water and golden sand are unforgettable. Amenities include restaurants and bars, a separate family area with playgrounds, and a dedicated space for water sports.
Some ten metres above the beach, a trail overlooking the Mediterranean links the Corniche neighbourhood with the city centre. Walk or bike along it to enjoy spectacular views of the coast, where rocky headlands alternate with picturesque coves.
Getting there: from the SNCF station, take bus no. 3 to the Joliot Curie stop or bus no. 915 to the Corniche de Neubourg stop.
4h491 to Sète.
15 min1 to Sète.
2h011 to Sète.
3h261 to Sète, with a change at Valence Ville station and another at Valence TGV.
12 km of golden sand awaits you in Sète.
Mediterranean Coast — Bay of Cannes
Château beach Mandelieu-la-Napoule
Known as the Mimosa Capital of the French Riviera, Mandelieu-la-Napoule ranks among the finest resorts on the Mediterranean coast, and Château is among the most intimate of its seven beaches. Tucked in between the port of La Napoule and the restored castle it’s named for, it’s easily accessible by public transport and has a free parking lot.
After you’ve visited the Art Foundation, now housed in a medieval fortress, come to this quiet beach to swim in the clean, clear water and bask in the sun.
5h591 to Mandelieu-la-Napoule, with a change in Cannes.
43m1 to Mandelieu-la-Napoule, with a change in Cannes.
5h221 to Mandelieu-la-Napoule, with a change in Saint-Raphaël.
The Château de La Napoule was built in the 14th century
Bourget-du-Lac beach on Lac du Bourget
Lac du Bourget is the biggest glacier lake in France, and Bourget-du-Lac is one of its best beaches. And no wonder—the shallow water, piers, swimming platforms and play areas are especially popular with the families who come to cool off on its wide stretches of sand and shady lawns.
Further along the shore is Les Mottets beach, with a wide variety of activities, including playing fields and a roller-skate and skateboard park. Attractions include an outdoor recreation centre nearby, and an education area where visitors can view European pond turtles. In recent years, some 30 members of this endangered species have been released into a refuge in the Les Mottets reed beds.
To get to Bourget-du-Lac Beach from nearby Aix-les-Bains, take line 1 of the Ondéa bus network. To reach Les Mottets, board the Ligne des Plages (beach line) bus, which runs along Lac du Bourget from Aix-les-Bains to Chambéry in the summer.
3h191 to Aix-les-Bains, with a change in Lyon.
1h111 to Aix-les-Bains.
26 degrees C is Lac du Bourget’s warmest water temperature in summer.
Les Mouettes beach in Lauterbourg
Though the nearest coast is hundreds of kilometres away, Les Mouettes is a genuine beach resort, with a 500-metre sweep of sand that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every summer.
Children enjoy its many playgrounds, and Aquapark slides offer thrills for youngsters eight and up. If you enjoy sports, Les Mouettes is the place for you, with courts for beach volleyball and pétanque, football pitches, a climbing wall and a sailing centre with a variety of activities.
Getting there: from Lauterbourg station, take bus No. 314 to the Porte de France Scheibenhard stop.
3h301 to Lauterbourg, with a change in Strasbourg
58 min1 to Lauterbourg.
500 metres of fine sand beach at Lauterbourg
1 Shortest travel time.