France is a fantastic place to visit with children and the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) has a lot to offer. We headed to the South of France with our 16 month old toddler and found so many great things to do! Here are our Top Five…
1. Explore the island of Porquerolles
The island of Porquerolles sits a short distance from the south coast of France and is a beautiful mixture of sandy beaches, woodland trails and old forts. It’s easily accessible by hopping on the 20 minute ferry from Tour Fondue (Hyères) and is a great day out for the whole family. A return ticket costs €20 for an adult and €17 for a child (age 4-12) and ferries depart every hour or so throughout the day.
The majority of visitors to Porquerolles hire a bike (€15) to explore the small island which is just 4-miles in length and 2-miles in width. Bicycles with child seats are available but we opted for a bike with trailer (€45) and headed east to the Plage de Notre Dame which is considered to be one of France’s finest beaches. It didn’t disappoint with turquoise waters and golden sand to relax on.
The East of the island (towards Plage de Notre Dame) is relatively flat and easy to navigate with a trailer, while the West is more uneven and hilly. We looped around the East of the island, stopped for lunch back at the port, then looped around the West, stopping off at beaches and viewpoints along the way. Near the port there is a lovely gift shop selling sea-themed books and toys for the children, and Porquerolles wine for the adults! There are also a number of restaurants and cafe’s to grab a bite to eat and a cash point too.
2. Visit the Musée Océanographique in Monaco
Monaco is a labyrinth of steep winding streets with some stunning architecture. One of the most impressive buildings is the Oceonographic Museum which not only has an amazing array of artefacts (our favourite was the very old scuba diving equipment) but a huge interactive aquarium, impressive rooftop playground, art installations and a great rooftop restaurant. The views from the roof of the building are pretty stunning.
Entry prices to the museum vary greatly depending on the season and age of children but the information is all listed on the website (https://www.oceano.mc/en). To give an idea, we paid €14 per adult and under-4’s are free.
There is parking at the Museum which is in the Monte Carlo area and there are lots of other family attractions nearby – but the Musée Océanographique was by far our favourite.
3. Explore Antibes and catch the Visiobulle glass bottom boat
Antibes’ architecture is a mixture of aging 1920’s affluence and modern regeneration. We stayed here as a cheaper alternative to Nice and it was a great place to spend a day. The promenade is lined with lots of beach front restaurants and boutique shops. We stumbled across a huge adventure playground, slightly set back from the beach promenade which offered a great opportunity for the little one to burn off some energy.
The Visiobulle is a bright yellow glass bottom boat which is one of the top attractions in Antibes. For one hour the boat will cruise along the rugged coastline and stop in areas where there’s an abundance of marine life. Ticket’s cost €14 for adults / €7 for children (2-11) – http://www.visiobulle.com/
4. Venture inland to explore the villages and head up Mont Ventoux
A short drive inland from the French Riviera and it feels like a world away from the bustling beach promenades. Be prepared for miles of rolling hills and cultivated fields scattered with stone farmhouses and castles to explore.
We chose to stay in the villages of Bedoin and Crillon le Brave which sit in the foothills of Mont Ventoux. It is a peaceful place where we reconnected with nature and little bear was able to explore the fields, trees and streams safely. There’s a wonderful family run hotel called La Sidoine which we stayed in that had beautiful grounds and gorgeous rooms for €76 (http://www.la-sidoine.fr/fr).
This area is also a great base for cycling up Mont Ventoux if you have older children, or driving up If you are looking for some spectacular views over the alps! There’s a surprisingly lovely restaurant at the top, along with a gift shop of course. If you decide to head up Ventoux, dress for windy weather.
5. Try new and exciting foods
Children can be picky so take the opportunity of being in a different country to expand their pallets. Don’t worry, France has much more to offer than snails and frogs legs – the French Riviera has amazing sea food to offer and we found some wonderful steaks on the menu.
Unsurprisingly Little Bear’s first crêpe was a huge hit, but so were other specialities from the area that he hadn’t tried before such as ratatouille. For some ideas of dishes to look out for on the French Riviera, have a read of the BBC’s guide – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/top-10-foods-try-provence-cote-dazur
There are countless other activities from waterparks to tree-top adventures to historical village tours but these five were the one’s our little boy enjoyed the most!
Let me know your thoughts and suggestions on great things to do in the French Riviera!