The seaside resort of Bandol focusses naturally on its beaches and these range from glorious fine sand bays to wild and rugged little inlets on the fringes of town.
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This is a guide to all the beaches in Bandol. Click here to read more about the town itself and its other attractions.
The beaches fall roughly into four groups. If you walk along the quai Charles de Gaulle starting from the eastern end of Bandol, you'll first come to a series of family-oriented beaches.
On the other side of this wide, busy double boulevard is a string of bars, restaurants and souvenir and clothes shops and, when you reach the centre of town, an enormous marina.
You're right in the heart of Bandol here and all these beaches are within easy walking distance of the centre. A long boardwalk makes for a pleasant stroll along this strip of coastline. Or, if you're feeling lazy, you could take one of the several buses which run along this road.
Go around the Corniche Bonaparte at the south-west end of the marina and it's a totally different world: a quieter, leisurely and residential quarter centred on a huge sandy bay.
Further yet, on the western edge of town, the coast becomes much wilder. Here, the beaches are mostly rocky. Some are accessible by a footpath only. Others are partly private. Those you can drive to have very limited parking.
Finally, a short swim or boat ride across the bay on the tiny island of Bendor are a couple more bathing and sunbathing opportunities.
Note that, while Bandol's beaches are relatively sheltered from the fierce north-west Mistral wind, they are exposed to winds from other directions. A very brisk east wind was blowing on the day of our visit!
Here we review in detail all the beaches of Bandol. Click on the map above to enlarge the image.
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The Plage du grand Vallat is on the eastern edge of town, by a roundabout and the small Vallat River, which together mark off Bandol from neighbouring Sanary sur Mer. Shaded by palm trees, it's around a fifteen minute walk from the marina and has a handful of amenities, including a lifeguard station, showers and toilets and parasol and sun bed rentals.
Opposite is the enormous, elegant, pink Hotel des Bains, once one of Bandol's Grand Hotels, now converted into apartments. A small section of the Plage du grand Vallat is reserved for private use.
You then continue along the boardwalk towards the centre of Bandol: it's pictured here in late April but will almost certainly be much livelier when you visit!
You will pass the Plage du Casino, a large sandy beach. Here a leafy park with some rather lumpy modern sculptures offers welcome shade, though picnicking in it is not permitted.
At one end of the beach is a building, La Réserve, which rather disappointingly turns out to be, not a restaurant but a dental and cosmetic surgery clinic! At the other end is the Casino itself and, beyond that, a large pay-for car-park.
The Plage du Casino is the beach to head for if you require ramp access. Tiralo and Hippocampe bathing wheelchairs are available too. There are also volley ball courts, a water skiing centre, showers and toilets, sun bed and parasol hire and a lifeguard and first aid station.
The closest beach to the centre of town is called - surprise! - the Plage Centrale. It too is sandy, next to the park and close to the big Casino car-park, with another car-park, also pay-for, at the other end near the marina.
The Plage Centrale has a lifeguard post, trampoline, sun bed and parasol hire and showers and toilets. It's the best beach for a sea kayak, stand-up paddle and other water-based activities.
One of the disadvantages to this first cluster of beaches is the absence of bars and restaurants. But at least you will find plenty of them between the Plage Centrale and the marina, though they are all on the other side of the main boulevard - with one exception. The Plage Centrale has the only restaurant on this side of town that's actually on the sea, the Palm-B, with its own small private beach area.
You'll cross a large car-park which is mostly pay-for though a small area, the Parking Deferrari with 225 spaces, is free. In any case, you'll be lucky to find a spot: everything was already chock-full when we visited on a not especially sunny Sunday in late April.
Right opposite the island of Bendor is the Dog Beach (sic), pictured, a narrow pebble beach for our four-legged friends (with plastic bag dispensers to clean up after them). Dogs are supposedly not allowed on Bandol's other beaches though we saw plenty running around on Rènecros itself.
You'll also pass the racily named Trou de Madame (Madam's Hole), an unremarkable, very rocky inlet where supposedly a noble lady once came to bathe each morning.
There are two other, quicker ways to Rènecros from the marina which each takes about five minutes. The first, unmarked route starts by La Brise restaurant (12 boulevard Victor Hugo) and takes you up steps (the Montée Auguste Maillet) and along an alley before descending to the beach.
The second route, which is marked, is a pedestrian alley a little further along the boulevard Louis Lumière, just after the Île Rousse hotel.
An anse is a bay, and that sums up the Anse de Rènecros: a huge, wide south-west facing crescent sweep of fine white sand. Apart from its location, the big bonus of this beach is that it's set well back from the main road. So there's no traffic noise or pollution, and its hotels, bars and restaurants are right on the sea: les pieds dans l'eau, as the French say.
Among them are the Hotel Plein Large, with stunning views of Bendor and the sea, the sightly more upmarket Golf Hotel, plus the super-plush five-star spa l'Île Rousse (pictured: the view of Rènecros beach from the Île Rousse hotel). All three have small private beach areas.
Most of the beach bars close down between October and March, but Rènecros remains fairly sheltered from the elements, and is a great place to catch some winter sun.
Also on Rènecros: a life-guard and police station, showers and toilets, sun beds, parasols and pedalos. And its gentle slope into the sea makes it ideal for children. It can, of course, get very crowded in summer.
Bandol's western beaches are more scattered and rugged. They are unsupervised by lifeguards, though some - the Eden Roc, the Capélan and the Engraviers - have emergency phones.
The Plage Eden Roc is next to private apartments with gated parking and opposite the Parc du Canet botanical gardens – a great place to retreat to if you want to escape the sun (it has a playground too). This pebble beach can be accessed via steps or a ramp and has stone seats, a shower and toilets.
A little further, the Plage de Barry is another small stone beach accessed by a ramp where in 1943, legend has it, Jacques Cousteau, Philippe Tailliez and Frédéric Dumas perfected the first self-contained diving bell.
The Plage du Capélan, pictured, is the "main" beach along this strip of coast - actually two beaches split by a mini-peninsula dense with umbrella pines and other typical vegetation.
It boasts two simple restaurants, Le Méditerranéan and Lou Pescadou, has ramp access and is a favoured spot for snorkeling and fishing.
You can drive to all these three beaches though they're not at all well sign-posted, and parking is on the street and extremely limited.
After the Plage du Capélan, though, the grand-sounding avenue Georges V fizzles out into a coastal footpath, the sentier du Littoral once used by customs officers.
It's a short hike along this path to the two last beaches in Bandol, the Plage de L'Anglaise whose name recalls that the English were among the first to discover Bandol as a seaside resort.
Then, passing behind the Athéna private residence and marina, you reach the Plage des Engraviers where nudists may sometimes be found sunning themselves discreetly out of sight of the main path. Both these remote unspoiled stone beaches are framed by pine trees and look out to the Île Rousse island just offshore.
Finally, a seven-minute boat ride (or slightly longer swim) off the coast of Bandol, the tiny island of Bendor has one very small sandy beach, the Plage Delos, close to the landing stage on its north shore near the legendary Hotel Delos built by the pastis magnate Paul Ricard.
A few minutes away at the end of the island, the Plage Soukana is a beach-restaurant (actually just sun beds on a terrace). The south-facing coastline is a series of craggy rocks. Note that picnicking is not permitted on Bendor.
Photo credits (from top): © Office de Tourisme de Bandol, RWS for Marvellous Provence, SJ for Marvellous Provence (four images).