Sailing the French Riviera on a shoestring budget: Cannes to Menton
When you find an area you like and feel relaxed, it’s hard to imagine moving on to explore further. Tea Lerins Islands right next to Cannes are one of those places. With so much to do: visit and attend a service at Saint Honorat monastery, taste the famous wine made by the monks from grapes grown on the island, climb the ancient tower for spectacular views of all the islands and from Cannes, stroll the tree-lined paths of each island, take a dip in a private cove, watch the boats come and go, explore Fort Sainte Marguerite where the man in the iron mask was locked up for many years, try some wild blackberries – it really is hard to leave! But the time will come, usually with a forecast of strong wind or a big swell, and you will decide to go ahead. So here’s the Eastern Riviera on a shoestring budget…
Best Value Marinas (prices based on a 15 meter sailboat)
- port of nice – reservations available by email, excellent accommodation, friendly service, showers, wifi, excellent provisions, daily market, restaurants around the port and in the old town, beach clubs, easy access to Nice old town and further afield bus and train, about £50 per night in high season.
- Villefranche-sur-mer – reservations available by email and phone, very helpful and friendly staff, excellent accommodation, some groceries, plenty of restaurants, nice town with access to cliff walks, around £60 a night in high season.
- Port of Beaulieu – an excellent alternative to the exceptionally expensive port of St-Jean, reservations by email and phone, friendly helpful staff, excellent accommodation, good provisions in town, easy access to trains to Monaco, buses to Eze, about £55 per night in the high season.
- Fontvieille – although cheaper than the port of Monaco, it is still expensive but offers excellent service and good value for money. Explore Monaco and Monte Carlo on foot from the marina, enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Principality but know that you have a quiet marina to spend the night. Very friendly and helpful staff, reservations available, helipad approx £80 a night in high season.
- Old port of Menton – very friendly and helpful, groceries in town, ready to help in bad weather, although visitor’s wharf is poorly sheltered from the swell. Wifi, water and electricity all available for around £50 a night in high season.
- Juan les Pins – Known in its heyday for its hedonistic tendencies, this lively city with beautiful beaches has long attracted the rich and famous. The entire bay between Cannes and Juan les Pins is the anchorage of choice for many large superyachts, but the more modest sized yachts head to the east of the bay and hide under Cap d’Antibes between the Eden Roc Hotel and the small port. . of croutons. You will hold up well and you will be very well protected from any wind and waves with lift. You can leave the boat at the visitor’s wharf at Port du Crouton and wander into town for great provisions, restaurants and the little train to Antibes.
- Cape of Antibes – a number of small anchorages offer nice lunch stops, but are not particularly well protected. try Fake Anse de l’Aregnt at the southern tip of the Cape, the bay off The Garoupe for beach clubs and beach restaurants and the great anchorage to the east of Antibes for beautiful views of the old town.
- Port of Villefranche-sur-Mer – anchor at the head of the bay outside the yellow buoys, be careful to stay out of the no anchor zone as there can be up to 3 cruise ships a day anchored here. Take the boat to the town dock and tie it up with the others. A lovely anchorage, very popular in the summer during the day, quiet at night but you may need to use a stern anchor to keep the boat in the prevailing swell coming straight in from the sea.
- Anse de la Scaletta – Tucked away in Cap Ferrat and well protected from anything southerly, this shallow anchorage is another one of those places you can stay for days. Pigeon Beach on the shore offers water sports during the day and romantic dinners by the beach in summer. Easy boat access to the port of St-Jean for provisions and a variety of restaurants, as well as access to the popular promenade along the coast between Villefranche and Beaulieu.
- Roquebrune Bay – Anchor in good possession under the town of Roquebrune. Good shelter from the east but open to the swell from the south. Good walk to the old town, amazing views of the riviera and sandy beach with good snorkeling.
- Corporal Martin – the east side of the Cap is a good lunch anchorage and can be used in very stable weather for an overnight stay. Sandy bottom with good support although quite deep as it is restricted by a protected bathing area.
- Stock up on supplies at large supermarkets when you can, as small-town supermarkets can be extremely expensive. However, the local bakeries are excellent value for money for morning croissants and afternoon cakes!
- Keep an eye on the weather, checking it daily on the radio and again with a local port, as national forecasts can miss local winds.
- Reserve in advance in case of bad weather. If bad weather is coming, plan ahead and pull into a good port. Remember, the least expensive ones fill up first, so make sure you have your space.
- Stay safe in the sun. Always wear a hat and sunscreen and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and have high energy levels.
The French Riviera is truly beautiful throughout the year. Although the best weather is during the summer months, May and October can be the perfect time to sail, with lower marina fees, quieter anchorages and warm sunshine.