Day Trip to Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez port with lots of boats

Saint Tropez seems to be on a lot of people’s bucket lists so here’s your chance!

Saint Tropez is surprisingly tiny compared to its outsized mythology.  It’s a small port filled with big yachts and pricey cafés, and you won’t even get to see the famous Brigitte Bardot beaches unless you take a 15-minute cab ride (see interactive map at bottom).  But if you are really set on checking this off your list, here is how to get there and how to make the most of it…

Saint Tropez Beaches

Most first-time visitors to Saint Tropez are surprised to find that the famous topless beaches of ’70’s Riviera lore are nowhere to be found… they’re in Ramatuelle, a 15-minute cab/uber ride away (approx. 20€).  But you’ve come all this way, you might as well go the distance to see the holy grail, Pampelonne Beach, where you can post like an influencer at Le Club 55, drink Champagne like a tech-bro at Byblos Beach, and frolic in the footsteps of Bridget Bardot with nepo-babies and C-listers, all while having the most expensive beach day of your life.

(You can also get there for 3€ on the local bus #875, which leaves the port bus station at 12:30 and 2:30pm, and takes 25 minutes …but just don’t let anyone see you.)

Alternately, if you just want that all-important Instagram post from ‘the beach in Saint Tropez’ and just need it to be technically true, walk around the port to the right, past the old town, and then follow the path for about 10 minutes and you’ll come to a tiny swatch of public beach where you can slip on that bikini, slide into the sea, pouty smile, and voila: hashtag #SaintTropezBeach.  Lol.

What to do in Saint Tropez

When in Saint Trop do as the Tropeziennes do: splurge for a fabulous lunch.  Here are some expert recommendations for a memorable meal from my good friend Lanie Goodman for Conde Nast Traveller

‘Window shopping’ in French is lèche-vitrine… literally, to lick the windows!  Well you’ve come to the right place for that with bakeries displaying Tarte Tropezienne, tiny boutiques with one of a kind creations, plus all the luxury and designer shops that one would expect. Lanie recommends a stop at KJacques Sandlemakers and Mana Saint Tropez accessories.

The museum L’Annonciade is not to be missed. In this former fishermen’s chapel, right on the port of Saint Tropez, you’ll find a veritable who’s who of the post-impressionist period that is so intertwined with the image of the South of France: Matisse, Bonnard, Braque, Seurat, Luce, Modigliani, Dufy, Rodin…  The museum is tucked into the corner of the port and is on your way to/from the boat.  It’s open from 10am-6pm (7pm Jul-Sept) every day but Monday, costs 4-6€, and won’t take long to do, but you will be glad you did.

Alternately, if you are doing Saint Tropez on the cheap, check out the morning market just of the Place des Lices in the middle of town, where you will find food, clothes, and an all-day antique market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Then head back to the port and walk all the way out to the lighthouse at the tip of the breakwater for a million dollar photo, then head to Kelly’s Pub La Grotte where you can have a laugh with the yacht crews, before heading out to the ‘technically’ Saint-Tropez beach, Plage de Graniers.  Sporty types can also hike up to the ancient fortress The Citadelle and visit the maritime museum.

Here is the Saint Tropez Tourist Office site for more ideas…

Winter in Saint Tropez

The town is pretty much zipped up in the winter, but there is one notable winter event, the Grande Braderie de Saint Tropez the last weekend of October, when all the shops pull their wares onto the sidewalk and mark it all down to clear-out prices.   Even the boat from Nice to Saint Tropez, normally closed in winter, runs a special boat on this weekend, ferrying boatloads of bargain hunters to the shores of normally trop cher St Trop.

How to get to Saint Tropez from Nice

Don’t even think of taking a car in the summer… unless you leave before the crack-o-dawn, the bumper-to-bumper traffic for the last 10 miles will add a stifling hour-and-a-half to your already 2-hour drive, and you’ll arrive annoyed and exhausted.

There is really only one logical way to get there from Nice, and that’s by boat.

The boat from Nice to Saint Tropez runs every day during the summer, and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday all the rest of the year.   At 74€ round-trip (60€ for kids), it seems like quite a lot, but when you consider the breathtaking coastal cruise that goes along with it, it is actually quite a bargain.

The boat leaves at 9am from quai Lunel in the Nice Port, and the 2 1/2 hour trip is a relaxing cruise with amazing views of the red cliffs of the Esterel punctuated by luxurious villas visible only by sea, and if you are lucky you might even be treated to a dolphin sighting, as they enjoy jumping and frolicking in the boat’s wake!

At 11:30am you arrive at the Port of Saint Tropez and have 5 hours to explore/gawk/eat/shop and people-watch before you have to catch the boat back at 4:30pm.

Another option is to go by train and then take a shorter boat, which gives you a lot more flexibility on your return time.   Catch the (very scenic) train from Nice to Saint Raphael for around 38€ round-trip (can be much less if you get a discount train pass), and then catch the express boat to Saint Tropez which only takes an hour and will cost just 32€ round-trip (16€ for kids).

Map courtesy of Wanderlog, the best trip planner app on iOS and Android

Photo credit: Saint Tropez Harbor by Myosotismail licensed under creative commons.

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