First, let me say that Saint Tropez is overrated: it is just a pretty but tiny port full of super yachts and pricey cafés, extremely difficult to get to, and you won’t even get to see the famous Brigitte Bardot beaches unless you are willing to pop 70€ for the 15-minute cab ride (and that’s each way).
And 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 68€ round trip, 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 through 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.
As I mentioned, the famous beaches are not nearby, but if you continue around the port to the right, past the old town, after about 10 minutes you’ll come to a tiny swatch of public beach where you can sunbathe and swim.
If you have time, I highly recommend squeezing in a quick visit to the little gem of an art museum L’Annonciade, which is tucked into the corner of the port and is on your way back to catch the boat. It’s open from 10am-1pm and 2pm-6pm every day but Tuesday, costs 4€, and won’t take long to do, but if you appreciate the post-impressionist painters that are emblematic of the south of France, you will be glad you did.
The Iles des Lerins
If the boat ride sounds like the best part (and it is), you could decide to not go all the way to St Tropez, but instead just take the boat halfway, and spend a day on the Iles des Lerins, the mysterious little islands just off Cannes, for 42€ round-trip.
Saint Tropez by Train/Boat
And finally, if the Nice boat is out of your budget, and especially if you bought a bargain train pass, you can take the train down to Saint Raphael and then catch the express boat to Saint Tropez which will only take an hour and will cost 30€ round trip. Click here for more on the Coastal Trains and links to the train schedule for Saint Raphael.
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 boat loads of bargain hunters to the shores of normally trop cher St Trop.
Special Event Boats to Monaco
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Photo credit: Saint Tropez Harbor by Myosotismail licensed under creative commons.