Sailing the French Riviera on a budget: from Cannes to Menton

When you find an area that you like and feel relaxed, it’s hard to imagine moving on to explore further. Tea Lerins Islands right next to Cannes is one of those places. With so much to do: visit and attend a service at the Saint Honorat monastery, taste the famous wine made by the monks from grapes grown on the island, climb the old tower for spectacular views of all the islands and of Cannes, stroll along the tree-covered paths of each island, take a dip in a private cove, watch the boats come and go, explore the fort at 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 strong wind forecast or heavy swell, and you will decide to move on. So here is the East Riviera with very little money …

Best value for money marinas (prices based on a 15 meter sailing yacht)

  • Port of nice – reservations available by email, excellent shelter, friendly service, showers, wifi, excellent provisions, daily market, restaurants around the port and in the old town, beach clubs, easy access to the old town of Nice and further away by bus and train, around £ 50 per night in high season.
  • Villefranche sur mer – Reservations available by email and phone, very helpful and friendly staff, excellent shelter, some provisions, lots of restaurants, beautiful town with access to cliff walks, around £ 60 per night in high season.
  • Port of Beaulieu – a great alternative to the exceptionally expensive port of St-Jean, email and phone bookings, friendly and helpful staff, excellent shelter, good supplies in town, easy access to trains to Monaco, buses to Eze, around £ 55 per night in 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 per night in high season.
  • Old port of Menton – very friendly and helpful, provisions in town, ready to help out in bad weather, even though the visitor’s dock has a bad shelter from the surf. Wifi, water and electricity available for around £ 50 per night in high season.

Secure anchors

  • 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 huge superyachts, but the more modest-sized yachts head east of the bay and hide under the Cap d’Antibes between the Hotel Eden Roc and the small port. du Crouton. You will hold up well and be very well protected from any wind and waves with the east in it. You can leave the boat at the visitor dock in Port du Crouton and stroll around town to enjoy great provisions, restaurants, and the Little train to Antibes.
  • Cap d’Antibes – A number of small anchorages offer nice lunch stops, but they are not particularly well protected. Treat Anse de l’Aregnt Faux at the southern tip of Cap, the bay of The Garoupe for beach clubs and beach restaurants and the large anchorage east of Antibes for beautiful views of the old town.
  • Bay 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 cruises per day anchored here. Take the boat to the city pier and moor with the others. A lovely anchorage, very popular in summer during the day, quiet at night, but you may need to make use of a stern anchor to keep the boat in the prevailing swell coming straight out of the sea.
  • Anse de la Scaletta – hidden in Cap Ferrat and well protected from anything to the south, this shallow anchorage is another one of those places where you can stay for days. Paloma beach on the shore offers water sports during the day and romantic summer dinners by the beach. Easy access by boat 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 – Anchoring in good grip under the town of Roquebrune. Good shelter from the east but open to the swell from the south. Nice walk to the old town, stunning views of the riviera and the sandy beach with good snorkelling.
  • Cap Martin – the east side of the Cap is a good anchorage for lunch and can be used in very calm weather for an overnight stay. Sandy bottom with good grip, although quite deep, as it is restricted by a protected swimming area.

Helpful tips:

  • Stock up on groceries at large supermarkets when you can, as small-town supermarkets can be extremely expensive. However, local bakeries offer excellent value for the morning croissants and afternoon pastries.

  • Keep an eye on the weather, check every day on the radio and again with a local port, as national forecasts may miss local winds.

  • Book early in case of bad weather. If bad weather is coming, plan ahead and head to a good port. Remember, the least expensive ones fill first, so make sure you have your space.

  • Be safe in the sun. Always wear a hat and sunscreen and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and your energy levels high.

The French Riviera is really beautiful all year round. Although the best weather is during the summer months, May and October can be the perfect time to sail, with lower marina rates, quieter anchorages, and warm sunshine.