Saint-Raphaël on the French Riviera? The traveler’s guide
Lying in the middle of the French Riviera coast, at the eastern end of the Var department, Saint-Raphaël is one of the most popular seaside resorts on the French Riviera. In the middle of a coastline made up of beaches, coves and creeks, Saint Raphael stand at the point where the Esterel hills reach the sea. With its Mediterranean climate and over 130km2 of national forest, the area attracts hiking and cycling enthusiasts all year round.
Saint-Raphaël became a seaside resort in the second half of the 19th century when the Saint-Raphaël Valescure station was built in the town centre. Many writers, including Victor Hugo, have lived or stayed in Saint-Raphaël.
In the good old days, many personalities went to the golden island where many social celebrations took place. Private and self-proclaimed kingdom, this island where a sublime red stone tower sits enthroned is located near the Dramont beach. Hergé, creator of The Adventures of Tintin, would have been inspired by this island in his album L’Île Noire released in 1937.
On August 15, 1944, part of the Allied landing took place on the beach in front of the Golden Island. In total, nearly 900 boats and 450,000 men landed between Cavalaire and Saint Raphael, before pushing northwards to liberate France.
Saint-Raphaël and its districts
The Saint-Raphaël commune (municipality) stretches for 24 km along the Mediterranean coast, between the Esterel hills and the sea, making it the second most extensive coastal commune on the Mediterranean after Marseilles. Like many seaside resorts, it is made up of a number of districts that were, in the past, separate locations. On account of the terrain, most of the coastal development to the east of the central area is squeezed in between the hills and the sea.
Anthéor le Trayas :
At the eastern end of Saint Raphaël, where the Esterel hills meet the Mediterranean, the district of Anthéor le Trayas offers magnificent wild landscapes with a succession of creeks of red rocks and hidden beaches. Most of the houses here look out over the sea. The famous Corniche d’Or road leads along the coast, offering spectacular coastal views.
The town centre :
Between the railway station and the sea, the old town centre offers plenty of opportunity for shopping and eating out in restaurants by the sea. Notre Dame de la Victoire basilica, built in 1882, stands close to the prehistory museum with its remarkable display of remains discovered during underwater excavations. Another museum devoted to French comedian Louis De Funès museum has more than 350 of the actor’s personal documents. On the sea front the Promenade des Bains and Veillat beach offer spectacular views out over the bay.
Between Anthéor and Cape Dramont, Agay is a district appreciated for its three fine sandy beaches and the summit of Rastel from where one can look out over the whole bay. Agay is a natural gateway to the Esterel massif giving access to superb hiking and mountain bike trails. Some famous French writers, including Maupassant and St-Exupéry, once lived in Agay,
Cape Dramont :
Cape Dramont is one of the most visited areas of Saint Raphael thanks to the Ile D’or and its large beach where the allies landed on August 15, 1944. Very popular with hikers, the walks to Cap Dramont offer richly coloured Mediterranean landscapes.
Boulouris is a residential area appreciated for its many small cove-like beaches unknown to tourists. In the middle of slightly aging houses, we discover superb villas from the Belle Epoque.
Lying inland from the coast, Valescure, known as “the golf district” is a quiet leafy residential area,with many elegant villas, prestigious hotels and well-kept gardens. Golfing enthusiasts appreciate the two 18-hole courses, one dating from the early twentieth century, and a 9-hole beginners’ course for the less experienced.
Like all seaside resorts, Saint-Raphaël offers many water activities such as jet skiing, kitesurfing, parasailing, excursions, boat cruises and scuba diving. You can also play golf, tennis or take hikes such as the coastal path or mountain bike rides. For admirers of Belle Epoque villas, the city offers two routes to discover them, one in the Notre-Dame district, the other in Valescure. For the bravest, you can try your hand at rock climbing or tree climbing, karting or paintball.
Many amusement parks are located nearby such as Luna Park, Aqualand or Funcity. About fifty kilometers away is the Marineland of Antibes, where you will discover killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, and a superb aquarium with many species of sharks.
Remarkable sites :
Notre Dame Basilica :
The Notre Dame de la Victoire basilica built in the 19th century, located in the city center is the most emblematic monument of Saint Raphael. It is built in the local pink Estérel sandstone and is easily recognizable thanks to its huge dome and the superb golden statue of the Archangel Raphael, symbol of the town, which proudly adorns the top of the dome.
The Museum of Prehistoric and Underwater Archaeology:
The archaeological museum offers you a journey through time. Discover prehistoric relics, Roman shipwrecks and the secrets of the medieval church.
The Louis de Funès Museum :
Almost half a century after his death, Louis de Funès remains one of France’s iconic actors, and his films are still as popular today as ever. Visit this fabulous museum with the family and discover the world of the actor as well as many documents such as personal photographs of filming and sequences of films that were never released.
L’ile d’or :
This privately owned island was the location for many sumptuous receptions during the Roaring Twenties. Located opposite the beach of Cap du Dramont, this rocky island with its large tower, is said to have been the inspiration for “L’ile Noir”, one of the most popular Tintin albums.
Le sentier du littoral :
Former customs officers’ route, this path starting at Port Santa Lancia and ending in Agay will make you discover all the beauty of the Saint-Raphaëloise coast between coves and fine sandy beaches. The hike takes about 2h30.
Les plus belles plages de Saint Raphael
AGAY BEACH :
The fine sandy beach of Agay is one of the most extensive and popular beaches in Saint Raphaël.
CAMP LONG BEACH:
A listed Estérel beach with 150 m of sand in a closed bay from where the coastal path arrives.
The landing beach:
A remarkable site for a family picnic protected by century-old pines, this beach has rest areas and a 200-space car park. For swimming it is not ideal because the edge of the beach is composed of pebbles.
Veillat BEACH :
The Veillat beach located in the city center is ideal for night walks at the exit of the restaurants.
Saint AIGULF BEACH :
Located a few kilometers from Saint Raphael, Saint-Aygulf beach is certainly the most beautiful in the region. 800m long, it offers a view of the entire bay of Saint Raphael and its very gradual drop is ideal for young children.