10 French bays that will take your breath away

Nothing beats a great view. France's coastlines are a feast for the eyes from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, from the Tyrrhenian Sea south of Corsica to the Caribbean Sea lapping the French Antilles, and even as far as New Caledonia in the Pacific. Here's our selection of France's most beautiful bays to stand and stare at, with hair blowing in the breeze...

The Bay of the Somme, Northern France

Dunes, sandbanks, marshes and salt meadows… plus seals popping up a few metres from the shore and over 360 species of migratory birds passing through each year. The Baie de Somme (Somme Bay) in Northern France is an exceptional site for walks and wildlife watching, classified as a nature reserve. Here, the river joins the English Channel with a 70-kilometre estuary that can be enjoyed on foot, by bike or by kayak. It's as though you're immersed in a vast, ever-changing landscape.

Bay of the Somme (External link)

The Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy

A pearl in France's coastal crown, the Mont-Saint-Michel rises like a mirage at the heart of an immense bay that succumbs to the highest tides in Europe. When the mount and its abbey become an island again for a few hours, it's a real spectacle - but the site can be reached by a footbridge even at high tide. At low tide, crossing the bay on foot is an unforgettable experience. A local guide will recount the legends of this unique place while you're ankle-deep in the sand.

The Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel (External link)

Quiberon Bay, Brittany

The iodised scent of seaweed, the squawking of gulls off the long Quiberon peninsula, islands thrown into the sea like wreaths of flowers... Belle-Ile, Houat and Hoëdic are the three jewels of the Bay of Quiberon. Together with the Gulf of Morbihan and its own enchanting islets, it forms a world-famous site in southern Brittany. The region's other bays are equally beautiful: Audierne, Douarnenez, Morlaix, Saint-Brieuc and Saint-Malo. Which will get your vote?

Quiberon Bay (External link)
Gulf of Morbihan (External link) (French only)

La Baule Bay, Pays de la Loire

Between Pornichet and Pouliguen, La Baule's 9km-long sandy beach fringes a perfectly rounded bay. Beach clubs and watersports, colourful cabins and restaurants provide entertainment on the waterfront while on the embankment, you can stroll or cycle with the Isle of Evens in sight. Nestled in the streets behind the seafront, beautiful Art-Deco and Belle-Epoque villas take you back in time, in the shade of tall pine trees.

La Baule Bay (External link)

The Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Basque Country

From the top of the Rhune, the highest point in the Basque Country which can be reached by small cogwheel train, is a fantastic panoramic view across the Atlantic. The bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is part of the scenery, peaceful and well protected from the ocean waves by the large Socoa pier and the dykes of Sainte-Barbe and Artha. We recommend the walk along the beach to the fort, passing through the little port of Ciboure - to be combined with a crossing on the Passeur, the bay's pleasure boat.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz Bay (External link)

The Bay of La Ciotat, Provence

Between Marseille and Toulon, Provence also boasts one of the most beautiful bays in the world, the latest in France to join the exclusive club that recognises them. The bay of La Ciotat, nicknamed the 'Gulf of Love', deserves its superlatives. From the Bec de l'Aigle to Pointe du Défens, it's a series of picturesque coves set at the foot of golden cliffs, with calanques (creeks) of turquoise water. The Grand and Petit Mugel coves are popular for picnics, affording particularly breathtaking views facing Ile Verte.

La Ciotat Bay (External link)

The Bay of Angels, Nice, Cote d'Azur

Who are these angels? If you believe the legend, they were the angels that brought Adam and Eve here after they'd been driven out of paradise, choosing them the lushest and most beautiful place on the coastline. From Cap d'Antibes to Nice and its legendary Promenade des Anglais, the Baie des Anges couldn't be more perfectly situated, along a Côte d'Azur lapped by the big blue. Its full splendour is best appreciated from the hilltop villages of Saint-Paul-de-Vence or Eze, from where the view stretches as far as the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.

Nice Tourism (External link)

The Gulf of Porto, Corsica

Red granite cliffs jutting into a deep blue Mediterranean with the heady scents of the sun-soaked maquis. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Gulf of Porto in southern Corsica is arguably most impressive at sunset. Taking the coastal road along from the Calanques of Piana to the Girolata peninsula and the Scandola nature reserve, there are countless dizzying drops and sumptuous views.

Visit Corsica (External link)

Fort-de-France Bay, Martinique

Also known as the Baie des Flamands, Fort-de-France Bay in Martinique is best appreciated from the water - you can board the shuttle boat that runs several times daily between bustling Fort-de-France and the peaceful village of Trois-Ilets. To the north, the Pitons du Carbet, popular with experienced hikers, clings to the blue of the sky. To the south, Cap Salomon hints at the beaches of Anses d'Arlet, a snorkelling and turtle-watching paradise. Hard to know where to begin...

Fort-de-France Bay (External link)

Les Saintes Bay, Guadeloupe

There's nothing more breathtaking than arriving via the turquoise Caribbean Sea into the bay of Les Saintes, a string of miniature islands off Guadeloupe. In view of Terre-de-Haut, there's Pointe Coquelet on one side and Pain de Sucre on the other. Between the two, a fringe of sandy coves nestles at the foot of green hills dotted with coloured houses. There are no cars on the island - so it's bikes or scooters up to Fort Napoleon for another sublime view of the bay.

Bay of Les Saintes (External link)