Before moving to Montpellier in 2005, I hadn’t realised that the city isn’t actually situated on the beach. Montpellier is 15kms from the sea so if you want to hang out at the beach you need to head to one of the nearby beach towns; La Grande Motte, Carnon Plage or Palavas Les Flots.
La Grande Motte
La Grande Motte is the farthest of the three beaches but by far the nicest and my favourite. The not-quite-white sandy man-made beaches are quiet and calm for most of the year although you’d probably want to avoid it in August; peak holiday season in France.
What I love about the Grande Motte is the architecture. Built in the 60s, most of the buildings are in a similar pyramid-like style and even new builds must conform to this 60s look. So what you have is a beach town which is completely homogenous in style instead of the mix and match of architectural styles you see elsewhere. I think most people don’t like it but I find it really appealing and I love that the council is determined to maintain the look of the town.
Like much of this region, the beaches are man-made which gives it a kind of fake feel about it but at least it keeps the beach clean and tidy.
Carnon is quite close to Montpellier but is the least appealing of all the beaches. There are few cafes and shops by the beach and the houses are situated directly on the beach which I find a little odd. There are few distractions here so it’s the perfect beach if you just want to relax in the strong Mediterranean sun.
Palavas Les Flots
Palavas is a holiday town very popular with French tourists. It’s one of the cheaper beach locations on the Mediterranean so while the accommodation isn’t exactly 5 star, you can have an affordable holiday on a sandy beach with great fishing and hiking opportunities.
Palavas is much older than the Grande Motte and Carnon so there is a mixture of both old and new architecture including the neo-Romanesque church of Saint-Pierre and The Light House.
Palavas beach is where I had my first ever Nutella and chantilly cream crepe. It was amazing!
Between Montpellier and the beach you have a number of lagoons famous for its wildlife and in particular the stunning flamingos. The number of flamingos had dropped in the past but recent conservation efforts have seen a steady increase in their numbers. I didn’t see many on this trip but at certain times of the year you’ll see hundreds of them soaking up the sun as you drive around the area.
Photo Credit: boldorak2208
Montpellier is one of the sunniest cities in France which is why I’d recommend visiting in spring or early summer when it’s warm enough to swim but not overcrowded like in July and August. Don’t expect too much as far as beaches go though. It’s very sunny and the beaches are ok but they don’t compare to the beaches in my country.
Each of Montpellier’s beaches are easily reached from the city centre via public transport but I’d suggest hiring a car so you can spend time exploring the wetlands while you are there.