Beachfront Property in France: Affordable Areas if You Look Hard

Beachfront Property In France
©iStock/Orietta Gaspari

France enjoys miles of stunning beachfront property. Depending on your preferences, you can choose between the calm, family-friendly resorts of the Normandy coast, the rugged beauty of the Celtic Brittany shores, the sandy immensity of the Landes, the thrill of the surf on the Atlantic by Biarritz, and the timeless charm of the Mediterranean in the south, among other destinations. Needless to say, this is not the cheapest sector of the property market, but on the whole, it represents good value, and there are still affordable areas if you look hard.

Beachfront Real Estate in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Picture-perfect harbors of azure water, with fishing boats bobbing or luxury yachts gleaming in the sun…old-timers (and the not so old) rolling up their shirt sleeves for a gentle game of pétanque under the shade of a plane tree…a cool glass of white wine or pastis at a café terrace overlooking the waves. Not for nothing has the Riviera become the most famous part of France after Paris, attracting stars, tourists, and retirees for decades.

Strung out between Hyères and the Italian border, 26 resorts line this turquoise coast of rust-colored cliffs. Although some of these resorts have become overbuilt, others retain a touch of class: Nice’s Promenade des Anglais is still one of the world’s most elegant seaside esplanades, Cannes continues to draw the stars and paparazzi for the annual film festival, and Cap Ferrat remains a discreet retreat for the very rich.

Prices are lower right now than they’ve been in a decade, both thanks to the strengthening US dollar and real estate heebie-jeebies left over from the economic crisis. You can find compact studios or even one bedrooms in these coastal towns for less than $150,000—but don’t expect much elbow room or a full-on view of the sea. If you’re lucky, you might be able to glimpse a tantalizing sliver of blue.

Marseilles, the regional capital of what is now known as the PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), while less glamorous, is getting a makeover and has oodles of atmosphere. A ready-to-move-in, one-bedroom apartment of 721 square feet with a balcony and glorious views of the surrounding hillside can be found for $152,000.A similarly-sized apartment with a sea view will likely cost at least $180,000.

Beachfront Real Estate in the Languedoc

This is the “other” South of France, the Midi, stretching down toward the Spanish border, and although prices are catching up, property is still not at Riviera levels yet, so now is the time to look. Collioures is one of this region’s gems, a seaside town of pastel-colored houses complete with cathedral and castle, and popular with artists. Sainte-Marie-la-Mer boasts sandy beaches for relaxed family vacations, and the sunny, laidback town of Gruissan with its wild sand dunes was immortalized in the film Betty Blue. And don’t ignore Sète, arguably the most authentic harbor town in France. An enchanting town in its own right, it also has an eight miles stretch of golden beaches that few people outside of France know about.

Beachfront Property on the Aquitaine Coast

This region offers challenging Atlantic waves at the imperial resort of Biarritz in the south and vaster beaches in the flat, pine-shaded Landes stretching as far as tranquil Arcachon—a second-home mecca for the wealthy of Bordeaux and beyond.

If you’re looking for a spring and summer retreat or to invest in rental property, then perhaps the beach resorts in the Landes are for you. They spring to life every year with French holiday-makers, families, lone surfers, and sailing enthusiasts, and you can easily find studios for less than $150,000. Houses requiring only minor fixing up can be had just as cheaply if you don’t mind venturing further inland.

Beachfront Property in Normandy

With its 400 miles of clean, uncrowded coastline, and easy access to Paris, beach land and beach lots here are much sought after–you’ll be competing with Parisians looking for an easy weekend getaway. And thanks to the arrival of a low-cost airline in Deauville, you’ll encounter many Brits eager for the same. Low-key Trouville-ser-Mer is popular with families, yet close enough to the casinos of Deauville for entertainment. Noticeably less expensive than Deauville, even though it’s only separated by a small river, Trouville is the better value. The pretty port town of Honfleur still draws crowds at weekends except in the depths of winter, and the old-fashioned resort of Granville has a slow charm of its own.

Beachfront Properties in Brittany

No place in Brittany is more than an hour’s drive from the sea. The western coastline has stunning rock formations, secret bays, and tiny harbor towns that caught the eye of many a pirate in days past. Along the south are warmer sandy beaches and mysterious Neolithic monuments. Inland property is among the cheapest in France, even for coastal homes.