The French Riviera may be best known for its sparkle of celebrity glamour and tranquil blue-green coves, but there’s a truly wild side to the South of France too (and we’re not just talking about the champagne-spraying debauchery of a summer’s night in Saint Tropez.)
If you’re looking for thrills of a different kind, the magnificent landscapes of the Cote d’Azur make this region a dazzling adventure playground for sport-lovers, with the rugged Alps plummeting steeply down to the sea and vast limestone canyons shearing through the hills of Provence. Rock climbers cling to overhangs suspended far above Monaco, and mountain-bikers plunge down vertiginous paths in the forested hills, where wild deer perch on red rocks that burn deep ochre against a Mediterranean sky. Kayakers and white-water rafters navigate the milky-blue rapids of Alpine mountain streams, F1 cars scream around Provencal racetracks, and paragliders soar from rocky precipices and float right down to the sea. As summer passes, snow cloaks the Alps with a heavy mantle, and skiers and snowboarders shred through powdery drifts at one of the many ski resorts within an easy drive of the sunny Cote d’Azur.
If it is active adventure you seek on holiday, you will find it in spades in the South of France.
Adventure in Luxury on a French Riviera Yacht Charter
The French Riviera is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise, and a South of France yacht charter offers the ultimate mix of adventure sports and decadent indulgence, as you drift effortlessly down the coast from Monaco to St Tropez and fill each day with a different activity.
On a Cote d’Azur yacht charter, you might start the day with an early morning swim off the aft deck in the Cannes Islands or take a quick spin on the yacht’s jet skis to get the heart racing, before fuelling up for the day’s activities with a lavish breakfast on deck. The yacht’s broker, captain and crew are on hand to tailor-make an adventure sports itinerary that will linger in your memory forever.
And when the sport is finished, there’s nothing better than returning to your yacht in the afternoon, cooling off with a swim, or soaking tired muscles in the Jacuzzi as the yacht powers across the water to the next destination. Each night, enjoy a dreamy soft bed and the sound of the water lapping gently at the hull – no packing and moving between hotels as you float along this marvellous stretch of coastline. There is no better way on this earth to adventure in luxury than on a superyacht charter.
Adventure Sports Activities in the South of France
Formula One Racing
Ever watched the Monaco Grand Prix and fancied yourself as a race car driver? Well the French Riviera is the place to tick that experience off your bucket list, with a range of motorsport experiences and track days available.
There’s a few ways you can experience the thrill of the supercar experience on the Cote d’Azur – and some are more hard core than others. There are multiple operators running both passenger and driver + instructor experiences driving supercars through the rock tunnels and street circuit of Monaco and along the open highway. You can also privately rent some pretty spectacular road cars in this neck of the woods, from the legendary Porsche 911 Turbo S to Ferrrari’s F12 Berlinetta, or experience the brutal power of the Lamborghini Aventador S. However, you will have to be content with driving within the speed limit – still a pretty intense and glamorous thrill in these extraordinary machines.
For the full-throttle experience, you’ll want a track day, and there’s no better place to do it than at the AGS Formule One Racetrack on the Circuit du Var, only 30kms from St Tropez. Running since 1992, these track days put motorheads behind the wheel of a real F1 car for a half or full day of instruction and G-Force bending speeds, as they learn with either manual or paddlebox gearboxes. If you just want the experience of travelling at Formula One speeds but don’t want to be behind the wheel, there’s also passenger experiences on offer.
You’ll be absolutely buzzing when you get back to the yacht – but chances are, you’ll want to get out to the clubs of St Tropez or Monaco to keep the adrenaline going (and maybe rub shoulders with a few real-life racing car drivers at the bar). For the ultimate motorsport vacation, ask your yacht broker to plan these experiences during a Monaco Grand Prix yacht charter.
Prefer to use your muscles than a machine to get your thrills? The French Riviera has some tremendous rock-climbing on offer, whether you want to dangle high above Monaco on the Grand Face Route at La Turbie, or head to the Gorge du Loup in the foothills for multi-pitch routes up to 300m high including the famous Divers Crag. Rock climbers also flock to Europe’s deepest gorge, the staggering Gorge du Verdon in the Provencal hills, the Caves of Peillon, and the Cliff of Geit at Mont St Martin.
For rock-climbing right on the coast in view of your yacht, there’s no better than scaling the Calanques cliffs near Cassis, where the yacht anchors in natural fjords riven into the high limestone coast, in dreamy turquoise water straight out of a travel magazine. Finishing the climb, you’ll reward yourself with a swim off the back of the yacht and a long lunch on deck, or head to La Chateau Sormiou restaurant right in the Calanques to enjoy a seafood meal by the water.
There’s also some superb wineries to visit in the area, which we’ve written about before: the perfect indulgent reward after a morning of exertion.
Kayaking, White Water Rafting & Canyoning
Because the Alps plunge so steeply towards the sea in the South of France, there are a multitude of Alpine streams and snow-melt rivers within easy reach of the coast. A day in a kayak or raft in the French high country is a thing lifetime memories are made of, as you paddle maniacally through rapids, squeeze between narrow canyon walls, and manoeuvre past giant boulders, only to pass into areas of calm water surrounded by wildflower meadows and grazing cows with tinkling cowbells. A lunch in a mountain restaurant with a terrace view is the perfect complement to the experience, before heading back down to the yacht and its waiting Jacuzzi to soothe those screaming muscles. You won’t know if you’re living the life of Bear Grylls or Heidi Klum on a day like this.
There are several locations to get your white water thrills in the South of France, with a couple of standouts. The Roya River at Breil sur Roya lies in the Pre-Alps about one hour from Monaco, and offers a huge amount of adventure, from white water rafting to hydrospeed to canyoning, canoe and kayak-rafting, and aquatic hikes.
The other rafting playground is the mighty Gorge du Verdon, where every adventure sport you can imagine takes place in the ribbon of electric blue water that tumbles through the gorge. It’s a two-hour drive from Cannes or St Tropez, but believe us, it’s a day you’ll never forget.
Bungee Jumping and Sky Diving
If you love falling from a great height while on holiday, there’s a few places to get your kicks in the South of France. For bungee-jumping, it’s hard to go past the Gorge du Verdon, where you’ll launch yourself off Europe’s highest bridge, Pont l’Artuby, 182m above the river and rocks below. For an option at the Nice end of the coast, head into the hills to the Pont de la Mariee bridge, where 80m of adrenaline-pumping freefall awaits.
For skydiving thrills head to Cannes, where you can see all the glories of the French Riviera – beaches, mountains, and yachts spread out like specks of white on the blue – spread out before you as you plummet to earth from 4000 metres. You may need to calm your racing heart with a restorative cocktail at a Cannes beach club afterwards, or stay on the yacht for glamorous drinks and canapes at sunset.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Yes, you read that right. You might be surprised to see skiing listed as an adventure sport to be combined with yacht charter, but as we wrote last winter, there are some exceptional opportunities to combine sunny seaside pleasures with snow sports during a spring yacht charter along the French Riviera.
After all, the French Riviera is quite famously one of the few places on earth where you can be making tracks down Alpine slopes in the morning, only to be sipping a rose in the spring sunshine in a Cannes beach club in the afternoon. For information on which resorts have the best spring skiing in the South of France and what you might do on a ski yacht charter, check out our article here.
Paragliding and Hang Gliding
If you look up from your yacht while in Monaco, you’ll often see the shapes of paragliders drifting down from the mountains that rise up sheer from the coast. The incredible thermal currents created at this meeting point of Alps and sea make Monaco/Roquebrune one of the best hang-gliding locations in Europe – so good in fact, that it’s chosen as the finish line of the Red Bull X-Alps Challenge.
You can launch yourself from the Roquebrune platform (there’s a great paragliding club there) and take in the monumental view of the mountains, sea and the skyscrapers of Monaco below you, before landing gently on the beach. What an experience!
However, these gliding sports are only permitted around Monaco between October to April, so this is an adventure sport for either an early-autumn or spring yacht charter.
With so many blisteringly good mountain biking trails in the South of France, you may want to bring your mountain bike onto the yacht with your luggage so you can head into the hills at any moment – although there are plenty of high-end rental opportunities available too.
The varied terrain and altitudes of the South of France makes for some simply incredible mountain biking, with a dizzying number of world-class routes.
Get your heart pumping and your endorphins soaring as you tear down the trails at Peille, the training ground of world champions, or pelt along the Balconies d’Azur track, with its majestic views of the distant sea. Sospel is a magnet for advanced mountain bikers, while the Circuit du Thonde in the stunning red rock landscapes of the Esterel is a beauty for the less experienced.
These are just a few of the adventure sport activities in the region. Immerse yourself in adventure with a French Riviera luxury yacht charter through the South of France experts at Bespoke Yacht Charter.