I have never loved the South of France more than when we travelled in our campervan along the incredible French Riviera coastline 2 years ago. It enabled us to create the most amazing memories and we are going to share our exact route with you in this Ultimate Southern France Road Trip Itinerary blog post. Trust me you are going to want to steal this itinerary!
Most people fly to the South of France and plonk themselves down on a beach in Nice for a week or two. But I can honestly say that you are doing your vacation a disservice if you don’t consider visiting some of the most amazing locations that the South of France has to offer by vehicle. Road trips are where it’s at and I am so excited to show you why.
If you have always dreamed of visiting the French Riviera and want to explore more than one place then this blog post is perfect for you. Heck, even if you just need some major inspiration for new locations on the Côte d’Azur then you are on to a winner. Detailed below are some favourites on the Southern France road trip itinerary route and some places you will probably not have heard of before! Dig in and get planning the best Southern France vacation.
Menton is in the most south easterly location in southern France. It is in the Provence-Alpes- Côte d’Azur region on the French Riviera. It borders Italy and is the first stop on our road trip itinerary along the Mediterranean coast.
We first came across Menton on Instagram. It has become super popular to take photos here because the seaside town has many beautifully colourful houses that line the beach front. Not only is it super picturesque but the beach is perfect for spending the day relaxing. There are trendy beach bars and water misters on the boardwalk – perfect for cooling down from the summer sun.
The hilly medieval town is home to Basilique Saint-Michel, with its 18th-century bell tower, and the ornate facade of La Chapelle des Pénitents-Blancs. Known for its beaches and exotic botanical gardens, make sure to visit this relatively unknown but up and coming town on your trip to the French Riviera.
How long to spend in Menton?
You could easily spend 2-3 days here if you were wanting to relax and have plentiful beach days. We visited for 1 day and got a vibe for the place.
You cannot come to the Côte d’Azur and not take a day trip to the Principality of Monaco for the day. If you are feeling fancy then spend a night or two here. There are so many things that you can see and do here that will simply take your breath away. Monaco is just one of a kind. From the influx of luxury cars driving around to the super yachts anchored off in the harbour.
When you come to Monaco you have to visit the infamous Monte Carlo Casino. This iconic casino has been a set to James Bond movies and entertained countless celebrities. Step inside to marvel in all its glory and maybe play a hand or two at black jack or roulette. Ensure you are dressed appropriately otherwise you will not be allowed in. Outside take note of the valet parking countless luxury sports cars and visit the luxury boutiques in the area.
Opposite the Monte Carlo Casino is the palace style Belle Époque 5* Hermitage Hotel setting you back £400-500 per night. A top location to witness the Monaco Grand Prix as the track runs straight past the hotel. I also recommend visiting the Princes Palace of Monaco – home to the Prince of Monaco.
Once you have left Monaco for the day then you have to visit this next secret spot. We came across it by chance and it quickly became one of the most incredible sites on our entire trip.
The Tête de Chien (Dogs Head) viewpoint is a 550m high rock that has stunning panoramic views overlooking Monaco. The views are literally incredible – come for sunrise and sunset to get the best views with the city lights and ocean in the background. Just a 20 minute drive away this is an absolute highlight of the trip.
Distance from Menton to Monaco – 10km and a 25 minute drive.
A gateway to southern France and the French Riviera, Nice is where you can easily fly into from anywhere around the world. Nice is known for its beautiful beaches and fantastic climate. Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th-century European elite, the city has also long attracted artists. Henri Matisse used to live here and is honoured in the Musée Matisse with his career spanning paintings.
You could easily spend your days laying on the beaches here, eating in the beach front restaurants or jumping off the rocks but there is so much more to the French Riviera than this gateway city.
How long to spend in Nice?
A lot of people fly into Nice and stay for their week long vacation, but 1/2 nights will be enough because this itinerary is all about seeing the best of the best.
Distance from Monaco to Nice – 20km and 28 minute drive
You will most likely have heard of Cannes due to the fact that it hosts the famous annual Cannes International Film Festival. We fell in love with Cannes for its glorious white sandy beaches. I also absolutely adored Boulevard de la Croisette – lined with upmarket boutiques and palatial hotels overlooking the ocean.
Cannes is a lot smaller than Nice and I think that is why we loved it so much. There is glitz and glamour but also families on the beaches – it’s a place for everyone.
The sunsets in Cannes are stunning and this resort town just stole our heart. They also host beach front open air concerts and we were lucky enough to hear Sting perform at sunset. Make sure you keep an eye out for celebrities as they frequent this area and you can also find walk of fame style hand prints on the pavements.
How long to spend in Cannes?
I could easily come here for a week long trip. We spent 2/3 nights here and that was a great amount of time.
Distance from Nice to Cannes – 33km and 41 minute drive
If you are looking for a jet setter vibe then you need to visit Saint Tropez. The harbour is filled with super yachts, the beach front restaurants come classy nightclubs attract the social elite and the luxury boutiques line the streets. What used to be a fishing village that attracted artists is now a super yacht rich haven. There are lots of beaches here however they are spread out so you need a mode of transportation to visit them all. We didn’t like this fact about Saint Tropez but couldn’t deny its beauty and allure.
There are plenty of beach clubs that attract the social elite and it’s 100% a place that you come to be seen. Don’t let that distract you from its old school charm because it is a unique place to visit.
How long to spend in Saint Tropez?
We spent 1 night in Saint Tropez which was enough for us to explore the town. You could easily spend 2/3 nights here.
Distance from Cannes to Saint Tropez – 86km and 1 hr 22 minute drive
Since 1981 Moustiers Sainte-Marie has been voted as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region and lies at the western entrance to the Gorges Du Verdon.
We came here by chance and did not regret it. The small village filled with limestone pastel coloured houses sits at the base of steep rocky cliffs. Many come here to walk up the many steps that cling to the cliffside to reach Notre Dame de Beauvoir. Climb 262 steps to the reach the 12th Century chapel and be rewarded with views of the valley below.
We also tasted a local delicacy here – incredibly delicious Lavender ice cream. It is an absolute must to visit this small village, home to just 700 people. Tourism is their main form of income and there are many places to stay including large campsites. It also happens to be next to one of the most incredible locations on this road trip coming up next in the itinerary – Verdon Gorge.
How long to spend in Moustiers Sainte-Marie?
You could easily spend 2/3 nights here at a relaxed pace. We spent 1 night and it was enough to have stroll around town.
Distance from Saint Tropez to Moustiers Sainte-Marie – 102km and 1hr 55 minute drive
The deepest gorge in France, Gorges du Verdon (Verdon Gorge in English) is located in the heart of Provence. It will undoubtedly take your breath away. You get a hint of the incredible views on the drive in through the winding cliff sides. When you start to see a hint of turquoise then you know you have hit the jackpot. The area is named after the colour of the river which is a vibrant turquoise colour. “Gorges du Verdon” means “gorges of green” in French.
Popular with tourists but surprisingly a lot of people still haven’t heard about it. The best way to experience the scenery of Gorge du Verdon is to hire a boat or canoe and paddle down the river Verdon. The best view point to take photos of Gorges du Verdon is Pont du Galetas – a bridge overlooking the canyon and river. It is the entrance where you can access it and just underneath you can hire the boats and canoes. Get here early to secure a craft so you don’t miss out. Once you are inside the canyon prepare to be amazed. This is the ultimate day out and one you will never forget.
How long to spend in Gorges du Verdon?
You can come here for a day trip from the French Riviera or stay in Moustiers Sainte-Marie and spend a couple of nights in the area.
Distance from Moustiers Sainte-Marie to Verdon Gorge – 7km and 9 minute drive.
Infamous in lavender season, Valensole is an iconic location in Provence. The Valensole plateau has a kaleidoscopic swirl of lavender blue and wheaten gold. Come here in the right season and witness some of the most beautiful views and smells. With 300 days of sunshine a year, Valensole is true to its name: it comes from the Latin Vallis and solis and means valley of the sun.
The surrounding fields and winding roads around Valensole are why you come to this region. To witness the lavender harvest at its peak. The lavender fields stretch as far as the eye can see and offer the most beautiful panoramic views. The best time to visit for lavender season is from the last week of June to the beginning of August. Peak bloom is around mid-July – although this may vary year to year depending on the rainfall. You can also find sunflower fields blooming at the same time.
Travelling around here in our camper van was just incredible as we were able to park our van in a farmers field. Surrounded by fields of lavender and only the bees for company – it was truly heaven.
How long to spend in Valensole?
I would suggest spending 2/3 nights here to give you enough time to relax and see everything.
Distance from Verdon Gorge to Valensole – 35km and 42 minute drive
Cascade du Sautadet
On recommendation from my brother we visited the small town of La Roque Sur Cèze because it was close by to an extremely unique location- Cascade du Sautadet. They are incredible waterfalls created by the river Cèze and the perfect water playground for the day.
Come here for the day from La Roque Sur Cèze to experience a wonder of nature. Jump off rocks in to the river, lays in pools or shower under a waterfall. Bring you inflatable you want to float around and be prepared to spend a whole day to make the most of it.
Distance from Valensole to Cascade du Sautadet – 181km and 2hr 18 minute drive
Vallon Pont D’arc
The last stop on our itinerary is the beautiful Vallon Post D’arc in the Ardèche. It’s a gateway to the Ardèche Gorges, where the Ardèche River has carved a dramatic canyon through a limestone plateau. The village is named after the Pont D’arc – a huge natural rock arch.
The village is known and loved as the departure point for canoeing and kayaking down the Gorges of the Ardèche. This area is super popular for those interested in outdoor activities and families on summer vacations. The number of tourists here go up by tenfold during summer and it’s a playground for adventure enthusiasts. It also happens to be an incredibly beautiful area. You can camp along the river in many different spots or stay in some of the nearby holiday parks that cater to families.
How long to spend in Vallon Post D’arc?
With all of the activities that you can do here a week would be easy to fill. We spent 4-5 days here and loved it.
Distance from Cascade du Sautadet to Vallon Pont D’arc – 38km and 43 minute drive
The closest airport to Vallon Post D’arc is Nimes, so if this is where you road trip ends you can travel from there. It is approx 80km away.