Of all the beaches of the Côte d’Azur, and in fact the entire planet, Pampelonne Beach in Ramatuelle, close to St Tropez in the south of France has to be the most famous. This legendary 4.5 kilometre strip of beach is hallowed territory to the world’s jetset and glitterati during summer months and photos of a myriad of celebrities from genuine A-listers to rather too many Z-listers, dining and sunning themselves at Pampelonne Beach’s many beach clubs fill the gossip magazines found at every airport and railway station around the world.
Pampelonne Beach is actually not even located in St Tropez itself, but rather in the neighbouring commune of Ramatuelle. The beach is located approximately 5 kilometres from the town of St Tropez. As you can imagine, traffic in the summer season is a nightmare and the only real way to arrive at one of Pampelonne’s beach clubs looking cool and unflustered is to do so by on a charter yacht from St Tropez! Every morning, a chorus of engines starts up in the Old Port of St Tropez as perfectly bronzed Chanel and Vilebrequin clad guys and girls board their “taxis” to take them to the Pampelonne Beach! In July and August, the entire bay is a pretty carpet of glimmering vessels of all shapes and sizes. From 100 metre monsters belonging to Russian oligarchs through to scores of small(ish) Rivas, Sunseekers and the like taking their happy sailors to that 3pm lunch of grilled gambas washed down with Cristal champagne that just seems so right in this part of the world. Immaculately dressed crew members ferry their owners and guests ashore on tenders.
And for those of us not fortunate enough to own or charter a yacht with four 12 metre ribs on deck, the beach clubs at Pampelonne Beach have water taxis to come and collect charter guests and take them ashore where magnums of Domaine Ott rosé and fabulous food await. Unlike the beaches of Cannes and Juan Les Pins, Pampelonne Beach really is a true beach, glorious deep white sand stretches out into fabulous azure blue water that gently slopes away into the bay. Most of the Côte d’Azur’s other beaches (with the exception of the gorgeous Plage Mala in Cap d’Ail) are bordered by roads, apartment buildings and even railway tracks! This is not the case with Pampelonne Beach! Looking back from the beach, one sees sand dunes and tasteful villas, almost hidden in the trees and the vineyards covering the gentle slopes up to the pretty hilltop village of Ramatuelle. Pampelonne Beach is a very special place, and even in July and August, one still has a sense of space unlike some of the other French Riviera beaches, where people really are packed in like sardines!
Of course, being in fabulously socialist France, much of Pampelonne Beach is public, but given that most people chartering luxury yachts absolutely have to be served by that cute guy with the long hair and unbelievable tan, we’re going to focus on the many private beach clubs that Pampelonne Beach has to offer! There are more than 25 beach clubs on Pampelonne Beach offering something to suit every taste. You do not need to be a millionaire to come here as most of these beaches offer sunbeds from around €30-40. How much you spend on drinks is of course totally up to you!
Here are 5 of the Best Beach Clubs at Pampelonne Beach
The original St Tropez beach club, the one that started it all! Club 55 or just “55” as it is known to most people came about when Brigitte Bardot and film director Roger Vadim were shooting the movie “And God Created Woman” in St Tropez in 1955. A hut was set up on Pampelonne Beach to serve the cast and crew food and drinks. The actors moved on but the hut remained and became probably the world’s first beach club! Club 55 is an institution and unlike many other similar places, never goes in and out of fashion! I am sure that many yacht captain’s have the telephone number for Club 55 etched into their brains alongside that of their owner, their engineer and their wife! Not that it is hard to remember, ending as it does 55 55 55.
Club 55 has an understated elegance. It is chic and most definitely not flashy. The stories you hear of raucous table dancing and champagne showers are more likely to have taken place at one of Club 55’s upstart neighbours. Think monied families from England and the USA enjoying long beach lunches of grilled fish and Côte de Provence rosé. The decor is simple, powder blue and white. The staff are professional and remarkably friendly even on incredibly busy August afternoons. The food is simple but exceptionally good. Starters include their famous Crudités with a fabulous (secret) dipping sauce, as well as great salads, parma ham and melon, all that one would expect to find on a menu under the Mediterranean sun. Main courses include steaks and other grilled meats but it’s really fish that one should be eating here. There’s something so right about eating grilled fresh fish with your feet in the sand and at Club 55, they do fish very well indeed! Try the Gambas, the Daurade or the Sea-bass, you will not be disappointed! Desserts are great with lots of fresh fruit and beautiful pastries, and of course all the usual sorbets and ice creams. The wine list is good but there is only really one thing to drink here and that is rosé from Côte de Provence, anything else would just be slightly bizarre!
Le Club 55 – 43 Boulevard Patch, 83350 Ramatuelle, France – Tel. +33 4 94 55 55 55 – www.club55.fr
Bagatelle Beach is a pretty trendy place and popular with a younger crowd. There are regular fashion shows and DJs provide a cool beach soundtrack throughout the day. The atmosphere at Bagatelle is a relaxed one with sublime food and friendly staff. The standard of the food is really a cut above the usual beach fare on offer on the Côte d’Azur and this is a very pleasant lunch spot. The beach is well laid out with about 200 matelas and very friendly and efficient plagistes serving you whatever you’d like throughout the day.
Bagatelle Beach – Route de l’Epi, Plage de Pampelonne, 83350 Ramatuelle, France – Tel. +33 4 94 79 83 25 – bagatelle.com/venues/st-tropez
Club Les Palmiers
Decked out all in white, Club Les Palmiers is in many ways the most elegant of Pampelonne’s beach clubs. A very international crowd come together in this super chic environment, with designer furniture, huge mirrors and amazingly large sunbeds! An excellent DJ spins cool tunes that are a perfect match for the location and the people that come here. Really good food and in our experience, friendly service even when they are very busy. Book well in advance in the summer!
Club Les Palmiers – Route de l’Epi, Plage de Pampelonne, 83350 Ramatuelle, France – Tel. +33 4 94 79 82 70 – www.clublespalmiers.com
Nikki Beach St Tropez
Nikki Beach St Tropez is the place everyone talks about! Much is written about Nikki Beach St Tropez, some of it true, some not. Is it true that people come to Nikki Beach St Tropez and spray €20,000 bottles of champagne all over people they’ve never met? Yes! Is it true that there is a guy that rides a jet ski in the swimming pool? Yes! What’s also true is that this is one of the most fun places for anyone to come to in St Tropez and have a great day! Nikki Beach St Tropez is not really a beach at all, more of a club/resort with large sunbeds set around a large swimming pool. This place has an incredible atmosphere and everyone should come here once. You may go away wondering how somewhere could possibly be so tacky, or you may go away having had one of the most fun days of your life. One thing that is certain is that this place does exactly what it promises and it is exceedingly well run. Part of the global Nikki Beach chain with establishments everywhere from Miami to Ibiza, this place attracts big name DJs like David Guetta and Bob Sinclar. Nikki Beach St Tropez also hosts numerous parties and events throughout the summer, everything from 4th of July celebrations to Ibiza themed parties. Come here once, with an open mind, order a very large bottle of Champagne and a boatload of sushi, you’ll love it!
Nikki Beach St Tropez – Route de l’Epi, Plage de Pampelonne, 83350 Ramatuelle, France – Tel. +33 4 94 79 82 04 – www.nikkibeach.com/destinations/beach-clubs/st-tropez/
Instantly recognisable by its’ orange parasols and sunbeds, Tahiti Beach is one of the oldest beach clubs in the south of France. This beach is not about being seen, but rather about having a really good time. They do fun and they do it really well. Great food in beautiful surroundings, served by affable staff. You can’t really ask for more. As the name suggests, there is a Polynesian vibe going on here. Excellent fresh fish and superb cocktails. Uniquely for a beach club, Tahiti Beach also has a small hotel with 13 rooms. A wonderful oasis from which to escape the rat-race!
Tahiti Beach – Quartier du Pinet – 83350 Ramatuelle – France – Tel. +33 4 94 97 18 02 – www.tahiti-beach.com
The easiest way to get to Pampelonne Beach is by yacht. Whether you charter a 40ft Riva or a 250ft superyacht, Pampelonne Beach figures heavily on every south of France yacht charter itinerary!
This article was written by Alexander Coles, Senior Charter Broker at Bespoke Yacht Charter who have a combined 20 years experience arranging luxury yacht charters in St Tropez, the Cote d’Azur and throughout the Mediterranean.
To discuss your St Tropez yacht charter requirements, please contact: