A Perfect French Riviera Getaway with Grand Hotel des Sablettes Plage

Neighboring towns like Toulon may steal the spotlight, but seaside La Seyne sur Mer is one of the best-kept secrets in the South of France for a reason. It makes a charming jumping-off point for exploring the region’s natural beauty, from Cassis’ limestone Calanques to Porquerolles Island’s white sandy shores. After settling into a suite at the new Grand Hotel des Sablettes Plage, venture out to sample the natural wonders (and famed wine) that La Seyne and its surroundings have to offer.

Grand Hotel des Sablettes Plage

A handful of hotels line La Seyne’s largest beach, Les Sablettes, but only the Grand Hotel des Sablettes Plage, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, truly captures the city’s maritime past. Set in a neoclassical building dating back to the 19th century, the boutique hotel’s renovated rooms show off nautical touches like vintage-style trunks and porthole-inspired mirrors. Suites step things up a notch with private whirlpool tubs on terraces overlooking the sea. Not only can you catch La Seyne’s signature golden sunset from your room, but you can also soak up prime views from the seasonal terraces at three restaurants, including haute French eatery, Horizon. 

The Coastal Culture

From the Cours Louis Blanc market in the center of La Seyne, a coastal road leads to the Promenade Jean Charcot. Along the way, visitors can spot Toulon’s naval ships resting in the base across the harbor. You can also dive deeper into La Seyne’s 500-year-old tradition of naval construction and maritime history at the 17th-century Balaguier Fort, a former gun tower turned museum. Crêperie Les Deux Frères on the Promenade Charcot shows off views of another famous landmark sprouting from the sea: the Deux Frères twin rocks. From Les Sablettes, a 25-minute ferry ride drops you off in Toulon next to the Cours Lafayette market, one of the area’s largest. Toulon is best seen from above, so hop on the red cable car to Mont Faron, with sweeping panoramic vistas from the terrace of the Tour Beaumont memorial museum. 

The Regional Flavors

Each part of the French Riviera and neighboring Provence boasts signature specialties, from Marseille’s bouillabaisse fish stew to Toulon’s chickpea “pancakes,” or cade. Near the city of La Seyne, starred French chefs like Lionel Lévy source rare products like native red Tamaris mussels from the bay, while the six-generation Jonquier family’s artisanal factory produces sweet almond- and honey-filled nougat. In the center of Toulon, restaurants such as Les Têtes d'Ail highlight Provençal flavors through locavore cuisine hailing from the Cours Lafayette market. If you’re eager to dine overlooking the sea, cliffside L'Oursinado in Le Pradet obliges nicely. And one of the most famous fish restaurants in the region, Le Poisson Rouge, also has a prime perch on Hyère’s port looking out to Porquerolles Island.

The Shopping in Bandol

Back in the 1920s, the coastal town of Bandol’s soirées and villas were the most glamorous in the Cap d’Antibes. These days, the town is more synonymous with rosé than royalty, drawing oenophiles to a terroir that’s supported vineyards since 600 B.C.E. To sample a selection of some of Bandol’s best wines in one place, pop in the Oenothèque des Vins de Bandol. Another way to savor specialties of the region is at the daily market on the Place de la Liberté or at Le Grand Marché, which pops up Tuesday mornings on the Quai Charles de Gaulle. This seafront strip is hard to miss with its buzzing bars and shops, such as Marseille-based sunglass boutique IYÜ Design. For shopping that’s less mainstream, vintage favorite Violette depot-vente lies just a few streets away.

The Breathtaking Scenery

In less than two hours, the landscape shifts completely from the ports of La Seyne sur Mer to plunging cliffs and gorges in Verdon Regional Nature Park, considered France’s Grand Canyon. There are numerous ways to enter the dramatic Gorges du Verdon, which dip down nearly 1,000 feet to rivers prime for kayaking. From the gateway village of Castellane, winding roads snake around lakes like the larger Sainte-Croix, with bright turquoise water best explored by pedal boat. The 120 million-year-old limestone Calanques are just as jaw dropping, stretching nearly 12 miles along the coast from Marseille to Cassis. During the summer months, it’s easy to go island hopping from La Seyne thanks to a direct ferry from Les Sablettes to Porquerolles Island, known for Caribbean-style beaches and pole-to-plate seafood restaurants, such as Le Pélagos.

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