St. Tropez See And Do
There are a few beaches on the Baie de St. Tropez, east of town, but most are along the beautiful Baie de Pampelonne, three miles southwest of town (technically in Ramatuelle). While a few are public, you can only access the worthiest stretches by paying admission to one of the beach clubs listed here. They're fancy affairs, with facilities including restaurants, lounge chairs, changing rooms, and showers, and occasionally dance floors and open-air hot tubs. Many have live DJs (forget about peace and quiet), and each has its own personality. Fees for private beaches average $20 to $40 for a dressing room and lounge chair. Expect lunch and drinks to be pricey, too.
La Voile Rouge
Plage de Pampelonne
Tel: 33 4 94 79 84 34
If you've never seen a group of five young women wearing nothing but spike heels and metallic bikini bottoms grinding together on tabletops, this infamously hedonistic beach club will change all that. Arrive pretanned and with at least two different "dry" outfits (one for lunch and another for lounging after a swim and a shower). Plenty of nudity and sexy high jinks earn this place an NC-17 rating. Open daily from 9 am.
Tel: 33 4 94 97 54 00
Not far from the center of town, this quiet, sandy beach club is ideal for families with children, since it overlooks the calmer, shallower waters of the bay. The stylish restaurant is a fashionable place to dawdle over grilled fish and a chilled bottle of rosé. Open daily 10 am to 7 pm.
Le Club 55
Plage de Pampelonne
Tel: 33 4 94 55 55 55
With a mix of French movie stars, Russian and Middle Eastern businessmen, and aristocratic young couples with children, Club 55 is often referred to as the Beverly Hills of beach clubs. Everyone seems to have a Vertu cell phone, a Louis Vuitton beach bag, and an impossibly expensive watch. (There's so much bling on display in St. Tropez that there's a special SOS number for jewelry lost while swimming.) Even if this sn't your scene, it's worth a once-in-a-lifetime visit for the human comedy alone. Open daily 9 am to 7 pm.
Plage de Pampelonne
Tel: 33 4 94 97 18 02
Long-running, exclusive, and expensive. The most common sound is the pop of Champagne corks. The guests are "mature" French showbiz types, but it's quieter since the opening of Nikki Beach. There's a hotel here as well, if you can't tear yourself away. Open daily 9 am to 7 pm.
Plage de Pampelonne
Tel: 33 4 94 79 82 04
Hangout of the same supertanned, blonde-streaked, designer-clad Euro crowd who spend winter roosting at the original Nikki Beach in Miami or the St. Barths branch. Disco music thumps away all day long, and the young rich get their kicks by spraying one another with bottles of icy bubbly. Expect men in leopard-print posing cups (think Speedos, but much, much smaller) and topless women in white cowboy hats. Open daily noon to 8 pm.
Plage des Graniers
A public beach located just below the citadel that overlooks the harbor, Graniers is the best bet for those without wheels or who don't want to get stuck in the traffic jams that begin and end any day at Pampelonne. It is free, and there is a restaurant on-site.
It seems a shame to be entirely shore-bound on your trip. For full access to the coastline and to taste the salt spray on your lips, rent a boat from Suncap, which has a variety of sizes and amenity-equipped motorized vessels (15 quai Suffren; 33-4-94-97-11-23; www.suncap.fr). Charters come with a captain and crew, and there are a number of vessels available. Zing over to Île de Porquerolles for lunch at Le Mas du Langoustier. Or take a slow trawl along the coastline and luxuriate in views of the plunging cliffs and small coves that beg for private picnics.
When you need a break from the exotic creatures on the ground, take to the waters with Octopussy, a well-regarded PADI diving outfit that sets up both experienced and novice divers in the marine-life-rich azure waters of the Baie de St. Tropez (33-4-94-56-53-10; www.octopussy.fr). Newbies have their own instructor to take them to depths of around 16 feet, where fish such as red mullet can be spied.
Quai Suffren in the Vieux Port
Tel: 33 4 94 54 40 61
This comfortable schooner with a friendly bilingual staff offers tours of the magnificent Baie de St. Tropez, with various departures through the day. A great way to get a sense of local geography or a breath of fresh air when the scene gets to be a little too Trop.
9 Rue Etienne Berny
Tel: 33 4 94 97 63 45
With so many rare and beautiful creatures flapping their wings around town, there's some poetic justice in the fact that St. Tropez has one of the best butterfly museums in the world. The collection belonged to the entomologist son of photographer J.H. Lartigue, and occupies his old Provençal-style house. Handsomely displayed under glass, it includes all 250 varieties of butterflies found in France. Harmlessly eccentric and surprisingly interesting.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 2:30 to 6 pm, April through November, or by appointment.
Tel: 33 4 94 17 84 10
A superb collection of paintings by artists who brought St. Tropez its initial renown, particularly pointillist Paul Signac, whose boldly pixilated paintings capture the special quality of light here. Other artists on display in this whitewashed former chapel include Matisse, Vuillard, Derain, Braque, and Vlaminck. Between the drinking and dancing, really do stop in. A wonderful museum.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 1 pm and 2 to 10 pm, June through September; 10 am to 1 pm and 2 to 6 pm October through May; closed November.
Route des Plages
Tel: 33 4 94 97 15 52
Whether you're a debutante in need of lessons or you just want to get in a quick morning match, this welcoming, well-equipped tennis club is perfect. The staff is top-rate and bilingual, and the eight lighted courts present a choice of surfaces: four hard courts and four synthetic clay.
Open daily 8 am to 9 pm.