If you holiday on the French Riviera during the summer, you’ll know that the road from Ste-Maxime to St-Tropez can be one of life’s miseries as traffic moves at the pace of a diffident snail en route home from a wine-pleasured lunch. In short, no one with more than two brain cells correctly aligned will drive to St-Tropez during the summer months unless they absolutely have to make the journey.
Of course, St-Tropez has a reputation that attracts tourists. Perhaps Brigitte Bardot will make an appearance. Perhaps they’ll meet another film star, or perhaps they’ll be discovered by a producer looking for the next big thing. For whatever reason, people flock to the village to enjoy expensive parking, generally poor food at high prices, crushed crowds around the port, and the chance to buy a picture from the artists that occupy part of the quays.
There are some good parts of St-Tropez, like a nice walk along the pier to the lighthouse or exploring the citadel, and to be fair, there are a number of good restaurants to be discovered too. If you want to get to the village and don’t want to drive, why not take one of the frequent ferries that ply between Ste-Maxime and St-Tropez? Like the famous Sydney ferry that goes from Circular Quay to Manley, these ferries are an excellent way to get to a destination while also having the chance to enjoy a pleasant sea trip.
We recently used Bateaux Verts (literally, the “green boats”, a company that offers a service every 15 minutes from both towns for €13 return. This might seem expensive, but the service is very fast and efficient and you have to treat the trip as part of a day out. The seats at the back of the boat are the best as you can enjoy the sea air without being splashed, which sometimes happens up front as the boat makes its way across the bay (the Mediterranean does have waves and a fair swell can develop if the wind blows).
Along the way you’ll see sights like the cruise ships that follow a circular path around the Mediterranean, visiting ports along the way, and see the ship’s tenders shuttling passengers in and out of St.Tropez. But the more interesting sights is the collection of yachts that anchor outside the port. These vary from the humble single-mast traditional sailing yachts to massive 100-metre long motor yachts (or private cruise ships), most of which seem to be registered in the Cayman Islands. The local English language radio station is full of ads for yacht crews, maintenance, captains, and the like and seeing the collections that accumulate at ports such as Antibes, Cannes, and St. Tropez, you come to understand a little of the life that their owners lead. Of course, many of the yachts are available for hire, complete with crew, should you have a spare $100,000 or so to pay for a monthly charter (and that’ll only get a medium-grade mega-yacht).
The ferries that shuttle across the bay give you the chance to share the same waters as those who cruise in the mega-yachts. It’s a much more relaxing and peaceful way of making your way to St. Tropez in high summer, should you feel the need to join the beautiful people who assemble there!
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