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When you arrive in this picturesque port you will fall in love with this delightful Provençal village. Sanary-sur-Mer is located in the Var department in the Provences-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur region in south eastern France. Positioned on the Mediterranean coast, it is 13km from Toulon and 49km from Marseille with beautiful beaches and a lively atmosphere. Its climate is sublime and with 280 days of sunshine, Sanary-sur-Mer is possibly the sunniest place in France making it an attractive resort all year round.
The port has a large collection of traditional wooden fishing boats (known as “pointus”) and the local fishermen sell their catch at the harbourside every morning – and directly to the many nearby restaurants. Sanary is considered the birthplace of modern scuba diving and several underwater movie sequences have been filmed in the bay and beyond.
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The beaches surrounding Sanary-sur-Mer are rich with archaeological remains from Greek and Romans settlers who had trading posts in the neighbouring marine gulfs.
The foundation of the harbour dates from the 16th century but Sanary’s main economic growth came from tourism at the end of the 19th century. In 1921 Sanary was declared a ‘Station de Tourisme’ and it was renamed Sanary-sur-Mer to promote tourism amongst the rich and influential Europeans and Americans who visited the Riviera. In addition to being a holiday destination, the town is famous for its literary connections with writers and artists spending time here during the 1920s. Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World whilst living near La Gorguette. Intellectuals and artists took refuge in Sanary-sur-Mer between the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Political emigration to southern France included 400 German and Austrian refugees who fled to the Var during the early 1940s to escape Nazism and many of them settled here after the war. A plaque in the village commemorates the German authors who sought exile, many of whom were interned by the French as enemy aliens including Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann, amongst others.
As a tourist resort, the village underwent a strong period of growth in the 1980s and is now a thriving town with beautiful beaches and a reputation for quality developments including a shoreline esplanade and several good bars and restaurants.
A visit to Sanary-sur-Mer will begin from the pretty harbour, lined with palm trees and pastel coloured houses, there is a square 13th century medieval watchtower. Originally part of an important defensive system to protect villagers from invaders, it was around this Romanesque tower that the village developed in the Middle Ages. However, it now contains the Frédéric Dumas Historical Diving Museum which opened in 1994, exhibiting a unique collection of original diving equipment. Jacques Cousteau, Frédéric Dumas and Phillipe Thailliez (nicknamed Les Mousquemers : the musketeers) started and developed their diving skills in the waters of Sanary-sur-Mer and Bandol. The Museum is fascinating and there are panoramic views across the bay and surrounding countryside from the top of the tower. Scuba diving is a very popular pastime at the resort and there are several instructors who can take you for dives in the azure clear seas amongst the archipelago of islands off the coast.
The Chapel of Notre-Dame de Pitié, built in 1560 on a headland west of the town, has lovely views of the coast and the small outlying islands of Embiez, Rouveau, Point Negre and the red rocks of the rough coastline of La Cride. Église Saint Nazaire is a Gothic Revival church of the late 19th century which was built on the site of an earlier church which is well worth a visit.
There is a colourful Provençal market held every morning under the plane trees outside the town hall with a wonderful display of flowers and fresh local fruit and vegetables. The main market is held on Wednesday morning when farmers come into town from the neighbouring villages with homemade produce.
With lots of sunshine and an average of only 61 days of rain per year, Sanary-sur-Mer is an attractive holiday destination all year round for swimming and water sports. The Mistral, a strong wind coming from the Rhone Valley, can bring cool temperatures and gusty conditions which are ideal for windsurfers.
The beaches of Lido, Portissol and Bonnegrace are the most popular with families because they are sandy whereas La Cride, Beaucours and Roc Amour are smaller with a rocky coastline and have pebbles. The Esplanade beach is centrally located and it gets very busy due to its proximity to the town centre.
Some of the oldest vineyards (dating from the Roman empire) can be found in nearby Bandol and Le Beausset a few miles west of Sanary-sur-Mer and it is an interesting trip to learn how the local wines are produced before tasting the end result in the restaurants. La Table du Vigneron at nearby Ollioules is a charming restaurant in the heart of the vineyards of the Domaine Terrebrune estate which serves regional dishes and their own excellent Bandol Rose and Rouge wines.
Every year the town organises carnivals, evening craft markets in the summer and festivities celebrating the harvest from the sea.
Accommodation & Restaurants
Sanary-sur-Mer is an exceptional seaside resort which welcomes visitors throughout the seasons. It offers a range of accommodation to suit everyone, whether in the village or near the sea front. There is plenty of choice from 4 star accommodation to boutique hotels, apartments and campsites.
Hotel de la Tour located at 24 Quai General de Gaulle is beautifully located on the quayside, ideal to watch the boats coming and going. It has an excellent restaurant and visitors have a choice of dining on the terrace overlooking the bustling harbour or inside in the dining room. The chef’s specialities include bouillabaisse and fresh produce from the fishermen’s boats.
Hostellerie La Farandole is right on the sandy beach of La Gorguette and features an outdoor pool, a spa and a hot tub on the roof top. Le Panoramic restaurant offers gourmet cuisine and stunning views of the Mediterranean sea. From the roof terrace bar you can enjoy looking out over the Bay of Bandol and the Isle of Bendor – it is a magical location at sunset with first class accommodation. Soleil et Jardin is 5 minutes from the beach and port and has an outdoor swimming pool with a terrace, a garden and a pool house. Le Vallon du Roy Residence is situated in the heart of a pine forest close to the beach. The apartments are fully equipped with a terrace, dining area and the site also features an adventure playground, swimming pool and tennis courts.