This sweet fishing village has a population of just 17,000 — but it more than quadruples to 80,000 in summertime. Located 35 miles southeast of Marseilles, it's perhaps France's sunniest spot, with 300 days of soleil per year. Jacques Cousteau lived, dived, and invented in Sanary. The town was also popular with early 20th-century writers (Aldous Huxley wrote "Brave New World" here) and harbored German intellectuals who fled the Nazis, including Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann. While there's not a lot to see, Sanary is a pleasant gateway to Provençal delights, including wineries and the perched stone town of Castellet.
What We Love
The Outdoor Market: Right by the harbor, sheltered by leafy trees, this is a classic little Provençal morning market. Look for cheeses or lavender products, and snap photos of the truly gorgeous produce.
Browsing Pedestrian Streets: Comb the shops for gauzy cover-ups, chic sandals, and jaunty hats.
Frédéric Dumas International Diving Museum: Diving buffs will be fascinated by early equipment invented by Dumas, Cousteau, and Philippe Tailliez.
Best Known For
Traditional Boats: Look for brightly painted pointus, the traditional wooden boats that are tied up in the harbor. Some are 100-plus years old, with signs proudly proclaiming their pedigrees.
The 14th-Century Tower: This fortified tower has a small museum of artifacts from nearby waters, and offers great views of the town and harbor as a reward for your climb.
Saint-Nazaire: A cool refuge, this Byzantine-style church has beautiful interior frescoes.
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Who It's Best For
Dawdlers: Chill out and relax with a stroll, browse the market, or watch fishermen sell their catch in the harbor.
Divers: In addition to checking out the museum, you can also dive in Cousteau's waters with Sanary Plongée.
Beach Bums: There are strands to the west and southeast of town — or head to nearby beach haven Bandol.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You'll Be Anchored Out: It's a tender port and, in our experience, waters were a bit rough.
Opening Hours Are Whimsical: Attractions can be closed when signs say they're open.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.