Boutique hotel Les Roches Rouges has sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea, a sleek aesthetic, a carefully-curated cocktail list and a photogenic stoned-lined pool by the surf. This effortlessly cool hideaway flirts with the fringes Fréjus, on the edge of L’Esterel National Park. The petite spa doles out Polynesian massages and mineral-rich scrubs, hearty Provençal feasts can be taken alfresco, and sea-view private balconies are the perfect place for evening glasses of wine.
Double rooms from £341.79 (€405), including tax at 20 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.30 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a Continental breakfast of fresh fruit and juices, pastries, cheeses, made-to-order eggs and seasonal dishes.
Musicians often perform live by the pools, playing Cuban beats and acoustic folk-rock. And, the open-air cinema screens classic films for guests too; check with staff for the programme.
As of 1 August, all guests are required to present a Covid Certificate or health pass upon check-in. In France, this will be necessary to access restaurants, bars and private venues. Alternatively, a negative PCR test (of less than 48 hours old) or a Covid-19 certificate of recovery will also be accepted.
Annually from mid-October to early May.
At the hotel
Public beach, free WiFi throughout, pétanque court, table tennis. Guests can borrow watersports kit (paddle boards, kayaks, snorkels and flippers) and beach gear (goggles, flotation vests and rubber rings) from reception. In rooms: tablet and iPod dock, Diptyque bath products and a minibar.
Our favourite rooms
We're particularly fond of the spacious Junior Suites, while the suite’s not fully sea-facing, many will still give you an eyeful of the Med from your private balcony.
There are two: the first is a natural, stone-hewn, saltwater number abutting the sea so closely that seawater sloshes over the boundary line; a pontoon bridge provides easy access from the pool to the sea. The second is a sleek, 30-metre-long heated swimming lane cut into coastal rock. Both pools are family-friendly and supervised by a lifeguard during the day.
The spa, which has just three treatment rooms, offers a range of therapies. Choose from serious face and body revitalising, alongside scrubs, massages, reflexology and restorative facials. There's also a special selection of spa treatments for Smiths aged seven to 15.
Channel the leisurely style of the hotel staff in Bensimon tennis shoes and soft raglan sweatshirts, when you’re not lounging beside the pools in your French-film-star-inspired swimwear.
The alfresco tables are, without a doubt, the ones to go for.
Don Breton stripes or beachwear for breakfast and lunch, and drape yourself in white linen for dinner.
Chef José Bailly helms both of the mod-Provençal restaurants at Les Roches Rouges. All-day eatery La Plage specialises in seasonal dishes and sharing plates made with locally-sourced ingredients and served in a relaxed atmosphere. Order a classic salade niçoise or grilled lamb, and don’t miss the cream-filled brioche tarte Tropézienne. Dinners at La Terrasse – from a menu of traditional regional dishes – come with a side of sweeping sea views. Offerings on the seafood-centric menu range from octopus with squid and seaweed to stuffed purple artichokes; the accompanying wine list is respectably extensive, with an impressive range of organic wines too.
Les Roches Rouges has two laid-back bars – La Cabane and La Plage beach bar – so you’ll never be far from a refreshing drink. Perhaps a peach-laced Rinquinquin cocktail, anise-flavoured French pastis, or summery orange-and peach-infused wine; all muddled up with locally sourced ingredients, naturally.
Have breakfast (7.30–10.30am), lunch (noon–2.30pm) and dinner (7–10.30pm) at La Plage. La Cabane (10am–8pm), La Terrace (6–11pm) and Beach bar (11–1am) are open daily.
Order snacks, meals and drinks directly to your door during restaurant opening hours; there's a delivery charge of €5.
The hotel is in Saint Raphaël, a commune on the coast between Nice and Saint-Tropez.
The Nice Côte d’Azur airport is a 90-minute drive from the hotel, and the drive to Marseille Provence airport takes about two hours; call our Smith24 team to arrange flights and transfers.
Trains from Marseille, Nice and Paris pull into Gare de Saint-Raphaël-Valescure, which is a 15-minute drive; arrange hotel transfers with our Smith24 team.
A car is handy for exploring along the coast, and there’s on-site valet parking at the hotel for €20 a night. From Saint-Raphaël, follow signs to city centre and train station, then skirt the port towards Boulouris and Le Dramont and follow the road until you reach the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Active types can swim laps in the long pool, partake in the hotel's weekly alfresco yoga session, and follow experienced field guide Joseph di Caro as he leads guests through Esterel National Park every Monday. Get playfully competitive with table tennis in the garden or on the full-size pétanque court – once a week, the president of the neighbouring village’s bowling club gives free lessons at cocktail hour – or relax with a summer read by the water.
Smooth seas are perfect for paddleboarding (there’s gear for guests to borrow); the hotel has snorkelling equipment on hand too if you’d prefer to dip below the waters in search of anemones, scorpion fish and other life aquatic. Borrow the hotel’s two-person kayak to explore the calm waters of Calanque de Saint-Barthélémy or the coastline to gaze up at the magnificent Esterel mountains from the sea. The hotel’s fisherman Olivier Bardoux will show guests how to angle like a pro. Take to the waves on windsurfing boards and Hobie Cats at Agay Wind Club, a 10-minute drive from hotel. For land-based exploring, wander the streets of Saint-Raphaël and stop by the Basilique Notre Dame de la Victoire, or spend a morning trekking through the red-rock Massif de l'Esterel mountains.
For lunches and relaxed dinners of fresh fish, hit port-side restuarants Les Voiles Saint-Raphaël and Le Coelacanthe (Port Santa Lucia, Saint-Raphaël). Mod-French La Table Restaurant, a short stroll from the port, has a reassuringly short, classic menu of fish and meat; try the sea bream fillet or the classic côte de boeuf and save room for crème brûlée. Downtown eatery Elly’s is part restaurant, part gallery (and we’re not just talking about what hangs on the walls). The modern menu has fixed-course options and includes dishes such as lobster ravioli, monkfish with lemongrass and marinated salmon tartare with avocado salsa.
Traveling along the Côte d'Azur from Nice by train gives flirtatious glimpses of the Mediterranean at every tilting bend. Mr Smith (my husband of one day; this is our honeymoon) and I tumble out at a deserted station and walk across the tracks to the entrance of Les Roches Rouges.
The hotel’s structure is partially built into a cliff face so we’re ushered through its airy lobby and onto its upper terrace to be met by a stunning seascape. The staff, perhaps reading our hungover expressions, immediately present us with deliciously sticky orange Campari cocktails while our bags are taken to our room and we’re talked through what’s on offer at our new home.
(Side note: This is the first of many experiences of Les Roches Rouges’ excellent glassware collection. A weird thing to notice perhaps, but every drink you order will come in a different, wonderfully perfect vessel. Anyway…)
As we sip our drinks on the sun-drenched balcony we look out over a neverending expanse of blue. Perched on the very edge of the water, the hotel leaves you with just two views, sky and sea; great streaks across your vision glimmering from one side all the way to the other.
After regaining some brain function, we navigate our way down the elevator system to our sea-gazing room. Throughout, the hotel is elegant without being ostentatious, simple while still luxurious. The décor sparse yet somehow still cosy; lots of wood-panelled corridors and polished concrete floors.
Waiting for us in our room is some champagne on ice which turns out to be a surprise gift from my new brother-in-law and, popping the cork, we collapse happy to have arrived onto a giant cloud-like, linen-lined bed. The French doors are already open onto our private balcony and, through the fluttering cotton curtains, is that sparkling sea again; a view that seems impossible to escape anywhere you go in the hotel.
Having recouped we venture out, descending a few storeys to the pool area on the ground floor. It’s dotted with white umbrellas and orange cushioned chairs with gigantic sofas for lounging on, bookcases for perusing and various board games which seem to attract the ever competitive Mr Smith like a magnet. (He quickly sets up a backgammon score sheet which, by the end of our stay, I’m thankfully thrashing him at.)
On the other side of the open-plan area is the restaurant which spills out onto the main terrace (Hint: sit too close to the railings and the occasional wind-and-wave combo will sprinkle you with a salty spray).
Directly to the right of the restaurant’s seating area, and slightly sunken, is the first of the hotel’s two pools. (As soon as he sees it Mr Smith runs right back to our room to don his swimming shorts.) It’s heated; narrower and longer than the second and perfect for doing lengths. Or, in the case of overexcited new husbands, just frolicking about in and instigating who-can-hold-their-breath-underwater-for-the-longest competitions.
Further along is the shallower pebble-bottomed sea-water pool right next to the surf. Perfect for when the sea looks too daunting for a dip but you still fancy something a bit more bracing than a heated pool. There is also a second bar, a boules area and various borrowable water sports paraphernalia. Polo-shirted waiters are on hand to assist, advise and serve up all manner of deliciousness. They’re completely un-judging when we have two breakfasts one morning and martinis for lunch.
There are many attractions and picturesque walks around the area but, guiltily, we don’t even want to leave the hotel. We spend the next few days immersed in one kind of water of another: sea, pool, shower or spa. We kayak to a small island, the only real activity undertaken, and get matching massages in the spa where my new husband confesses his secret love of pampering. Backgammon battles are waged over a plethora of cocktails and a gargantuan amount of sleep is had – siestas, lie-ins, cat-naps and sun-lounger dozes…
Mr Smith even discovers that by putting a floating ‘water-noodle’ under his head and another under the crook of his legs he can sleep afloat in the heated pool which hilariously results in him getting sunburnt on the tops of his knees and with a sort of circle on his face where it has stuck above the water. It leaves him very rouge indeed. It’ll take a lot longer for the bliss of our Les Roches honeymoon to fade, though…