|Porto-Pollo, Corsica, France|
Best in Corsica: Porto-Pollo
by Jacqueline Mirtelli, France Tourism Development Agency
As a native of the French Riviera, I am very keen on the sea. For me, Corsica is a true paradise for beaches and it's only a two-hour flight from London or Manchester. Between Propriano and Bonifacio in sunny southern Corsica is Porto-Pollo beach, a long white arch of sand in a bay sheltered by green hills. I have been lucky to go to the Seychelles and Mauritius and it's like that – OK, a little bit less wild! Snorkelling is a must as the water is crystal clear and filled with fish.
Best Breton beach: Baie d'Audierne, Brittany
by Wendy Mewes, author of Footprint Brittany
With 2,000km of coastline you'll have more trouble avoiding Brittany's beaches than finding one. For sand less travelled, head to the Baie d'Audierne on the west coast of Finistère. This really feels like the edge of Europe; 30km in length, it offers calm relaxation on family-friendly beaches such as Pors Carn. But if you're after dramatic activity, check out the wild Atlantic breakers drawing surfers from afar to the Pointe de la Torche, where a second world war German bunker huddles beside a Neolithic grave.
Best for diving: L'Ile de Riou, Marseille
by Frederic Di Meglio, secretary general of the Fédération Française d'Etude et de Sport Sous-Marin
Wild, uninhabited and carefully preserved, L'Ile de Riou is accessible only by boat. Its small beach was in use 2,500 years ago by founders of Phocea, the town that evolved into present-day Marseille. Now the beach is the starting point for scuba expeditions around the archipelago, but in 2012 it will form the heart of the Parc National des Calanques, an undersea forest ideal for swimmers, snorkellers and scuba divers.
Best naturist: Euronat, Côte d'Argent, Aquitaine
by Nick Mayhew-Smith, author of The World's Best Nude Beaches
Backed by pine woods and untouched by mass tourism, the endless golden sands of the Côte d'Argent are a haven for back-to-nature beach lovers. Unsurprisingly, the coast is also home to some of Europe's best naturist resorts; a collection of laid-back villages where European families unwind – and go home with the perfect suntan. My pick is the stretch of beach at Euronat, with supervised swimming, beach cafes and uncrowded sands to explore on either side. Further south are Montalivet CHM, La Jenny and Arnaoutchot. Birthday suits are de rigueur on the wilder stretches of shore. Just take an extra bottle of sunscreen.
Best for watersports: Plage de l'Almanarre, Hyères, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
by Pascal Boulanger, world champion funboarder
The best beach for wind fanatics is a sandy spit that runs 4km from Hyères out to the pretty town of Giens. There is a superb consistent wind on one side, while the other is sheltered by the Porquerolles and Port-Cros islands. One area is reserved for windsurfers, kitesurfers and funboarders – the winds can be wild in winter. Calmer areas are perfect for paddleboards and kayaks. Behind the beach is a salt marsh where pink flamingos nest.
Best for motor homes and campervans: Plage de Ménéham, Brittany
by Meli George, editor of All the Aires France
Discover some of France's finest white sand beaches by taking the single-track coast road north of Kerlouan between the hamlets of Ménéham and Neis Vran. Every turn offers a vista of another stunning cove with rocky outcrops and deserted sandy shores. Motor homes and campervans are welcome to park overnight for free all year round. At Ménéham, a restored fisherman's cottage is a spectacular starting point for a coastal walk along the dunes with the beaches – including some naturist ones – stretching out on one side.
Best for celeb-spotting: Paloma Plage, French Riviera
by Gerard Spatafora, Clé d'Or and Concierge at the Fairmont Hotel Monte Carlo since 1980
La Paloma is calm, chic and sheltered. It's a favourite of the jet set and celebrities who arrive on superyachts in the bay. You could perhaps see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on a summer's day. France is democratic however, and half of the beach is public – reserved for non-millionaires. A lovely coastal path runs from Beaulieu-sur-Mer, past the former house of David Niven, all the way to Paloma Plage.
Best wild beach: Côte Sauvage, Poitou-Charentes
by Dominic Earle, editor of France: Time Out's Perfect Places
Due south of the Ile d'Oleron, the gloriously unspoilt Côte Sauvage is hemmed in by the towering pines of the Forêt de la Coubre. It's only accessible by a good 10-minute hike (or bike ride – two wheels are the ideal way to get around) from the D25 between Ronce-les-Bains and La Palmyre. After a slog up the dunes and through the coarse beach grass, the reward is 30km of unadulterated white sand and Atlantic rollers. There's not a beach umbrella or souvenir shop in sight.
Best for families: Argelès Plage, Languedoc-Roussillon
by Mirella Salomone, co-founder of findmybeach.com
Tucked up against the Pyrenees, the Languedoc's Mediterranean beaches are magnificent. Pick of the bunch is Argelès Plage, a 8km stretch of golden sand and clear blue waters that rarely gets crowded. French families have flocked here for years, and for good reason. It's beautifully maintained and has great on-site facilities such as a marina and a beach club for kids. A two-mile tree-lined promenade flanks the northern end of the beach and offers great shade from the soaring summer temperatures.
Best for children: Beaulieu-sur-Mer, French Riviera
by Samuel Landry (aged 8)
My favourite beach is the one in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. The best thing about it is that it's easy to swim out to a floating trampoline – you can bounce around on it, then jump off and into the water! I also like this beach because it's sandy and shallow. The sea here feels warmer than the water at other beaches. Nice is nearby but the water there is deep, and sometimes it's freezing.