Among the diving destinations in Europe, France might not immediately come to mind. However, with 5,000 km of coastline, and the choice of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, not to mention the first marine national park in Europe, scuba divers exploring France have a wide choice of fantastic underwater adventures from deep historical shipwrecks to ice diving in altitude. So here is a selection of the some of the best places to dive in France, the home country of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Marseille & Calanques National Park
The Calanques National Park was only created in 2012. Still, it reinforced Marseille’s reputation for superb diving, especially around the Riou Islands with walls covered in gorgonians and cavern covered in Mediterranean red coral. Marseille’s vast underwater playground also includes two historical shipwrecks within recreational diving depths. Most dive centres are located at the “Pointe Rouge” Harbour, 10 km south of the city centre. It usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to reach the dive sites.
Stretching from Hyères to Menton, the French Riviera offers a wide range of diving experiences in France. Whether you are into exploring marine protected areas and their marine life wonders, or into deep shipwrecks, there is something for every level of divers:
- Located between Toulon and St-Tropez, Port-Cros National Park was the first marine park to be created in Europe in the 1960s. It is now famous for encounters with large friendly groupers.
- The area between Porquerolles Island and St-Tropez is also famous for superb wreck diving.
- The Esterel area from St-Raphaël is perfect for beginner divers while Golfe-Juan, between Cannes and Antibes, offers quirky dive sites.
- From Nice, advanced divers will love exploring the drop-off of Cap-Ferrat.
To learn more about diving in the French Riviera, read our dedicated blog post.
Easily accessible by plane or by ferry from Marseille, Toulon and Nice, the island of Corsica is another delightful destination for scuba divers in France. There are dive sites all around the island, but the south tends to attract more scuba divers, especially the Scandola Marine Reserve which is also a UNESCO marine world heritage site. Good to know, there is now a new marine park at the northern tip of the island, the Cap Corse-Agriate natural marine park.
Scuba diving in France is not only about going south but also west! For those who don’t fear the cold water or passed their drysuit specialty, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean have many unexpected treasures. The collection of historical shipwrecks is also impressive, including a WWII German submarine off the shore of Lorient. You can find yourself playing with seals underwater on the northern coast of Britanny, off Morlaix or St-Malo. From the Crozon Peninsula in Finistère, you can also now explore the new Iroise marine nature park.
Ice diving in the French Alps
Last but not least, the highest summits in France offer the opportunity to try an out-of-this-world experience by scuba diving below the ice of an altitude lake. Available in the winter, usually from January to March, and equipped with a dry suit and a full-face mask, diving in the 2°C water is surprisingly comfortable. The atmosphere below the ice and the blue glow of the light going through it is something you’ll never forget. Best places to go ice diving are Tignes and Val Thorens. The first one is the most accessible and the latter includes hiking with snowshoes for 45 minutes.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post about places to dive in France, if this has inspired you to dive here, then find your local dive shop now!
Florine is a PADI Divemaster and a Dive Travel blogger at World Adventure Divers. She dives in tropical to extreme cold waters, selecting her destinations when both adventure diving and cultural discoveries are part of the journey, and showing you how to do it without breaking the bank.