Look West along the Mediterranean to find cheaper property.
You won’t find the Cannes Film Festival or Club 55, but if owning a dreamy Mediterranean holiday home is your main desire, buying a property on the “other Riviera” can be half the price of the Côte d’Azur.
The seaside resorts scattered along the western side of the south coast in Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales are adored by those in the know for their authenticity, beguiling wildness and long sublime stretches of fine sandy beaches.
The commune of Leucate, which is the birthplace of Henry de Monfreid, French adventurer and author, and which was also frequented by artist Paul Gaugin, is home to Aude’s first beach resort: La Franqui.
“One word for me is paradise, and I don’t want to tell too many people,” says Anne Stapleton of Private Property Sellers. “It could easily rival the jet-set location of Plage de la Paloma,” in ritzy St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat near Nice.
The sandy beach at La Franqui has the lapping waves of the Mediterranean on one side and the lagoon on the other, leaving a thin strip of sand in the middle that leads to the five-mile-long Plage les Coussoules. These lagoons or étangs, are typcial of the area – part of the 173,000-acre Regional Natural Park – and here wild flamingos, pink salt lakes and hundreds of different types of birds make up the landscape.
In La Franqui, property is around €240 (£210) per sq ft, compared with €1,245 per sq ft in Plage de la Paloma, says Stapleton.
Heading north to the next étang is a cluster of locations that offer the perfect cocktail of wild lagoon and Mediterranean holiday life: Gruissan, Narbonne and Bages. The latter is a charming fishing village with a hidden lagoon beach and Maison des Arts that holds six art exhibitions a year.
“Bages is comparable to Saint-Paul de Vence on the Riviera, a charming hilltop village that attracts artists, gourmets and those in the know,” says Nadia Jordan of property finder Foothills of France.
Last year Jordan bought a three-bedroom stone village house with lagoon views in Bages. An idyllic property with cascading pink bougainvillea, it sits next door to the convivial Les Beaux Arts restaurant. She bought it for €300,000 and now rents it out at languedoclocation.com; prices range from €800-€1,400 a week.
East of Bages on the Étang du Grazel is Gruissan, which has one of the most impressive stretches of golden beach on this side of the Mediterranean coast. On a peninsula, some people draw similarities to St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, but the beach itself could compare to Pampelonne in St Tropez.
Gruissan has three distinctive areas – port, beach and old town – and is famous for its coral-pink salt flats and salt production. At restaurant La Cambuse du Saunier you can try fresh local seafood seasoned with fleur de sel de Gruissan while overlooking rippling pink waters.
With iconic beach huts made famous in the 1986 film Betty Blue, Gruissan’s white sands are a blissful way to spend long summer days. Julie Reaney, a consultant at buying agents Home Hunts, says that more of these coveted stilted bungalows are being built, and some contemporary homes are also on the way. “You can buy a 35 sq metre (377 sq ft) studio for €85,000,” she says, adding that a 75 sq metre (807 sq ft) chalet needing redecoration would cost about €200,000.