During high summer, nothing is more refreshing than a dip or a swim in a mountain lake or river. The beaches are crowded, very hot, and you may have got jellyfish to deal with - none of that when you head up into the mountains.
You don't have to go that far to find some really idyllic places. Obviously, the closer to a main road, the more people will go there, but it will never be as busy as the beach.
Below are some of the places I have been to.
Note that you do need to heed warning signs , notably those that warn of sudden increases in water levels due to an upstream hyro-electric dam.
A popular place, due to the famous Gorges du Verdon, which end here, in Lake Sainte-Croix.
The drive through the Gorges is very scenic, with spectaluar views on the surrounding mountains and the turqoise waters of the Verdon river below.
The lake is about 2hours drive from Nice.
The Siagne river is a pretty little river, offering several good spots for swimming. Shown here near the village of Saint-Cezaire, close to Grasse.
Do check actual water levels when you're there, but when I was there, the water was deep enough (in places) to jump off the bridge.
Saint-Cézaire is about 15 km west of Grasse, and roughly 50 km (and 50 minutes) from Nice. Show location on Google Maps
On the way from Grasse to Lac St. Cassien, along the winding and scenic road that runs to St Cassien des Bois (D94) , is a beautiful remote spot which is excellent for swimming (water is deep enough for swimming for a straight stretch of about 200 meters); there's also a sandy beach (albeit a tiny one ).
You'll see a chapel right on the side of the road, called Chapelle de St. Cassien des Bois; park your car somewhere near, and continue by foot.
Show location on Google Maps
Another good spot for a swim is near the village of Auribeau, close to Grasse, about 1km in a straight line from Chapelle de St. Cassien des Bois.
Driving through the village of Auribeau, you park your car in the hamlet of l'Apier; it's about a 25 minute walk from there. 20 minutes along a tarsealed road, with nice views of the river Siagne to your left, then you cross the river by means of a metal bridge and walk for another 5 minutes (the river now on your righthand side).
The beauty of the Siagne river is that it has plenty of places where there is hardly any current, and there are long deep (2-2.5m) stretches of water - ideal for a good swim!
Several little waterfalls, some flowing at a 90 degree angle to the main direction of the river, make this spot even more beautiful.
GPS location info: 43.6244N 6.8586E
A scenic, winding and popular road, leading from the village of Pont-du-Loup through the gorges of the Loup river, up to Courmes, and beyond to Greolieres.
There's several places you can swim; try to park just after the tunnel, to the left. That is actually pretty much the only place you can park. Walking a bit further in the same direction, on the left hand side you'll find several places to clamber down, towards the river.
Consider following the river upstream (walking shoes needed!), you'll come across several places where you can jump off a cliff, into the turquoise waters!
Pont-du-Loup is about a 40min drive from Nice, and 20 minutes from Grasse. Show location on Google Maps
It'd be a bit disappointing, wouldn't it, to show you this beautiful picture at the top of this page, and then not tell you where it is... so here goes:
The gorges of the river Cagne are very beautiful, and not very well known. The walk to this little swimming hole is right along part of those gorges, and you'll get beautiful vistas a long the way.
At some stage there is plateau like area, with an ancient wall, and rusty iron door - could have featured as-is in the Lord of the Rings!
You then have to climb up a little rock wall, covered in beautiful green moss, with crystal clear water dripping down.
Eventually (total walking time from the car should be around 1 hour) you'll get to the pond shown in the picture.
Show location on Google Maps
Suggested place to park your car is shown here on Google Maps.
The Esteron river is a beautiful river, particularly pretty at the so called Clue d'Aiglun, with the vertical walls of the river gorge, the white-washed flat rocks in its bed, and the turquoise colour of the water.
This picture was taken in winter, believe me, in summer there's no ice!
It's a bit of drive, about an hour and a half from Nice, but it's really worth it.
Once you've reached the village, park your car in the large parking area just outside the village, cross the road where you see a path that runs in a northerly direction (initially parallel to the road) and then follow that path, winding your way down the hillside for about 30-40 minutes until you've reached the river.
I promise I will go back in summer and publish some more pictures.
I recently went back to Aiglun, and went for a swim. I arrived a bit late, and the sun was already a bit lower in the sky, but still managed to catch some sun (remember this is at the bottom of a deep gorge, with near vertical rock walls).
It was quite busy actually, which may be a bit surprising to some, as it is quite far to drive from the main towns on the coast.
Definitely worth it though, and a very refreshing break from the summer heat!
GPS location info: 43.863479N , 6.906777E
One of the many villages the beautiful and elegant Esteron river passes on its way down, is the village of Conségudes.
In places there the river is quite wide, the water of a beautiful colour, and the current is not strong at all. Ideal therefore for a swim!
You can reach this particular spot from the village of Les Ferres, and hike for about 30-40 minutes - see also the map for more details.