Cote Bleue - the Blue Coast
Just to the west of Marseille is the Cote Bleue (blue coast), a great bit of coast for hiking, swimming or snorkelling. The coast to the east of Marseille is marked by the marvellous calanques, while the Cote Bleue to the west has more modest versions of the calanques, a series of very pretty coves and inlets, with small beaches mostly of pebble, some sandy. These are easily accessible on foot or by car and offer good swimming spots. There is also a great alternative for seeing the Cote Bleue - the Blues Coast railway runs from Marseille all along the coast, but right over the shoreline in many places, over a series of viaducts.
The best places to get down to the sea...
La Redonne is a tiny fishing village and alongside is La Madrague de Gignac, even smaller, both very picturesque. There are a few small creeks here, or you can swim off the rocks or harbour.
Mejean is another tiny harbour with the train viaduct behind, it opens out into a pretty bay with shallow green-blue water that is worth snorkelling in. Access off the rocks or there is a ladder on the harbour wall.
The Calanque des Figuieres can be accessed by car (very little parking though) and has a small rocky beach.
The beach at Rouet is a standard summer beach, part sandy and part pebbles, with parking and snack bars alongside. It is monitored by lifeguards in summer.
Sausset-les-Pins is a pretty fishing harbour that has turned into a small summer resort, but has maintained a sense of scale. On either side of the village are beaches and creeks, with a lovely light blue sea and good diving (this is part of the marine park - the Parc Marin de la Cote Bleue). Plage des Baumettes, to the east of Sausset-les-Pins, has the best amenities here, with free parking and some restaurants. Beaches here are pebbly or rough sand, you will find straw mats designed just for this in almost every shop.
Perhaps the most attractive beach on this coast is Sainte Croix, west of Sausset-les-Pins and close to La Couronne. Sainte Croix has good sand and is picturesquely framed by pine trees. There are actually two beaches, the larger one is accessed down steps, the other one is better for reduced mobility, with no steps. The beaches are separated by a rock. Paid parking and WCs available.
The biggest beach on the Blue Coast, and best served with amenities, is the Plage du Verdon in La Courronne. It is 350 metres long and made of fine sand. It has restaurants, snack bars, volleyball, lifeguards in summer, parking, and reduced mobility access. Probably the best choice for families with young children.