One of the main drawcards for visitors to the Côte d’Azur is the proximity to the sea and beaches.
There are sheltered sandy beaches (Garoupe beach on the Cap d’Antibes), pebble beaches (Nice seafront) and wild, rugged coves for swimming (the Esterel coastline and Sentier Littoral walkways).
Recently, it was a beautiful sunny day and we decided to spend the morning on a boat excursion, and with an active toddler I didn’t want a trip with a long duration.
The boat excursion that offered us a good option is the Visiobulle in Juan les Pins – a glass-bottomed boat that cruises to the nearby Cap d’Antibes. The cruise is just one-hour long so it was perfect for a short trip.
The Visiobulle berths at the Ponton Courbet in Juan les Pins, and has many departures daily (departure times current as at April 2014):
April, May, June, September: 11am, 1.30pm, 3pm, 4.30pm
July and August: 9.25am **, 10.40am, 11.55am, 2.15pm, 3.30pm, 4.45pm, 6pm
Prices: Adults €14, Children 2-11 years €7
**There is a reduced price for this 9.25am departure: Adults €12, Kids 2-11 years €6
Look for this ticket office (see photo below), you show up to the ticket office 15 minutes before each departure to purchase your tickets. The boat operates every day except in bad weather and takes 58 passengers (and 2 crew) but it is very popular in high season.
The boat has shade covering so the seating is mostly covered for hot days. Plenty of seating. There were families with baby strollers, and also a few passengers who were elderly or with restricted mobility and the crew were very helpful assisting them onboard.
The commentary is in French and English, but even though the crewmember had a microphone it was difficult to hear over the sounds of the engines so sit near the front of the boat if you really want to listen to the commentary.
The boat cruises to the nearby Cap d’Antibes past Port Gallice, plage des Ondes, Hotel du Cap Eden Roc and Pointe de l’Illette with the small lighthouse. You will cruise past private villas unreachable to the public, and see the rocky landscape of the coastal walkway.
The boat spends approximately 20-25 minutes in the Baie des Milliardaires, at which time they allow passengers to head downstairs to the glass-bottomed viewing windows. The descent is via approximately 10 (steep) stairs with handrails. Wait a few minutes for the sand that is stirred up to settle. It is not as extensive as a glass-bottom boat excursion in the tropics, but we saw various schools of fish, sea urchins, starfish, sea algaes and rock formations. There are display posters in the viewing area alluding to what may be seen. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a clear photo of the viewing area as there were too many passengers onboard.
I noticed many families onboard and my impressions were that children from toddler age to around 10-12 years were happily entertained, but teenagers were bored!
Visiobulle, Ponton Courbet (avenue Amiral Courbet), Juan les Pins
Access: Arrive to Juan les Pins by car: The nearest pay carparking is on avenue Amiral Courbet, the Ponton Courbet is at the seafront end of this road.
Arrive to Juan les Pins by train: Exit the train station, turn right and walk along avenue l’Esterel, then turn left onto avenue Amiral Courbet. Follow this road directly ahead to the seafront (about 400 metres), you will see a restaurant ‘La Terrasse’ and a kiosk selling fast food directly across the intersection. Ponton Courbet is located to the right of these.
Arrive to Juan les Pins by bus: Bus numbers 1 or 30 (Envibus) from Antibes, alight at stop ‘Ruban Bleu’ in Juan les Pins, cross the road and Ponton Courbet is 50 metres past the restaurant ‘Sun 7’. Bus number 200, alight at stop ‘Regence’ and walk down avenue Amiral Courbet to the seafront. Ponton Courbet is the jetty opposite the small roundabout.
Toilets: There is a toilet onboard, but I would recommend using the automated accessible public toilet at the entrance of the Ponton Courbet prior to boarding. The pay toilet is located in the silver cubicle by the motorbike stand, cost 50 centimes.
Food/drink: No refreshments sold onboard so take your own food/drinks especially water.
Travel Tips: Don’t forget sunscreen, and also a warm top. We were on the boat on a hot sunny day, but once it was moving there was a strong breeze which was quite chilly. For best viewing opportunities, sit on the left-hand side of the boat (as the boat is facing forward) to see the Juan les Pins coastline, then when the glass-bottom viewing area opens downstairs stay on the right-hand side of the boat as this is the side closest to the rocks that they cruise beside.