One of the main drawcards for visitors to the French Riviera 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).
The Visiobulle is 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, especially if you have an active toddler (like I did at the time I boarded!).
The Visiobulle berths at the Ponton Courbet on the seafront in Juan les Pins, and has many departures daily throughout warm months (departure times current as at June 2015):
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
**TIP: 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 especially the first departures each day.
The boat has shade covering so the seating is mostly covered for hot days. There is 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 Cap d’Antibes 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 on board and my impressions were that children from toddler age to around 10-12 years were happily entertained, but teenagers were bored!
Access: Arrive to Juan les Pins by car: The nearest pay carparking is a few minutes walk from the ferry on avenue l’Esterel.
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 just 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 ‘La Jetee′. 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.
- 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.
- There is a toilet on board, 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.
- There are no refreshments sold on board so take your own food/drinks especially water.