It is something I always loved with scuba diving. It always put on my route hidden gems. With such famous neighbours, Antibes and its billionaire superyacht marina, and Cannes and its international film festival, Golfe-Juan is surprisingly tucked away from the crowds on the “Cote d’Azur”. Just after diving in Nice, it was then the perfect extension to my trip including a scenic drive in-between through Saint Paul de Vence.
Golfe-Juan forms with Vallauris a single municipality and they both are historical places. Golfe-Juan is the starting point of Napoleon Road. In 1815, the dismissed French Emperor tried a coup before being exiled to St Helena. It is today a lovely harbour town with a relaxed family atmosphere surrounded by yachts and sailboats. Higher in the hills, Vallauris is a fascinating art centre all about ceramics. It became famous in the 1950s thanks to Picasso. Today a new wave of young creators is taking ceramics to new heights.
Follow me on the discovery of Golfe-Juan and Vallauris for a surprising and exciting mix of scuba diving and art on the French Riviera!
The best dive sites of Golfe-Juan
I still have a few places left to scuba dive the French Riviera to be sure about it, but I don’t think I am wrong when I say the bay of Golfe-Juan boasts the best diving of the Alpes-Maritimes area. For information, the entire zone from the Lerins Islands to the Cap d’Antibes is a Natura 2000 marine protected area.
The scuba diving area can be divided into 3 main spots: the lighthouse of “La Fourmigue” in the middle, the Cap d’Antibes to the East and the Lerins Islands to the west near Cannes.
“La Fourmigue” Lighthouse
When I came for the first time diving in Golfe-Juan 2 years ago, this is the first dive I did. After going to Miro’s Cave, I thought I had seen it all. I now realise that “La Fourmigue” is not a dive site but a complex of dive sites.
There are 8 buoys around the lighthouse, and many more route can be taken to link the different spots depending on the level of the divers. I would recommend diving there at least twice to see different sides of this impressive underwater rock formation made of pinnacles which depths go between 15 and 55 m.
The main dive spots of “La Fourmigue” are :
- Miro’s cave: it is the home of an iconic statue of Commandant Le Prieur (who invented the first self-contained regulator in 1926). The immediate surroundings of the small cavern are rich in marine life including scorpionfish, giant Doris nudibranch or spiny lobsters.
- The underwater village: it was built in the late 1960s as a decor for a movie that was supposed to mix animation with real underwater images. The project was called “the Child and the Mermaid”. It took 6 years to finish it, but unfortunately, the movie was never produced. In the 2000s it was finally restored by local divers of Golfe-Juan for our greatest pleasure.
- Dante’s Inferno: for experienced divers only. This deep dive site features a series of pinnacles dropping to 55 m and covered in beautiful red gorgonians. Big schools of fish can be spotted around the top of the pinnacles.
I went diving twice this August at “La Fourmigue” with the following parameters:
Dive 1 – Dante’s Inferno / Miro’s cave
max depth 39 m – dive time 59 min– water temperature 19°C
Dive 2 – The underwater village
max depth 28 m – dive time 67 min – water temperature 19°C
“La Lauve“, Cap d’Antibes
When the visibility is excellent, and the sun is shining, this is an incredible dive site thanks to its unique topography. First, you start at shallow depths above a field of Posidonia like frequently in the south of France, but very quickly you can dive in a maze of narrow canyons through it. These canyons are very scenic, and it’s not rare to spot a grouper having a nap.
As you progress deeper, the canyons lead to a wall which is going down to 30 m to a sandy bottom. Once there, look into the blue to spot schools of barracudas or dentex on the hunt.
My dive parameters:
max depth 24 m – dive time 58 min – water temperature 21°C
“La Tradelière”, Lerins Islands
The Lerins Islands are known to be a fantastic nature escape from the bustling French Riviera. Besides scuba diving, a ferry takes you several times a day in the summer from Golfe-Juan Harbour if you want to explore them. Knowing this, I guessed there must be some interesting dive sites. It was indeed the case. I discovered for the first time this summer the dive site called “La Tradelière”, located just behind St Honorat Island.
I loved this dive site even if I was disappointed not to see the many big groupers that are often spotted there. The dive is mainly a wall dive which makes the underwater orientation extremely easy. You can make it a deep dive if you want to have a look at the beautiful red gorgonians starting from 35 m deep.
My dive parameters:
max depth 34 m – dive time 49 min – water temperature 20°C
Who to go diving with in Golfe-Juan?
There are only 2 scuba diving centres in Golfe-Juan so I tried them both!
Join Caroline and her team at Subvision diving centre for a relaxing scuba diving cruise in the bay of Golfe Juan aboard their heritage registered 15 m trawler boat, the “Souvenez-Vous”. The boat sails slowly to the dive sites and there is plenty of space on board. Maybe the best options for underwater photographers.
- Diamond diving
Join Alex and the most international dive centre in France: Diamond Diving. The British national opened his dive centre on the French Riviera in 2006. With their zodiac boats, his team of bilingual instructors and divemasters can quickly reach all the dive sites in only 10 to 20 minutes. Maybe the best option for those of you who need service in English.
Exploring the village of Vallauris and its ceramics art galleries
If you are looking for something to do for your last day before flying back home, here is my recommendation, just a stone’s throw away from the harbour of Golfe-Juan.
Vallauris has all the colours of Provence villages but with a twist, as it became a renowned ceramics art centre after being a potter village for no less than 2000 years! Even Picasso himself was stunned with what the potters of Vallauris were doing so he decided to make it his home between 1948 and 1955. No wonder why he became a citizen of honour of the town and gifted the town with his “man with a sheep” statue (Place Isnard, see picture above).
The town centre is filled with fine art galleries and creative tableware shops so that you will have a great time hopping from one to another. After visiting Picasso National Museum (Place de la Libération, Vallauris), get a grasp of the surprisingly vast world of ceramics contemporary art by visiting the following galleries:
- Galerie Agnès Sandahl (65 bis avenue Clemenceau, Vallauris)
- Galerie Arias Picasso A.V.E.C. (37 avenue Clemenceau, Vallauris)
- Atelier Madoura (13 avenue Gerbino, Vallauris)
Vallauris is also the perfect place to go shopping for a unique souvenir at a very reasonable price. Before becoming an art centre, Vaullauris was first known for its ceramic dishes. With my love for cooking, here are the two shops where I felt like buying everything:
- Bleu d’Argile (30 avenue Clemenceau, Vallauris)
- Antoinette & Gérard Crociani (50 avenue Clemenceau, Vallauris)
How to travel to and around Golfe-Juan?
The best way is definitely by train!
Space is limited in Golfe-Juan, and parking a car can be either complicated or expensive. The local train TER has frequent stops in Golfe-Juan on the line between Marseille and Nice where you can catch a TGV high-speed train or a flight.
To visit Vallauris from Golfe-Juan, you can take the bus line 8, 18 or 20. A ticket costs only 1€. More information: Envibus website.
Where to stay in Golfe-Juan?
The choice of hotels is very limited in Golfe-Juan since it is mostly holiday apartment buildings that are on offer. So I was so happy to book at Blanc Sable Hotel, the only boutique hotel of Golfe-Juan with its lovely swimming pool and minimalistic but stylish white lounge decorated with many pieces of Mediterranean basketwork.
My room wasn’t huge and rather simple, but the bed was very comfy. What I loved the most above all was the delicious breakfast buffet with so many healthy options.
Besides, the sandy beach of Golfe-Juan is only 5 minutes walking away. There you can find 3 stylish beach restaurants, and if you walk 5 more minutes, you have all a wide choice of live music bars and restaurants along the new harbour of Golfe-Juan.
Do you want to learn more about travelling and scuba diving in the French Riviera? Have a look at these articles:
- 2 weeks on the French Riviera: my ultimate itinerary for scuba divers
- Diving in Nice in the heart of the French Riviera
- Extraordinary Esterel: diving & hiking from St-Raphael to Mandelieu
- Top 5 things to do in Menton, my new hideaway on the French Riviera
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This article was written in partnership with the tourism board of Côte d’Azur. As always, all my views and opinions are my own and reflect my experience honestly.
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