A cruise of the French Riviera is always sensational, but why limit your trip to the ocean when you can get a 360-degree experience?
Shipwrecks, caves, drop-offs and even an underwater village (La Fourmigue, which was built as a film set in the sixties) make exploring the world beneath your Sunseeker a must on a Riviera cruise. Warm waters from spring to autumn guarantee a long dive season and cater for all levels of experience. The Lérins islands and Cap d’Antibes in Golfe-Juan are especially noted for their marine life and clear visibility. Get set to tick bream, moray, scorpion fish, grouper, barracuda and octopus off your list. As eco-awareness is a must when it comes to all underwater habitats, visit Port-Cros near Hyères for inspiration. The entire island is a protected marine park and you can snorkel or dive to see flora and fauna as nature intended.
To get in on the action with one of the fastest-growing extreme sports in the world, get some pointers from one of the many local kitesurfing schools. Thanks to its challenging currents, cunning waves, scenic backdrops, brisk winds and warm waters, the Côte d’Azur offers world-class kitesurfing conditions and caters well for beginners, intermediates and advanced levels. But make sure you know what to expect from each area before you start freeriding and kitelooping! Among spots worth heading to are Palm Beach in Cannes, nearby Mandelieu-La Napoule, Saint-Laurent-du-Var, and Pampelonne, where a south-westerly wind will whip you along more than two miles of golden coastline.
Accelerate in the tyre prints of Hamilton and Vettel along the Monaco F1 Grand Prix route. There are various options, from taking the wheel yourself for a 15- or 30-minute driving lesson or riding as a co-pilot. Either way the scenery along the winding roads is as high-octane as the experience. If half an hour doesn’t cut it, hire an Aston Martin DB11 for the weekend while you’re berthed in Monaco. Or, 30 miles from Saint-Tropez, test a genuine F1 car with a half-day or full-day driving course on the Circuit du Luc en Provence.
If you want to explore on solid ground but also get the views the Côte d’Azur is so famous for, head for the many hiking trails or, if you dare, cliffs. Some of the best rock climbing in the world can be found here and you can fit a climb into a half day or day as part of your cruise. La Turbie, an ancient town above Monaco, has cliffs with hundreds of climbing routes; Saint-Jeannet, between Vence and Nice, has a challenging rocky outcrop offering several routes; or try your hand on the Gorges du Loup near Vence.
Helicopter flights over the Côte d’Azur are an exhilarating way to see a lot of the region fast. Soar over the palm-lined Croisette promenade in Cannes and watch the sea-front shoppers gliding into the Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques; steer inland to fly over the Gorges du Verdon (France’s deepest gorge) and nearby Lac de Sainte-Croix; loop up to the medieval village of Eze and on to Monaco; or sweep over Saint-Tropez and try to spot your Sunseeker down in the harbour. For the brave, flying lessons mean you can take the controls yourself, learning the basics of aerodynamics with an instructor pilot in a dual-control helicopter.
If you’re game enough to swap sturdy propellers for a slip of synthetic fabric, you can take to the skies paragliding. The combination of sea and soaring mountains creates thermals that ensure outstanding flying conditions.
You can tandem paraglide if you want to “hang out” and enjoy the views, or learn how to steer your own wing. Col de Bleyne, inland of Nice, is considered one of the best paragliding sites in France, while the Chalvet mountain in Saint-André-les-Alpes is one of Europe’s premier thermal sites.