Cap d'Antibes: A Walk Around Billionaires' Bay
You feel like a shrunken Alice in Wonderland on this select peninsula: larger-than-life villas and parasol pine trees loom high above you at every turn, and the frenzied sound of cicadas provides an unearthly soundtrack in summer. A walk around 'Billionaires Bay' – naturally majestic and packed with millionaires' mansions – is a Riviera highlight.
The easiest way to access the lush green cape is aboard Envibus bus 2 from the Envibus bus station to the 'Phare du Cap' bus stop. From here, cross the road and follow in pilgrims' footsteps along ave Malespine (bear left where the road forks) and rte du Phare uphill to Chapelle de la Garoupe. The tiny, recently renovated chapel, filled with poignant offerings from fishing families, crowns the highest point of Cap d'Antibes. Sweeping views of the coastline, from St-Tropez to Italy, mesmerise. The neighbouring Phare de la Garoupe, a square brick lighthouse with scarlet beacon, can't be visited.
Panorama celebrated, walk back downhill to bd du Cap and head along chemin de la Garoupe. A 10-minute walk past high-walled properties and towering pines brings you down to the bright-turquoise, crystal-clear water of the pretty, relentlessly popular Plage de la Garoupe. At the far end of the sandy beach, pick up the signposted Sentier Littoral (coastal footpath) that ducks and dives along the shoreline to Eilenroc (1¼ hours, 3.2km) on the cape's southern tip. The path is partly paved, very rocky in places and riddled with steep steps and the occasional scary drop (wear decent shoes). It provides a superb lookout on the rugged coastline and is memorable for its many tiny sundecks and picnic spots, considerately crafted into the stone. Weave your way around the cape, past solitary fishers tucked into the rocks and knowing locals lunching with five-star views, until you reach the start of chemin des Douaniers, an inland-bound footpath wedged between the high stone walls of Villa Eilenroc and neighbouring Château de la Croë. Famously home to the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson in the late 1930s, the pearly white Victorian-style château was originally built for an English aristocrat in 1927 and renovated most recently by its current owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Duck through the doorway at the foot of chemin des Douaniers and continue for another 800m along the signposted footpath to Villa Eilenroc. The villa, designed in 1867 by Charles Garnier for a Dutchman who scrambled the name of his wife, Cornélie, to come up with the villa's name, has clearly seen better days – its scantily furnished interior lacks its history's glamour. But a stroll around the 11-hectare park with rosary, olive grove and aromatic garden goes some way towards evoking the beauty of the villa's belle-époque heyday. On the shore below the villa, Plage de Galets is a bijou pebble cove well worth a dip and/or sun-kissed siesta. From Eilenroc, it is a five-minute walk along av Mrs Beaumont to the 'Fontaine' bus stop on bd JF Kennedy.
The southwestern tip of Cap d'Antibes, also linked by bus 2 from Antibes, is graced with the legendary Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc. Dating from 1870, it hit the big time just after WWI when a literary salon held here one summer (previous guests had come for the winter season only) was attended by Hemingway, Picasso et al. The icing on the cake was the immortalisation of the hotel (as the thinly disguised Hôtel des Étrangers) by F Scott Fitzgerald in his novel Tender Is the Night (1934).
In the centre of Cap d'Antibes, the serene Jardin Botanique de la Villa Thuret is a 3.5-hectare botanical garden created in 1856 and showcasing 2500 species. It provides the perfect opportunity to study the sun-rich cape's lush and invariably exotic flora up close.