Looking to recharge your batteries away from the hustle and bustle of Cannes and its Promenade de la Croisette? We recommend a visit to Sainte-Marguerite island, where you’ll discover an exceptional natural environment! We were charmed by its coves, rock formations and views of the town, the Esterel and the mountains on the horizon. Between hiking, swimming and the must-see Iron Mask Museum and Fort Royal, you’ll love this green setting!
Here’s our guide to exploring the island: how to get there by ferry, nature and historical sites to see, and practical tips for getting ready.
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This guide is completely independent, based on our experiences. We visited the region anonymously, making our own choices and paying our bills in full.
Things to do on Sainte-Marguerite Island: map + essentials for your visit
If you’re planning a visit to Île Sainte-Marguerite, here’s what you need to know:
- The ferry crossing takes about 15 minutes. The shuttles make the connection very frequently.
- We advise you to buy your tickets online in advance – see availability.
- Allow 3 hours to walk around the entire island – trails under trees with roots and protruding rocks, slopes and stairs. Don’t forget to wear good shoes!
- The island has no white-sand beaches. For swimming, we recommend you take water shoes so you can walk on the rocks without injuring yourself.
- In our opinion, Plage des Pierres Hautes (in the south-east of the island) is the most beautiful beach.
- This island is not suitable for baby carriages. In fact, they are forbidden in the fort.
- You can also discover the island’s coastline by private boat on an excursion departing from Cannes – see availability.
If you have limited time, we recommend you to:
- Discover the Iron Mask Museum and Fort Royal,
- Exploring the north of the island is our favorite,
- Discover the Plage des Pierres Hautes.
If you have a whole day ahead of you, we recommend that you..:
- A complete tour of the island,
- See the list of activities below.
In our opinion, a visit to the Île Sainte-Marguerite is a must-do activity in Cannes, allowing you to recharge your batteries away from the hustle and bustle of the Croisette. It’s also one of the most beautiful islands on the Côte d’Azur!
1. Enjoy the ferry or private boat trip
Even before arriving on the island, you’ll enjoy the experience of crossing.
We really enjoyed taking the sea shuttle. The walk is relatively short, but the scenery is splendid.
It starts with the exit from the old port. We watched the Château de la Castre in the distance, home to the Museum of World Explorations.
The ferry takes you to the island in just 15 minutes. Once out of the harbor, we enjoyed magnificent views of Cannes on one side, and the Îles de Lérins on the other. They got progressively bigger as we got closer. We landed on the north-west side of the island, near Pointe du Batéguier.
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2. Admire Fort Royal – a must-see on Île Sainte-Marguerite
Once you’ve arrived at the island’s landing stage, you’ll need to walk 500m (uphill) to reach Fort Royal. Listed as a historic monument, this site is a must-see when visiting the island! It houses the Iron Mask Museum. Walking towards the fortifications, we discovered superb views of the ramparts facing the sea.
The island’s history is marked by the mysterious legend of theMan in the Iron Mask, who was imprisoned in Fort Royal for 11 long years. Disembarked on the island in 1687, he was locked up in a cell designed expressly for him under the orders of King Louis XIV. He was forced to wear an iron mask until his death in 1703. His identity remains a mystery to this day, even if historians have a few clues! At present, it is possible to visit his cell.
To reach the fort, you’ll need to climb 60 steps or take a 350m-long gently sloping path. This road is suitable for people with reduced mobility, but be aware that the cobbled surface has a lot of relief.
3. Visit the Iron Mask Museum (Musée de la Mer)
Formerly known as the Musée de la Mer, it exhibits collections of regional underwater and terrestrial archaeology. In keeping with the myth of the Man in the Iron Mask, the museum also houses a collection relating to his captivity and intriguing existence. Learn more about the theories and speculations surrounding the identity of this mysterious individual, one of the most famous enigmas in French history!
The museum also offers information on the maritime history of Île Sainte-Marguerite and the region. We loved exploring the fort, which is an impressive example of military architecture, while discovering the fascinating legend of the Iron Mask!
Beyond the museum’s collection, you’ll enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the island and the Bay of Cannes on the horizon. It boasts an exceptional setting combining history and nature!
4. Hiking around the island
If you’re a keen hiker, you’ll love the Chemin de Ceinture, which circles the entire island. It winds along the seafront, offering incredible views of the Bay of Cannes and neighboringÎle Saint-Honorat.
We had no trouble finding our way around. You’ll find plenty of information panels as you go along. The soil is a mixture of earth, pebbles and tree roots. Watch where you put your feet to avoid tripping.
The hike is relatively flat. You’ll encounter some gentle gradients, and the climb to Fort Royal is more marked. We were charmed by the different landscapes of the island, especially the northern part. We watched the environment evolve around us. Between the tall, wind-blown pines, the rocks firmly anchored in the water and the Étang de Batéguier, the island is full of surprises!
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5. Enjoy the beaches of Sainte-Marguerite Island
Across the island, you’ll find several swimming spots. However, you should be aware that there are no large white sandy beaches. The island’s beaches and coves are very rocky. We recommend that you bring water shoes with you, to avoid hurting your feet.
Plage des Pierres Hautes
Located in the south-east of the island, Plage des Pierres Hautes is a popular spot for sunbathing. We advise you to be well equipped if you wish to relax here. There’s no sand, only rock.
We found this place calm and rejuvenating. The water was completely transparent, and the rocks very organic. So, are you ready to take a dip? Watch the ground before you step on it!
Beach behind Étang du Batéguier
This beach is less crowded than the others, as it is wilder. It hides behind the Étang du Batéguier. The panorama of the Massif de l’Estérel impressed us! The soil is composed of pebbles, cobbles and rocks. Once again, don’t forget to wear water shoes for added comfort.
Criques de la Pointe du Dragon
From the Criques de la Pointe du Dragon, you can enjoy a unique view of Île Saint-Honorat. They are located close to the landing stage. Equip yourself with a mask and snorkel, and set off to discover the island’s seabed. You can walk along the many rocks that sink into the water. An ideal spot for snorkelling! We were charmed by this landscape of rock and sea.
6. Observe the flora and fauna of Étang de Batéguier
Nestled on the west side of the island, less than 300m from the landing stage, we made our way to Étang de Batéguier. It’s an ideal place to observe migratory birds: gulls, herons, stilts, nightingales and other species. As we wandered around the island, we discovered numerous signs with information on the local flora and fauna. We really appreciated this approach!
This bird sanctuary attracts many birds, as well as humans! This little haven of peace is quite different from the rest of the island. We were seduced by the shades of green in the vegetation, the reflection of the trees in the pond water, and the ambiance of the place. What’s more, it offers a spectacular view of the Massif de l’Estérel! The floor is a mixture of twigs and wood shavings.
7. Searching for ball-bearing furnaces
The Îles de Lérins are home to 4 strategically placed cannonball furnaces: 2 on Île Sainte-Marguerite and 2 on Île Saint-Honorat. The 1st is at Pointe du Dragon, and the 2nd at Batterie du Vengeur. You should know that there are only a dozen of this type left in France! Built on the orders of General Bonaparte in 1793, they were used to defend the coast.
To find the oven you can see in our photo, we took the Chemin de la Batterie. If you decide to continue along this path, you’ll come to the Convention Battery, at the very eastern end of the island.
8. Dive to visit Jason de Caires Taylor’s Underwater Ecomuseum
Are you interested in visiting an extraordinary museum? On the south side of the island, hidden behind the Maison Forestière, you’ll discover the Jason de Caires Taylor Underwater Ecomuseum. A renowned sculptor and diver, he has created a series of underwater sculptures installed in various locations around the world. The Écomusée de Cannes is an artistic project that combines art and the preservation of the marine environment! We were very impressed by this approach.
The Beach of the Cannes Underwater Ecomuseum
As you can see, you’ll need a mask and snorkel to access the works of art! The bathing perimeter is clearly marked with markers. The water is turquoise and perfectly transparent. Now that you’re all set, it’s time for a little underwater expedition! The farthest sculpture from the shore is at 132m, and the depth extends to 5m. We were totally won over by the concept of this museum, which promotes ecology and art!
9. Do a nautical activity
Do you like water sports? On Sainte-Marguerite island, you can choose from several options:
- snorkel along the rocks and watch the fish,
- explore the coastline by kayak,
- learn to sail a catamaran around the island,
- hop on a paddle and enjoy the scenery.
Base Nautique du Batéguier Florence Arthaud offers private lessons and rentals of catamarans, windsurfers, kayaks, paddles, wingfoils, windfoils, dinghies, eclipse paddles, surskis and big paddles. More information on the official website here.
10. Enjoy one of the restaurants on Sainte-Marguerite island
You’re getting hungry, but you don’t know if there are any restaurants on the island. Don’t worry, you’ll find them close to the landing stage. They boast superb sea views. We recommend Snack Le Lerõnos if you’re looking for a quick, inexpensive meal.
In our opinion, the best option is to bring your own food. Throughout the island, you’ll find several picnic tables facing the Bay of Cannes. Ideal for a gourmet, natural break!
If you decide to return to Cannes for a meal, be sure to check out our article on the city’s best restaurants!
11. Visit the village
Although the island has only around 20 year-round inhabitants, we recommend a visit to the village. We really enjoyed the narrow, leafy streets! We also discovered a well-preserved washhouse.
As you stroll along, you’ll pass fishermen’s cottages. On some portals, we observed hanging anchors. It’s one of the few places on the island where the ground is paved, which makes walking easier.
12. Search for the Covenant Battery and bunkers
To reach the Convention Battery, you have 4 options:
- via the Chemin de Ceinture to the south of the island on the seafront,
- by the Allée du Centre inland,
- by the Convention Road inland,
- via the Chemin de la Batterie on the seafront to the north of the island.
We opted for the waterfront paths to enjoy the island’s magnificent scenery while walking.
Classified as a historic monument, the Bastion de la Convention is a military structure erected during the Spanish occupation of the island until 1637. Situated on the western tip of the island, it was strategically located. Along the way, we came across several other bunkers. But this time, they were remnants of the German occupation, built during the Second World War.
Some bunkers have been transformed into viewpoints. We particularly liked the Dragon Belvedere. In addition to the panoramic view over the Bay of Cannes, you’ll find information panels on the forest ecosystem and the island’s history.
Frequently asked questions and practical advice
Is a visit to Sainte-Marguerite island worthwhile?
Absolutely! Sainte-Marguerite Island is well worth a visit.
It’s a jewel of nature, with superb views and a rich history.
It’s easy to get to, with frequent ferry connections from Cannes. In our opinion, it’s the ideal place to recharge your batteries away from the hustle and bustle of the Croisette!
Between the myth of the Iron Mask and the breathtaking scenery, we warmly recommend a visit to this mysterious island on the Côte d’Azur.
Where is Sainte-Marguerite Island?
- East of the Côte d’Azur,
- Off Cannes,
- Between Antibes and Saint-Raphaël,
- Nice to Cannes = 30 min drive.
Here’s a map of the Côte d’Azur islands to help you find your way around:
We advise you to visit Sainte-Marguerite Island during the low season if you can. This way, you can bypass the crowds of tourists.
In summer, the Îles de Lérins are very popular destinations. They are therefore very busy, especially in the afternoon. All the more so as Sainte-Marguerite Island attracts more people than its neighbor. The ferries are quickly snapped up. We strongly recommend that you book your tickets early!
Is there a hotel on Sainte-Marguerite island?
No, you won’t find a hotel on Sainte-Marguerite Island. However, we’ve put together a full article on the best establishments in Cannes. Don’t hesitate to consult it to make the best choice for your personal tastes.