Day Trip to Islands off Cannes

The two islands off Cannes are truly a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of the French Riviera, especially if you are looking for adventures a bit off the beaten tourist track.

Easy to get to by boat from either Nice or Cannes, Isle Sainte-Marguerite features miles of eucalyptus forest to explore, plus a museum with shipwrecks and the cell where the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ was held.  The smaller island of Isle Saint-Honorat is a still-functioning 2000-year-old Monastery and you can sample the wines made by the monks.

What to do on Sainte-Marguerite Island

Ile Sainte-Marguerite is the larger of the two islands and is covered by a Eucalyptus forest and crisscrossed with walking trails. In Roman times it was a military outpost and fort, guarding the Bay of Cannes and the Monastery on the neighboring island of Saint-Honorat from sea-attacks.

Hike the trails to circle the island and swim in the morning, then return to the dock for a leisurely restaurant lunch (snack bar also available).

Spend the afternoon exploring the extensive Fort Royal de l'île Sainte-Marguerite, Cannes.JPGruins of the Roman Fort and take in the Musee de la Mer  which is set in the former prison where the infamous ‘Man in the Iron Mask‘ was held.  After the prison cells, visit the shipwreck collection, a really well-displayed exhibit on the ancient Roman ships found sunk in the bay, what they were carrying and why, where they were coming from, why they sank, and the recovery efforts to raise them from the sea floor.

Museum tickets: 6.50€ for adults, and 3.50€ for those under 26.  Free for children under 18, students of any age with student ID under 26-years-old, plus there is a Free day for everyone the first Sunday of each month from November to March!

There are free guided tours of the Fort, but only in French, so here is a little historical summary in English to help you with your own explorations (or make the French tour easier to follow…)

What to do on Saint-Honorat Island

On Ile Saint-Honorat, the smaller of the two islands, discover the 2000-year-old still-active monastery, where the resident monks live a modest deeply-spiritual life and tend the vines.

Start with a quiet lunch at the little sea-side restaurant, featuring the island wines, bien sur!  Then explore the ancient ruins, walk the pine forest, stroll the vineyards, visit the magnificent chapels, relax and quietly contemplate.

The Monastery takes in visitors for short spiritual and meditative stays, and has a robust calendar of prayers, masses, conferences, concerts, and meditations.

How to Get There

Unfortunately there is no boat that does both islands, and no shuttle boat runs between them, so you have to choose…

The boat trip from Nice to Sainte-Marguerite island takes 1 hour and costs 45€ round trip (36€ for kids).  It leaves in the morning, giving you a full day on the island and then brings you back at the end of the day.

You can do this same island trip by taking the train from Nice to Cannes for 16€ round-trip (or cheaper with a day train pass), and then taking the fast boat to Sainte-Marguerite Island from the far side of the Cannes Port, which runs every half-hour, takes only 15 minutes, and costs 17.50€ round trip (11€ for kids).  So you save some money, have a lot more flexibility, and can combine a day trip to Cannes in the same day.

The monastery/wine-making island Saint-Honorat is serviced by a different boat company, which you can only get from Cannes.  After taking the train to Cannes, walk all the way around the port (15 minute walk) to the Abbaye des Lerins boat dock.  The 15-minute boat ride to the Ile St-Honorat is just 16.50€ round-trip if you book online, with child rates from 8-15€ depending on age.  The boat leaves on the hour (every half-hour in summer).

Photo credits:  Iles des Lerins by И. Максим МассалитинFort Royal de l’île Sainte-Marguerite, Cannes par MuseescAbbaye de Lérins vue du ciel par Anna Stevenson  , all licensed under Creative Commons.

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