Discover the island of Sainte-Marguerite and its underwater museum

The Lérins Islands are the twin islands that can be seen from the Croisette promenade in Cannes. The island of Sainte-Marguerite is the larger of the two and the more popular with tourists.

Just a short boat ride from the prestigious city, this little piece of land floating in the Mediterranean offers dreamy landscapes and the refreshing tranquillity of nature.

In summer and winter alike, strolls among the eucalyptus and palm trees, visits to Fort Royal and seaside restaurants attract tourists and locals alike. If you go in summer, Sainte-Marguerite has a wealth of little coves around the island that are no match for the beaches on the mainland.

An underwater eco-museum is also available to divers. With just a mask and snorkel, you can admire huge stone statues in the underwater world.

© maudanros / Shutterstock

According to legend, the islands of Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat were named after Honorat d'Arles, founder of the Abbey of Lérins, and his sister Marguerite. The story goes that Marguerite was not allowed to visit her brother on the religious island of Saint-Honorat. Despite this, her brother promised to see her at least once a year, when the almond trees were in bloom. Marguerite, who missed her brother terribly, prayed so hard that an almond tree on the island began to blossom every month.

Another legend has it that Honorat and his sister Marguerite fought a dragon on the island. The dragon was mortally wounded and died in the hills around Draguignan.

The two Lérins islands off Cannes

- © GLF Media / Shutterstock

The history of the island of Sainte-Marguerite

The island of Sainte-Marguerite has been occupied since the 6th century BC. For thousands of years, the island faced wars of power and natural disasters.

From the 1600s onwards, the island fort was used as a prison. It was here that the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned, an unknown prisoner yet one of the most famous in French history.

Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d'Albion Cannes
Booking.com

Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d'Albion

The Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d'Albion welcomes you in the heart of Cannes, between the seafront and the prestigious designer boutiques of the main shopping district.
8.5 Very good
From
£190 / night
Book

In addition to the fort, Napoleon Bonaparte built a number of ball-burning furnaces on the island. These were used to supply red-hot cannonballs to the cannon batteries for coastal defence.

Sainte-Marguerite is a beautiful, historic island.

- © Arthur R. / Shutterstock

The Great Botanical Garden, a well-guarded garden

On the southern part of the island, opposite Saint-Honorat, a 13,750 square metre botanical garden has been cultivated for centuries. Sold in 2008 for around €40 million, the Grand Jardin contains a variety of citrus and fruit trees, but is unfortunately not open to the public.

Le Grand Jardin is the only private building on the island of Sainte-Marguerite.

- © AerialDronePics / Shutterstock

What to do on the island of Sainte-Marguerite?

The island, which is around 2 square kilometres in size, is home to many treasures.

The Batéguier pond

The island's pond is a popular spot for birdwatchers, where you can observe a variety of bird species all year round. An explanatory table and an observatory will help you spot the flying bipeds.

The island is packed with activities for the whole family.

- © Sean Nel / Shutterstock

The Museum of the Mysterious Iron Mask and the Royal Fort

Formerly known as the "Museum of the Sea", the Museum of the Iron Mask and the Royal Fort is an archaeological and historical museum. Built into the rock, this listed fort houses a diverse collection of objects full of history. You can visit the former state prisons, including the famous cell of the mysterious prisoner in the iron mask. In another part of the museum, you can visit the Huguenot memorial and the murals painted by Jean Le Gac on the theme of the prisoner painter.

Roman cisterns, dating back to the first arrivals on the island of Lérins, are also housed within the museum.

Finally, you can take a look at shipwrecks, including the Roman wreck of the Tradelière (15-10 BC) and the Saracen wreck of the Batéguier (10th century AD), both of which are marvels of the history of the PACA region.

Practical information

👛Prices:

Admission to the museum costs €6 full price and €3 concessions, and is open all year round.

👉 All information is available on the Cannes city website.

👉 You can book your tickets on Cannesbillets.

Underwater Ecomuseum of the Lérins Islands

The maritime museum is free and accessible only with a mask and snorkel. It consists of 6 submerged statues near the southern shore of the island of Sainte-Marguerite. Incredible to see.

The most beautiful coves on the island of Sainte-Marguerite

All around the island, there are a number of coves within easy walking distance:

  • Creeque Portet: located just beside the Maison Forestière, a 20-minute walk from the port.
  • Maison Forestière beach: the largest beach on the island, a 20-minute walk from the port.
  • Les criques du Dragon: in the south-west of the island, a 5-minute walk from the port.
  • Plage Sainte-Anne: a pebble beach between the harbour pontoon and Pointe de Batéguier, the first beach on the left as you leave the boat.

It's less crowded than on the mainland.

- © maudanros / Shutterstock

The best walks on the Lérins islands

The island's national forest is home to around twenty protected plant species, 133 bird species, 6 bat species and 4 reptile species. It's a little paradise of nature.

It's a great place to go for a walk, and we recommend the following:

  • Take the seaside tour of the island. When you leave the boat, turn left towards the Royal Fort, then the Fort de la Convention and finally back along the sea to the Etang du Batéguier.
  • The walk around the Etang du Batéguier.

The island is accessible by boat.

- © maudanros / Shutterstock

Practical information

🚌 How do I get to the island of Sainte-Marguerite?

You can go by boat to the Lérins islands.

The Cannestourist office website offers tickets. Departures and returns are several times a day.

👛 Fares:

  • 16 € return for adults.
  • 10 return for children aged 4 to 10.

🐕 Dogs are allowed on the island of Saint-Marguerite, provided they are kept on a lead.

🙅‍♀️ However, bicycles, scooters, drones, harpoons for fishing, barbecues and cigarettes are strictly forbidden on the island.

Where to eat?

🍴 La Guérite

Upmarket restaurant for seafood by the sea.

Address: Cannes - Île Sainte-Marguerite, 06400 Cannes

Opening times: noon to 6pm, every day.

🍴 Le Lerõnos

Small kiosk near the harbour.

Address: Cannes - Île Sainte-Marguerite, 06200 Cannes

Opening times: 8am to 7pm, every day.

🍴 L'Escale

Traditional and authentic restaurant.

Address: Cannes - Île Sainte-Marguerite, 06400 Cannes

Opening times: 10am to 6pm, every day.

by Editorial Team
Need a hand? take a look at our guide
Cannes
Cannes
Latest news
Rio de Janeiro
The 10 most luxurious hotels in Rio de Janeiro
Santo Domingo
6 emblematic sites in the colonial centre of Santo Domingo
Rio de Janeiro
A breathtaking view of Rio de Janeiro from Christ the Redeemer
Read more articles
Best cities