The Lerin Islands: Escape the hustle and bustle of the resorts on the French Riviera and take the ferry from the port of Cannes and sail away to an island…
The “Iles de Lérins” is a small cluster of islands just off the coast of Cannes which form part of the commune of Cannes. The archipelago has two main islands: Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat and two micro-islands: Tradelière and St-Féréol.
Ile Sainte Marguerite Cannes
Île Sainte-Marguerite is the largest of these Mediterannean islands though at 3km in length, it’s not huge. It is possessed of stunning natural beauty, a place of rocky inlets and botanical trails. Reaching it takes just 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry but when you arrive, it’s like entering a different world. Leaving the boat, you follow the path upwards. The first thing to notice is the refreshing eucalyptus scent and the serene landscape. Follow the winding route to the top where there are spectacular sea views and Cannes seems very far away.
Inhabited since Roman times, the island is most famous for its Fort Royal, where the “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned. To this day there is speculation about his identity as no one ever saw his face hidden under a black velvet mask. There are many theories – perhaps he was the illegitimate heir to the throne for instance, all we really know is that the first reports of his existence date back to 1669.
You can take a tour of Fort Royal and visit the cell where the Man in the Iron Mask was held. The masked prisoner died on November 19, 1703 and was buried under the name Marchioly. His story has inspired many writers and there have several novels and films about him.
Fort Royal houses the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea) where you can admire archaeological finds from shipwrecks.
Heading back outside, the hot sun will warm you, a relief after the dark cold cells. You can follow the path through the woods shaded by pine trees and discover a bay that’s perfect to sit and enjoy the silence, the sun and the rippling water. The quiet bays along this stretch of the coast offer beautiful views and are an oasis of nature and peace.
There are a few restaurants and bars on the island where you can stop for refreshment before heading back to the busy town of Cannes…
Ferries to the Iles des Lerins
The ferry terminal for boats to the Iles de Lérins can be found at the far southwest corner of Cannes harbour. If you’re standing in the center of Cannes looking out to sea (south), go around the right side of the harbor (west), to Quai Saint Pierre and past the Sofitel hotel.
Boats run regularly (with more frequent services in spring and summer).
Article by Darina Nykl who lives in Holland where she works in a hospital and is an author. She blogs about the stories she is writing which are mostly set in Amsterdam, Paris, Provence and the Cote d’Azur, places that inspire her: darinanykl.com