Located just a short boat trip from the mainland, these two islands offer a wonderful refuge from the holiday crowds found along the French Riviera coast.
Known in ancient times as Lérina and Lero, the islands are now named Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat after two 4th-century saints and are the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle amidst eucalyptus woods, sunshine and tranquillity.
How to get to the Îles de Lérins
Ferries to the Îles de Lérins depart from Cannes, Golfe Juan and Juan les Pins however there is no boat service linking the two islands together so you must choose which island you prefer to visit.
By far the best way to experience the islands is by private yacht. Chartering a private yacht is ideal if you want to avoid planning your day around the ferry schedules and you can anchor near to the island restaurants and have your pick of secluded coves for swimming.
The larger and more popular of the islands, Île Sainte-Marguerite is dissected by walking paths that lead through Aleppo pines, strawberry trees, eucalyptus forests and Mediterranean scrub. There are a few shingle beaches or you can swim off the rocks.
The island’s Fort Royal became a state prison in the late 17th-century and housed a famous prisoner, the Man in the Iron Mask, who was imprisoned there from 1687-1698 until he was moved to the Bastille in Paris. His real identity remains a mystery and a great source of speculation for historians.
Entry to the Fort (€6,50 entrance fee for adults; free entry for children under 18 years) includes access to the prisons and the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea) with displays of archaeological finds from nearby shipwrecks and Roman wall murals found on the island.
There are a few snack kiosks near the ferry pier and a terrace restaurant L’Escale, but our pick is La Guérite restaurant with a beautiful view over the sea and a tempting menu that includes octopus carpaccio with lemon oil, sea bass with artichoke puree and a tropical-themed dessert of coconut ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon and pineapple chips.
Bespoke Yacht Charter’s Top Tips : Entry to Musée de la Mer is free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month between October and March. La Guérite restaurant provides a tender shuttle during season from Port Pierre Canto in Cannes every 30 minutes from 11a.m. and from La Guérite every 30 min. from 11.15 a.m. The tender shuttle is available on demand at the departure of your choice, so if you don’t fancy leaving your Cannes berth you can still visit the restaurant.
Île Saint-Honorat is the smaller island and well-known in the Christian world with the island monastery hosting 20 saints throughout its history including Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who studied there.
In the 7th-century, Île Saint-Honorat was home to 700 monks but today just 20 Cistercian monks remain on the island cultivating and selling lavender products, honey, wine and liqueurs including a few variations of Lérina (herb-based) and fruit liqueurs (mandarin, lemon).
The island has a unique micro-climate where the soil and air produces 6 grape varieties across 8-hectares of vines – we’re partial to the Syrah but if you can get your hands on a bottle of the 2007 Cuvée Saint-Salonius (Pinot Noir) you’ll make friends very quickly.
You can walk the pathways on the island past the vines, chapels and two heritage-listed ovens installed at the east and west of island by order of Napoléon where cannonballs were heated quickly to high temperatures so they caused fires on impact with attacking ships.
Tourists to the island can visit the Monastère-forteresse (fortified monastery), a keep on the water’s edge that was built to protect the monks from Saracen pirates, and attacks from the Genoese and the Spaniards. The terrace on the top floor has panoramic views across the bay of Cannes and to the Estérels.
If you fancy a bite to eat, grab a snack at Les Canailles or make a reservation at the island restaurant La Tonnelle that focuses on Mediterranean dishes.
Bespoke Yacht Charter’s Top Tip: If you are limited for time and want a hassle-free excursion combined with a wine tasting of two of the islands wines, there are packages available that include a return boat trip between Cannes and Île Saint-Honorat, tastings of the Clairette and Syrah and a brief wine workshop. Bookings via the link below.
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.
To discuss chartering a yacht to the Îles de Lérins, Cannes and other French Riviera destinations, please contact:
- Alexander Coles, Senior Charter Broker
- +33 677 469 700
- +44 207 368 3328
Original article authorised for use by Bespoke Yacht Charter and can be found here: Bespoke Yacht Charter – Iles de Lerins