Between Ste-Marguerite and St-Honorat island is a sound with turquoise blue waters which is a favorite anchoring point for small yachts and boats during the summer.
On the big catamaran on the right side of my photo there was a party going on.
Next to the entrance of the Fort Royal stands a beautiful gun from 1715 which was found (1995) in the sea at a depth of 41 m in silt sediment that protected the gun from corrosion.
It is not only a performing 24 pound bronze gun weighing 2800 kg that could fire at a maximum range of about 4000 m (efficient against fortifications at a distance of 400 m) but it has a nice classical decoration usual at the time of King Louis XIV.
The motto engraved on the barrel is Ultima Ratio Regum (the last argument of kings) which is not without some dark humor.
The name of this gun made in Strasbourg is "l'Inconnu" the "Unknown". Actually this gun never belonged to the fortress and it is still a mystery what it was doing there in the sea between the island and Cannes because it is not a naval gun but a siege cannon. The conservation of this gun was excellent; it has never served.
From the seventeenth century on, the Ile Sainte-Marguerite had essentially a military vocation.
Under King Louis XIII the Duc de Guise started to build (1624) the fortress Fort Royal (just east of the ferry pier) which was almost immediately conquered and reinforced by the Spaniards (1635). They had 800 men on this island without a sole spring so that they had to collect the rain water (now there is an underwater conduct bringing water from Cannes).
The fortress was recaptured by the French in 1635 and later the famous French military engineer Vauban reinforced and extended Fort Royal which became a state prison with the Iron Mask has most popular prisoner (1687 - 1698) taking into account the number of books and films generated by the still unknown prisoner.
More prisoners followed such as Abd el-Kader (1843) after the conquest of Algeria.
In 1859 there were 600 Austrian prisoners captured at the battle of Montebello.
Only one of the prisoners of the fortress escaped the Marshal of France François Bazaine who had been sentenced by the government for his surrender of the fortress city of Metz and his army of 180.000 men to the Prussians on 27 October 1870.
His young Mexican wife and a nephew hired a yacht in Genoa and sailed to Golfe Juan (near Cannes) where they hired a fisher boat. In the night of 9/08/1874 they waited for the prisoner at the feet of the fortress. Balzaine came down with a cord from the 23 m high wall, jumped in the sea and did swim towards the boat. He found refuge in Madrid.
There are many other things to say about the Fort Royal which we did not visit because the weather was too nice to stay inside and we have read enough about the Masque de Fer - Iron Mask in the novel of Alexandre Dumas "Le Vicomte de Bragelonne" also the author of d'Artagnan and The Three Musketeers which enjoyed our young years.
It is nowadays difficult to imagine that a few centuries ago there were gun batteries on these now quite pacific islands in order to defend the coast from the approach by enemy vessels (there are also bunkers from WW II on the coast of the island).
The "four à boulets" cannonball furnace beneath the observation platform at the Pointe du Dragon was part of this defensive system and has been build in 1793 under command of general Bonaparte (who started his military career has artillery officer).
These ovens could heat 20 metal cannonballs till they were red-hot. That would take about 35 min. Must have been rather hazardous for the gunners to introduce these red-hot cannonballs inside the tube of the gun!
There are two of these "four à boulets" on the Ste-Marguerite Island and also two on the St-Honorat Island.
From the seventeenth century on, the Ile Sainte-Marguerite had essentially a military vocation.
Under King Louis XIII the Cardinal de Richelieu started to build the fortress, which was almost immediately conquered by the Spaniards. The memory of that occupation is guarded by the name Pointe du Dragon which is not linked to any dragon but an alteration of the Spanish Aragon.
Once you have disembarked, best is to move south-west to the Pointe du Dragon by the wide paths in the shadow of the Alep pine trees and also here and there maritime pines that belong to the natural forest of the island. In the centre of the island exotic eucalyptus has been planted around 1860. There is an Allée des Eucalyptus south of the fortress.
Even if you were a hundred visitors on the pier you will very soon be nearly alone because there is room enough on this island of 3.5 km long and 1 km wide. The island is rather flat, maximum height 30 m. There is a pond of brackish water called Etang du Batéguier near the western point. There is no spring on the island. The soft water comes from Cannes by an underwater conduct.
At the Pointe du Dragon an observation platform (built on a bunker from WW II) with beautiful views on the bay of Cannes has been constructed. There are a number of boards explaining the botanical and zoological characteristics of the island.
There are two restaurants and two snacks on the Ile Ste-Marguerite; you can see on VT or TA what people think of them.
Best is to take your picnic with you. A "baguette", wine, cheese and a "saucisson" are the basics.
On the island you will find a large number of picnic areas.
We much liked those at the Pointe du Dragon. As you can see from my photo they remember the Stone Age. Not really comfortable but the views are fantastic and the shadow of the pine trees is much appreciated in the summer. Furthermore they are close to the sea if you want to "ouvrir l'appétit" by a swim.
Next year we will go back to l'île Ste-Marguerite because we had only water with us and no wine!
Don’t expect to find soft sand beaches on this island like in Cannes.
Access to the sea is possible in several places but it is between the rocks and the few meters of "beach" consist mainly of small stones. Therefore wearing plastic sandals is a must to protect your feet. Once in the water these small and hidden beaches under the pine trees are agreeable because the sea is quiet and the views, for example on the Ile St-Honorat, nice as you can see from my photos.
There is a beach with softer grit just west of the pier in front of the sailing club.
Views from the boat on Cannes are great and worthwhile the price (12 €) one pays for the return trip even if it takes only 15 min. During our trip at the end of September we had hot weather for the season so that the sea breeze on the upper deck was welcome. Sailing out the Cannes harbour is already fine for the views on the luxury yachts, the promenade and the hill of Le Suquet. To the west there are also the hills of l'Esterel.
Arriving on the island is again nice because it looks so quiet compared to Cannes and the Fort Royal brings you back for some centuries in the past. As soon as you have left the pier there are less and less people and after a few hundred meters walking you will be alone under the trees.
There is apparently one ferry company "Trans Côte d'Azur" going to the Île Sainte-Marguerite, the island closest to Cannes and the other "Planaria" is only going to the Île Saint-Honorat.
Crossing the bay of Cannes to Sainte-Marguerite takes only 15 min but it offers very nice views from the upper deck so that one does not regret paying a rather high price for the ticket:
Return ticket: adult 12 €; reduced at 10 € for youngsters 11 - 14 yr, students 18 - 25, seniors 65 yr.
6,50 € children 5 - 10 yr; Free 5 yr.
Tickets desk and departure at the Quai Laubeuf (west of the Vieux Port). There is a large parking area.
The arrival quay Débarcadère on the island is about 400 m west of the fortress. There are two snacks and 2 restaurants in that area as well as a toilet.
Time table departure from Cannes:
07.30 h (except Sundays between 1/11 and 1/04), 09.00; 09.30 ²; 10.00; 10.30 ²; 11.00; 11.30 ²;12.00; 12.30 ²; 13.00 ²; 13.30 ²; 14.00; 14.30 ²; 15.00; 15.30 ²; 16.00; 16.30; 17.30 ².
² are optional/facultative departures depending on high or low season. Check at the ticket desk.
Return departure from Sainte-Marguerite Island:
07.45 h; 09.15; 10.15; 11.45; 12.15; 13.15 ²; 14.15; 15.15; 16.15; 17.00; 18.00 from April to September inclusive.
Abbaye de Notre Dame de Lérins
Take a breezy 30-minute boat trip to the serene Lérins Islands. Take the Planaria ferry line which bypasses the more touristy island of Saint Marguerite - where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned - to the prettier Saint Honorat. Occupied by monks since the 4th century, the Cistercians who are the current incumbents take in guests seeking prayerful retreat at the Abbaye. Here, you meditate among the lavender fields and vineyards that are the source of the delicious Cuvée Saint Honorat wines.
Planaria ferry line (Quai des îles - port de Cannes – direction La Bocca by the sea, facing sofitel Hotel tel +33 4 9298 7138)
Summer time (May-September)
Leaving Cannes 8h, 9h, 10h, 11h, 12h --14h, 15h, 15h50, 16h30, 17h30
Return from Saint Honorat 8h30, 9h30, 10h30, 11h30, 12h30, 14h30, 15h30, 16h10, 17h, 18h
Winter hours (October - April)
Leaving Cannes 8h, 9h, 10h, 12h, 14h, 15h, 16h30
Return from Saint Honorat 8h30, 9h30, 10h30, 12h30, 14h30, 15h30, 17h
Spent the voyage time in private boat for snorkeling, diving, fishing during visiting Ste honorat island and Ste Marguerite island. Surpring us it's hot during daytime, very good to do swmming, water activities. We ordered the luxury picnic package to spend the romantic time on island beach.
When you are in Cannes do not miss to go to Iles Ste. Marguerite. We went early there and took a boat to this wonderful island. It is a small island surrounded by lots of trees and there is this fortress and when you go inside it you will find an antique building that was used as a prison. We went inside the prison cells and there are paintings on the walls. Then we went in one of the cells and there was written that there was the man in the iron mask. Afterwards we went to the beach and sunbathed. The beach is really nice and to my surprise it is really clean knowing that lots of people go there.
So trust me .... do not miss it
Iles de Lérins are two islands (Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat) off the coast of Cannes facing le Palm Beach area. Only the larger île Saint-Marguerite is visible from Cannes, with Saint-Honorat hidden behind. Historically, they held a strategic point for navigation and thus have a long history going back to pre-Roman times (then named the islands of Léro and Lérina). Their importance continued through Christian times with the construction of a fortified monastery on Saint-Honorat, which is functional to this day. Ile Sainte-Marguerite, on the other hand, is uninhabited but is famous for its castle "Fort Royal", which served as a prison for famous characters such as the Man in the Ironmask, to name only one.
The islands today have become a lesser-known playground for summer tourists. Between the two is a sound with turquoise blue waters which is a favourite anchoring point for small yachts and boats during the summer. For the boat-less masses, though, ferries shuttle back and forth from le Vieux Port to the islands all day. In addition to sightseeing (monastery on Saint-Honorat and Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite), visitors can hike through the wildlife around the islands or lay on their tiny secluded beaches. Ile Sainte-Marguerite also has a restaurant that serves lunch. The islands make a fun excursion from Cannes.
Iles de Lerins are two small islands (Ile Ste-Marguerite and Ile St-Honorat) off Cannes, where you can take a short ferry ride over, and a perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.
On the Ile St-Honorat, which is a smaller island of the two, you can visit a small chapel - St. Caprais, Abbaye de Lerins - the 19th century church, and the Monastere Fortifie - built in 1073 to protect the monks from Saracen pirates.
I visited Ile Ste-Marguerite to visit the Fort Royal where the man in the iron mask was imprisoned for 11 years. The island is covered with Eucalyptus trees. From the port, you walk up the hill to the fort. There are a few small restaurants and cafes on the way.
The Fort Ste-Marguerite was built under Richelieu in the 17th century, and strengthened by Vauban in 1712. Many of the original buildings are still standing there including a building now used for a Maritime museum, and a prison building where you can step inside the man in the iron mask's cell.
Warning! - No photographs inside the building. I didn't know that and wanted to take a photo of the cell sign, but right when I was ready to take it, a staff jumped behind me and said, "No photo!". He actually waited for me to put a finger on the shutter button to scare me. I put a camera away, and walked inside the cell. Then, he came inside and said, "Now, you are in jail with me." No one else was there... I walked right out. Maybe it's not a good idea to visit a prison alone...
Once you've tired of the glitter and all in Cannes, it doesn't take long to get away from it all.
VISIT Les iles de lerins !!! :o)
Less than half an hour’s boat trip away, across the bay from Cannes, the Lérins Islands are the most interesting excursion from the port.
The first contact with the island is quite suprising. After the noise of the port of Cannes, the crowd on the boat during the crossing, the island of Lérins is suddenly a peaceful world where the sceneries are beautiful.
The "Iles de Lérins" is a small archipelago just off the coast of Cannes and part of the commune of Cannes. The archipelago has the two main islands of Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat.
The Ile Saint-Honorat has a Mediterranean coastal forest of native pine, eucalyptus and cypress trees.
It was on the island of Sainte-Marguerite that the “Man in the Iron Mask”, made famous by Alexandre Dumas, he spent eleven years in the prison of the Isle of Sainte-Marguerite.