Continuing on our tour of beaches on the French Riviera, this week’s destination isn’t really one beach but a whole island of beaches. Ile Sainte-Marguerite is located just off Cannes, easily reached by a 15 minute ferry ride, and bursting with tiny rocky bays, magnificent umbrella pines, ancient eucalypus forests and one long sandy beach. The majority of the island is covered in forest, which is a protected domaine and a haven of calm as no there’s no traffic, just walking paths.
Sainte-Marguerite island together with its smaller neighbour St-Honorat are collectively called the îles de Lérins and they both make lovely destinations for day trips not only for their beaches, but to visit forts, monasteries and a former prison…. But that’s for another time, today I’m just showing you the beaches…
On arrival at the ferry jetty we usually walk straight across the island to the far side. Sainte-Marguerite is about 3 kms long and 900m wide, so easily managable even with young children and a picnic. We always take a picnic but there are a couple of restaurants and 2 snack bars near the jetty. If you’re visiting off season it’s worth checking the opening times of the cafés as they aren’t open all year round. You can find information on ferry times and restaurants here.
Most of the coast of the island is made up of little craggy rocky coves and the further you walk from the ferry jetty the less people you’ll see. Even in high season you can be lucky and find a cove to yourself. The little beaches are pebbly so come prepared with appropriate footware if like me you have sensitive feet, but the beauty of these pebbles means that the water is crystal clear – no sand churning around. You will find beaches with rockpools for crabbing and rocks to jump off. If you can carry them I recommend bringing nets for kids and masks and snorkels too.
Near the ferry jetty, to the right as you get off the boat, there is a long sandy beach with a boardwalk. It is home to a small sailing club, faces Cannes and is the closest beach with least walking so there are always more people about and it is not as tranquil as the little coves elsewhere.
We go to Ste-Marguerite in all seasons and have even swum here in January/February as the coves are sheltered and shallow, resulting in not-too-freezing water! It is wonderfully peaceful, far from any traffic, with only the noise of the sea, or wind in the trees and cicadas in summer to keep you company and yet so close to Cannes.
To get to île Ste-Marguerite, the easiest is to drive and park in the car park by the ferry terminal in Cannes (parking Laubeuf, quai Laubeuf). Alternatively take the train and walk from the station to quai Laubeuf. Ferries run about every half hour out to the island during high season and about once an hour at other times. There are less boats back to Cannes and even in high summer they don’t run late so do check the time of the last boat before you leave the jetty. There’s nowhere to sleep if you miss the last ferry, so it’ll be a night under the stars, which might or might not be what you feel like!
The ferry is a little pricey in my opinion, but it’s worth it. Even though it’s only 15 minutes there’s something fun about having to take a boat and children usually love it. Some of the ferries have glass bottoms and some have these excellent lookouts seen above. Taking a ferry makes it seem like a real adventure for the younger members of the family and under 5s travel free. By the way, you can save a Euro by booking online!
Do you like island beaches? What about ferries? Would you like to visit Sainte-Marguerite island?
For more beach choices see my round-up of 12 favourite beaches on the Côte d’Azur