Just off the glittering coast of Cannes lie two idyllic islands that feel blissfully far from the hustle of the mainland. Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat make up the tranquil Lerins Islands, beckoning visitors to lose themselves in nature, history, and refreshing island calm.
Lush forests, coastal trails, and dazzlingly blue waters reward those who escape to Île Sainte-Marguerite, the larger of the two islands. Tense thrillseekers can explore Fort Royal, the island’s 17th century fortress-turned-prison that held “The Man in the Iron Mask” during Louis XIV’s reign. For more easygoing explorers, the island’s miles of walking paths under pine and eucalyptus trees offer fantastic views of Cannes Harbor without the crowds.
After working up an appetite, delicious local cuisine can be found in the island’s handful of beachfront restaurants. Shellfish, sea-bass, and other fresh catches dominate menus, best enjoyed with the gentle sound of waves in the background. Before heading back to the mainland, stop to capture the iconic views of Fort Royal jutting out over the glittering Mediterranean Sea from the ferry dock.
Meanwhile, smaller Île Saint-Honorat provides a quieter island encounter just 15 minutes from Cannes by boat. Visitors have been making the crossing to Saint-Honorat’s serene shores since the 5th century AD when Honorat settled there as the island’s first monk. Today, Cistercian monks at the Lérins Abbey continue Honorat’s legacy of prayer and welcome guests to stroll their lovely private grounds.
Beyond the abbey, Île Saint-Honorat allures with its lack of streetlights or cars, replaced by dirt paths weaving through vineyards and historic chapels. Sample the monks’ renowned liqueurs before heading off on a self-guided island trek, keeping an eye out for egrets, cormorants, and other wildlife native to the island habitats.
With their pine forests, tranquil vibes, and picturesque Mediterranean scenery, the Lerins Islands promise the perfect low-key Riviera retreat. In just 20 minutes, visitors can be exploring coastal fortresses, hidden vine-covered pathways, and savoring the salty harbor breezes. No wonder these irresistible islands have been tempting travelers for centuries. Their untouched beauty and rich history, so close yet so far from the mainland, make for an unforgettable Côte d’Azur escape.