Exploring Ile Ste-Marguerite

Ile Ste-Marguerite is one big botanical garden—cars, cigarettes, and all other pollutants are banned—ringed by crystal-clear sea. From the dock, you can stroll along the island to Fort Royal, built by Spanish troops in 1637 and used as a military barracks and parade ground until World War II. The infamous “Man in the Iron Mask” was allegedly imprisoned here, and you can follow the legend back to his horribly spooky cell.

Musée de la Mer, Fort Royal (tel. 04-93-38-55-26), traces the history of the island, displaying artifacts of Ligurian, Roman, and Arab civilizations, plus the remains discovered by excavations, including paintings, mosaics, and ancient pottery. The museum is open June to September daily from 10am to 5:45pm, and Tuesday to Sunday October to May 10:30am to 1:15pm and 2:15 to 4:45pm (closing at 5:45pm Apr–May). Admission is 6€ for adults, 3€ for visitors 25 and under, and free for children 17 and under.

Exploring Ile St-Honorat

Only 1.6km (1 mile) long, Ile St-Honorat is much quieter than neighboring Ste-Marguerite. But in historical terms, it’s much richer than its island sibling and is the site of a monastery whose origins date from the 5th century. The Abbaye de St-Honorat (www.abbayedelerins.com; tel. 04-92-99-54-00) is a combination of medieval ruins and early-20th-century ecclesiastical buildings and is home to a community of about 25 Cistercian monks. Most visitors content themselves with a wander through the pine forests on the island’s western side, a clamber around the ruined monastery on the island’s southern edge, and a bathe on its seaweed-strewn beaches. 

The monks also transform the island’s herbs, vines, and honey into a wealth of organic products, including lavender oil and wine. All can be purchased in the monastery shop. There is also an excellent lunch-only seafood restaurant, La Tonnelle (www.tonnelle-abbayedelerins.fr; tel. 04-92-99-54-08). It’s closed from November to mid-March. And no, it’s not the monks who cook, but they can organize a wine-tasting or small island tour if arranged in advance. In particular, a new option is an 18€ wine tour, which includes 15 min. for strolling the island vineyards and a taste of two wines, as well as a round-trip ferry ticket to the island.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.