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The Île Sainte-Marguerite is the largest part of the Lérins Islands, it is located about half a mile off shore from the French Riviera town of Cannes where visitors may access by ferry. The island length is approximately 3 kilometres and 900 metres across. It features beaches, an old fort & Riviera views. The island is famous for its fortress prison (the Fort Royal), which is then the Man in the Iron Mask held in the 17th century.
Man in the Iron Mask Island
St Marguerite is the first outstanding natural heritage that consists of 150 hectares of an eucallyptus and Aleppo pine tress forest, it is lined with a seabed of remarkable clarity. The clearly marked botanical journey allows you to observe the species of maritime trees and plants whenever you go by yourself. At the west of the island, there is Bateguier pond that is becoming the sanctuary of many migratory birds. The site is protected by the National Forest Office.
Occupying the oldest part of the Fort Royal, the Musée de la Mer is a land and marine archaeological museum. The museum is located around the former prison with the cell in which the Man in the Iron Mask was locked up. Visitors would view the Roman cisterns of the old castle and then at the upstairs, there are collection of objects from Roman and Saracen shipwrecks as well as Roman frescoes. The museum also presents explicative scale models and contemporary art works. Summer exhibitions take place on the vast terrace overlooking the sea.
The historic Fort Royal on Sainte Marguerite Island owes its notoriety to its most famous prisoner, the Man in the Iron Mask, that was incarcerated for eleven years when the fort housed a state prison. The fort built between 1624 and 1627 on the site of old Roman fortifications became a simple fortified house. During Spanish occupation in 1635, the little fort was extended and reinforced. Winning back the island in 1637, the French named the citadel Fort Royal and added reinforcements such as: deeper ditches, higher outer defence walls, two half-moons joining the fort by raised footbridges (that has gone) and then a low bastion in front of the entry gates. The military architect Vauban designed the fort in pentagonal as it is flanked by four bastions. During Word Ward II, an advanced surveillance post was added. There is also a chapel inside the fort, and of course an artillery storerooms including the immense wall-enclosed powder keg and the buildings for housing the troops. Today, the fort houses the Museum de la Mer of Cannes and is open to the public, however some parts remain in ruins because of overrun by the vegetation.
How to Get Tickets?
To visit the Fort Royal and Musee de la Mer, visitor should buy a 5Euro ticket for both attractions. No need reservation in advance unless for group.
How To Get Around?
Commercial ferries to commute to the nearest harbour are widely available.
What Should I Wear?
Comfortable attire and walking shoes. It is recommended bringing swim suits when visiting as the temptation to take a dip cannot be ignored.
Best Time to Visit
It's well worth a visit if you want to escape the crowds in September, on the other hand it could be quite a busy place in the high season (July - August).
Will I Need a Guide?
If you want to visit independently, the best way to explore the island is to follow the marked trails that take you on a botanical and the historical site. Otherwise, the National Forest Office offers you a guided tour during the summer.
How To Get There?
The island is served all year round by a regular commercial ferry service especially from Cannes. Trip is about 15 minutes long. Departures approximately every half an hour starting as early as 07:30 and the last boat returning at 18:00.
Bicycles, scooters, harpoon fishing and drones are not permitted during on Sainte Marguerite Island. Dogs are permitted to go on ferry. Be aware that the last ferry leaves always a little bit earlier. Its supposed to leave at 17:00, but it may departed at 16:50. So you guys, always get there early to be sure!