Hop on a short 15-20 minute ferry ride form the port of Cannes and be shuttled to another era.
Since the 5th century, a community of Cistercian monks have inhabited the island and the Abbaye de Lérins, and a brethren of 22 of them still do.
There are no cars allowed and the island is tiny enough to walk around in about an hour. The shore line is rocky, and there are no sandy beaches to speak of but the water is crystal clear and you can still stretch out in the sun and enjoy an a-typical beach day.
While on the island take your time. Linger. Make like a monk. Follow the paths through the verdant vineyards and olive trees to the existing abbey buildings where you’ll find a church and cloisters, living quarters, and a shop selling products made by other religious communities around the world (honey, soap, etc.).
Nearby the remnants of an older fortified abbey with crenelated crown juts into the sea. Climb the swirling stairs to the top and you’ll often find people lounging in the sun, picnicking and snapping photos of the island and newer (11th century) abbey.
But back to those vineyards. The 22 robed monks who live on Ile St-Honorat stay busy tending to the six varieties of grapes that grow here: viognier, chardonnay, clairette, pinot noir, syrah and mouvèdre. They’ve been growing it for centuries for their own consumption, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that they decided to bottle it and sell it and Voila! Abbaye de Lérins wine was born. FYI: The monks use no herbicide or pesticides, and salt deposited by the sea breeze allows natural cleansing of the soils and plants and today produce 40,000 bottles per year under the label Abbaye de Lérins.
You can buy it at a handful of shops and restaurants in Cannes or better yet, book lunch at the island’s only restaurant, La Tonnelle, where you can sample it overlooking the Bay of Cannes and neighboring island Ile. Ste Marguerite. There is also a gift shop if you just want to pick up a bottle.
On the first Friday of the month, La Tonnelle hosts a tasting of Abbaye de Lérins wine, too.
Catch the ferry from the Old Port (Vieux Port) in Cannes. The last ferry from the island leaves late afternoon—don’t miss it!
Ferries depart about every 30 minutes, from 7:30 a.m. until sunset. Round-trip
€11.00 adults; €5.50 children