Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia: what to do and see?
To visit the Maddalena Archipelago, in the North-East of Sardinia, is to discover a group of magnificent islands bordered by equally beautiful beaches.
The 7 islands that make up the archipelago: Maddalena Island, Caprera Island, Budelli Island, Santa Maria, Spargi, Santo Stefano and Razzoli are among the must-see places of interest when a stay in Sardinia.
During your holidays in the Archipelago National Park you will have the opportunity to practice many activities such as diving or hiking, to take boat trips or simply to enjoy some of the most sublime beaches in Sardinia. .
Discover our guide to things to do and see in the Maddalena Archipelago.
So what to see and where to go in the Maddalena Archipelago?
Day 1: The essentials
We begin this tourist guide of the Maddalena archipelago with the must-see island to visit: that of Maddalena.
Maddalena is the largest of the 7 islands and the only one accessible by ferry (I’ll explain everything in detail in the section: “How to reach the archipelago”, a little further down in the article).
As in all of Sardinia, the island of Maddalena is especially famous for having lots of beaches and coves with crystal clear water.
To go around it during the day, the best solution is to rent a car. There are not really bus lines allowing you to travel everywhere, and by bike you will not have time to see everything unless you are quite sporty. So without hesitation, opt for the car!
Here is my list of things to do and see on the island of Maddalena!
The town of Maddalena is the arrival town for ferries from Sardinia.
This small seaside resort is a pretty colorful town where you will find plenty of souvenir shops and many cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlors.
No specific monument to see but a pleasant walk along the port or in the alleys awaits you. In the evening, it is here that all the entertainment is concentrated.
The scenic route of Maddalena
The 20 km panoramic road that goes all around the island is the best way to not miss any of the most beautiful places in Maddalena.
On the road, several viewpoints are set up to admire the panorama.
The best beaches in Maddalena
I have prepared for you my selection of the most beautiful beaches and coves of the island of Maddalena:
- La spiaggia di Tegge: a nice corner with rocks in the water and quite photogenic
- La Cala Francese and its pink granite rocks
- The Carlotto: small cape where the Madonnetta chapel is located by the sea. You will find small coves there that are not very frequented but it is better to have shoes for swimming because there are quite a few rocks.
- Bassa Trinita beach: one of the best known beaches in Maddalena and therefore one of the busiest. White sand and turquoise water on the program!
- The spiaggia di Monte di Rena, a large sandy beach quite busy so I advise you to stop just before. You will have the opportunity to go down to a small, lesser-known beach.
- La spiaggia del Cardellino: a very quiet beach in a beautiful location.
- La Cala Lunga is a tiny beach at the bottom of a bay and belonging to the hotel next door
- The Spalmatore beach that you will find in the Gulf of the same name. There are 3 beaches in the gulf, the other 2 are quieter.
And my last favorite: the beach of Capocchia du Purpu or Testa di Polpo (aka “octopus head”), located at the western end, on Isola Giardinelli.
You can reach it on foot or by car but the road is in quite bad condition. There is a parking lot at the end to park and access to the beach is then via a path hidden behind a rock at the bottom of the parking lot.
Octopus beach is just superb with its large rocks and shallow turquoise water.
For me it is the most beautiful beach on the island of Maddalena! The space there is quite limited but you will find other quieter beaches around, really ideal for swimming in peace.
To taste a good ice cream on the island of Maddalena, it is at the Dolci Distrazioni ice cream parlor that it happens!
Map of the island of Maddalena
To help you find your way, I have prepared a map of the island of Maddalena with all the places to see.
Day 2: Caprera Island
The other major island to see in the Maddalena archipelago is Isola Caprera.
To get there, it’s very simple, it is connected by a bridge starting from the island of Maddalena. Caprera is just 5 minutes away by car.
Here too it is the beautiful beaches that predominate but unlike Maddalena, most are worth a little more because you have to walk more or less long to reach them.
The island of Caprera is the perfect place in Sardinia to combine hiking and swimming breaks.
The trails are well marked, numbered and specify the approximate round trip duration of your hike. Most of the walks last less than 1h30 and allow access to superb coves .
You can of course combine several to organize a loop. Hiking maps are available at the Maddalena tourist office.
It is also a little different from its neighbor, it is more authentic, more preserved, more wild and you will find pine forests there.
And that, I can assure you, is the best way to enjoy a little shade after walking on the rocks in full sun. You may also have the chance to observe wild goats (caprera = goat, did you make the connection with the name of the island? ).
The best beaches in Caprera
As for the island of Maddalena, I have prepared for you my selection of the most beautiful beaches for swimming on the island of Caprera:
- Garibaldi beach: a sandy beach whose main interest lies in the fact that it allows access to Cala Serena.
- La Cala Serena: reachable on foot in about 15 minutes from Garibaldi beach. This beach is really beautiful and I classify it in my top beaches of the island of Caprera. Even if you don’t want to swim, be sure to go see it!
- La Cala Caprarese: accessible from Cala Serena on foot (a little more difficult than the second option) or by car by parking near the Garibaldi memorial. It is from here that several trails leave to reach the creeks. The path does not present any particular difficulty but there is no shade. It takes 30 minutes to walk one way. Cala Caprarese is located at the mouth of a river, it looks like a small fjord. The water is very clear and the scenery really nice.
- La Cala Napoletena: accessible from the memorial or directly after Cala Caprarese. This beach is the best known of Caprera and the most popular, a lot of boats also moor there for the day.
- La Cala Coticcio: path of about 40 minutes to reach it. Don’t go there in flip flops because there are a lot of rocks and some difficult passages. The cove is very pretty but quite small so go there early in the day.
- La Cala Brigantina: here too bring sneakers to reach the beach on the rocky path. Start of the path at the level of the fortifications of Poggio Rasu. Pretty sandy cove surrounded by vegetation.
- La Cala Portese: a sandy beach with shallow water, ideal for families
- Spiaggia Due Mari: also recommended if you have children
- The spiaggia del Relitto known for the shipwreck that ran aground there and remained there, one of the most popular places to go in Caprera
- La Cala Andreani: a beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear water and relatively uncrowded.
Other things to do and see on the island of Caprera
In addition to the beaches, there are other places of interest to visit on the island of Caprera.
1) The Casa Museo di Garibaldi: you may not know it, but it is on the island of Caprera that Garibaldi, the Italian hero, decided to end his life after his exploits.
He settled there in 1870 and lived there until his death. You can visit his house which has been turned into a museum and see his furniture and uniforms. In the garden is his grave and that of his children.
The museum is open every day except Monday.
2) The Giuseppe Garibaldi memorial: located inside the old Fort di Arbuticci, the memorial traces the life and military conquests of Garibaldi through films and interactive terminals.
From the fort, you will also have access to a magnificent panorama of the Caprera.
3) The fortification di Poggio Rasu: this former military installation offers a 360° view of the whole island. For me one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the Caprera and definitely worth it.
4) The viewpoint of the Teialone tower marks the highest point of the island at 212 meters high and also offers a superb panorama. It is accessible by stairs in about 15 minutes from the car park.
To eat a delicious sandwich made with good local products on the island of Caprera, go to I Mille.
The paninis are just delicious and very filling. And in addition you can enjoy them in a very nice, shady setting and with hammocks to take a nap!
Map of the island of Caprera
As for the island of Maddalena, I have prepared the map with all the most beautiful places to see on the island of Caprera.
Day 3: The other Maddalena islands to visit
I told you about the 2 main islands which are accessible by car but to visit the other islands of Maddalena, you will not have the choice, it will be the boat option!
At the same time, it’s not too unpleasant an activity to do in Maddalena.
Smaller and less known, the other islands are uninhabited and protected, so any construction is prohibited there. This is why the boat remains the only way to discover them.
Several providers offer day boat trips around the islands. Departures are from the port of the city of Maddalena or from Palau.
I will tell you about it in detail in the next point of the article.
During this day, you will visit the other islands of the Maddalena archipelago:
- Isola Budelli: known worldwide for its Spiaggia Rosa. Unfortunately you will have to content yourself with admiring it from afar because it is protected and access is strictly prohibited.
- Isola Santa Maria: where you can swim in the clear water of Cala Santa Maria
- Isola Spargi and its magnificent beach, Cala Corsara
- Isola Razzoli and the famous beach of Cala Lunga.
Isola Santo Stefano is also part of the Maddalena archipelago but it is not of particular interest.
You will find there only a huge hotel complex full of Italians on vacation. Boat trips do not pass there.
The best boat trips in Maddalena
As I told you, a boat trip is the only way to get to the other Maddalena islands that are inaccessible by car.
You will have the choice between several excursions depending on your departure port and the type of boat. These boat trips to Maddalena always include swimming time and some offer a lunch option served on the boat.
As these excursions are often full, I strongly advise you to book them in advance. These outings take place from May to the end of October so if you have chosen to visit Maddalena in winter, it will not be possible.
Full-day cruise in the Maddalena Archipelago
This boat trip to Maddalena departs either directly from Maddalena Island or from Palau. It allows you to discover the islands of Spargi, Budelli and Santa Maria and to enjoy swimming stops in magnificent places.
Another advantage: you will benefit from explanations in French throughout the duration of the sea trip.
Catamaran excursion to Maddalena
Departing from Palau, you can also choose to go for a great day on a catamaran with lunch included.
Sailboat cruise around the Maddalena Islands
For a small group boat trip to Maddalena, I strongly recommend that you opt for a day sailboat. You will tour the most beautiful islands on a beautiful boat and without the crowds.
The crew is also very nice and pleasant.
You will also enjoy an excellent lunch and drinks served on board between 2 swims in the turquoise water.
Book now your sailing trip to Maddalena.
Yacht trip to Maddalena
We end this selection of the best sea trips in Maddalena with the luxury version of the boat trip. Here I suggest you spend the day on a magnificent yacht!
With a maximum number of participants of 12 people, you will be treated like royalt=” – 3 days in Maddalena Archipelago – Maddalena things to do”y by the crew.
Boat rental in Maddalena
If you are not a fan of organized excursions with a well-defined program, you can also rent your own boat to visit the Maddalena archipelago.
So you can swim on the beaches you want and take your time.
What to do around Maddalena?
After discovering the archipelago, you can continue your trip in Sardinia by visiting the surroundings of Maddalena.
I particularly recommend 2 nearby places easily accessible by car.
The Emerald Coast
The Costa Smeralda is the posh coast of Sardinia.
Villas and luxury hotels, designer boutiques and an oversized marina to accommodate yachts, it is known to be the preferred vacation spot for the international jet set.
The Costa Smeralda is around 40 minutes by car from Palau, the arrival town of the ferry from Maddalena.
You can go in search of the stars in the chic marinas of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo or enjoy the beaches like that of the Principe, del Grande Pevero or the Romazzino beach.
Note that conversely, you can also leave from the Costa Smeralda to visit the Maddalena Islands.
Several seaside resorts on the coast such as Poltu Quatu, Baia Sardinia or Canniogione organize day trips to go around them.
If you are interested, you can book your boat trip directly with the links below:
Jet ski excursions of the same type are also possible:
- A jet ski trip around the Caprera from Baja Sardinia
- A jet ski trip around the island of Spargi, also from Baia Sardinia.
To find out all about things to do on the Costa Smeralda, see our article: The 10 most beautiful places on the Costa Smeralda.
The Costa Smeralda is one of the places not to be missed around the Maddalena Archipelago!
Another place to see around the Maddalena Islands, Capo Testa.
It is located about 40 minutes by car from Palau. Capo Testa is known to be an old granite quarry and the place is really impressive with all its huge rocks with amazing shapes and plunging into the sea.
The place is ideal for hiking and you can also swim in some creeks including Cala Francese or Cala Spinosa.
Capo Testa was one of my big favorites during my trip to Sardinia!
How many days to visit the Maddalena Archipelago?
To visit the Maddalena archipelago, I advise you to stay there for 3 days.
On the first day, you can drive around the island of Maddalena, follow the scenic route and stop for a swim whenever you want.
The second day will be dedicated to the island of Caprera. Alternate hiking and discovering superb coves. Enjoy the sumptuous panoramas offered by the tower of Teialone and the fortifications of Poggio Rasu. And if you are interested in Garibaldi’s story, do not hesitate to visit his house and the Garibaldi memorial.
On the third day of this stay on the Maddalena archipelago, I advise you to go around the other islands like Budelli or Spargi. You must book your boat trip in advance here.
You can of course spend more time on the archipelago if you want a relaxing holiday and enjoying the sea.
Accommodation in Maddalena
- AHR Residence Leonis Maddalena: Located in the center of Maddalena. Fully equipped, large and functional studio from 80€ per night. Most: the location 2 steps from the restaurants and the port, the equipped kitchen, the quality of the bedding.
- Residenza Mordini: Located just 100 meters from the port of Maddalena. Comfortable, spacious and well-insulated double room from €110 per night, breakfast included. Most: the excellent welcome, the calm, the proximity of the center, the homemade breakfast. It is our favorite for its performance / price ratio at Maddalena.
- Hotel Excelsior: Located right next to the ferry pier. Fairly modern and comfortable double room with some sea views, from €110, breakfast included. Most: the good breakfast, the excellent welcome, the view, the parking lot.
- Residenza Marginetto: Located just 1 minute walk from the beach and in the very north of the island. Holiday home with kitchen, lounge area, patio, barbecue from €110 per night. Most: the situation at the end of the island and therefore the calm, the magnificent environment, the direct access to the beach. It is a big favorite for its location, ideal for a relaxing holiday!
- Grand Hotel Ma&Ma Resort: Located 100 meters from Punta Tegge beach. This luxury hotel, the only 5* on the island, offers superb very well decorated double rooms from €250 per night, breakfast included. Most: the swimming pool, the Spa, the attentive staff, close to the beach. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in the Maddalena Archipelago.
Where to eat in Maddalena
- Ristorante Pizzeria Sergent Pepper’s: Located in Via Giordano Bruno. The pizzas cooked over a wood fire are hearty for a very good quality / price ratio. Fast and efficient service.
- Gastronomia da Anselmo: Located in Piazza Santa Maria Maddalena, near the church. This caterer offers takeaway meals and is also a restaurant. The local specialt=” – 3 days in Maddalena Archipelago – Maddalena things to do”ies are very well cooked and excellent! Everything is homemade and you can eat there for around ten euros per person.
- U Campus of the Pastori Osteria: Located in Via Quarto. Small typical restaurant with a limited choice of dishes, which is a guarantee of quality! The homemade pasta is delicious as is the meat. The staff is very friendly and will be happy to explain the daily menu to you.
How to go to the Maddalena Archipelago?
Getting to Maddalena by ferry from Palau
To reach the Maddalena archipelago from Sardinia, you have to take a ferry.
Departures are from the port of Palau, in the North-East of Sardinia and located about 50 minutes from Olbia airport and 3h30 from Cagliari.
Arrive about half an hour before departure to have time to buy your tickets at the ticket office and be sure to have a seat, especially if you have a car.
For our crossing we paid 40€ for 2 people + the car (round trip). There are several different ferry companies, the prices are quite similar, it’s up to you to see which one leaves first according to your schedule. The journey takes about twenty minutes.
The ferry disembarks everyone on the main island of the archipelago: Maddalena. There is no other possibility.
Visit the Maddalena by boat from Palau
If you have little time to visit the islands, you can also choose one of the boat trips I told you about earlier, which depart from Palau or Maddalena.
So, in one day, you can see quite a few beaches and swim.
And you, have you planned to visit the Maddalena archipelago during your trip to Sardinia?
FAQ: How to get around the island of Maddalena?
To visit Maddalena and go all around the island (and also visit the island of Caprera), I advise you to have a car. You can take the ferry from Palau with your rental car, there is no problem.
If you want to visit Maddalena by bus, Turmo Travel is the company that takes you to the main beaches of Maddalena. However, you won’t be able to go everywhere.
Where to take the boat to the Maddalena Islands?
As I told you in the article, the departure of the boats for Maddalena is from the port of Palau.
What is the best beach in Maddalena?
For me, the most beautiful beach to see in Maddalena is the beach of Capocchia del Purpu or Testa di Polpo.
When to visit Maddalena?
I advise you to visit Maddalena between May and the end of October.
From November to the end of April, most accommodations and restaurants are closed. And boat trips do not take place.