Visiting Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia: What to do and see?
Visiting the Maddalena archipelago , in the North-East of Sardinia , is to discover a set of magnificent islands bordered by equally beautiful beaches.
The 7 islands that make up the archipelago: the island of Maddalena, the island of Caprera, the island Budelli, Santa Maria, Spargi, Santo Stefano and Razzoli are among places of interest to see absolutelywhen a stay in Sardinia.
During your holidays in the National Park of the archipelago you will have the opportunity to practice many activities such as diving or hiking, to make boat trips or simply to enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia .
Discover our guide of the 5 things to do and see on the Maddalena archipelago. Also find at the end of the article, all our tips to know where to stay in La Maddalena and how to reach the archipelago from Sardinia.
So what to see on the Maddalena archipelago?
Visit the Maddalena archipelago: the must-sees
1. The island of Maddalena
We start this tourist guide of the Maddalena archipelago by the must visit island: that of Maddalena.
The Maddalena is the largest of the 7 islands and the only accessible by ferry (I explain everything in detail in the section: “How to reach the archipelago”, a little further down the article).
As in all of Sardinia, the island of Maddalena is best known for having plenty of beaches and coves with crystal clear water . To go around in the day, the best solution is to rent a car . There are not really any bus lines, and by bike you will not have time to see everything unless you’re athletic enough. 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 La Maddalena, arrival of ferries from Sardinia. This small seaside resort is a pretty colorful town where you will find lots of souvenir shops and many cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlors. No specific monument to see but a nice walk along the harbor or in the streets awaits you. In the evening, it is here that all the animation is concentrated.
- The 20 km panoramic road that goes around the island is the best way to miss the most beautiful places of the Maddalena. On the road, several points of view are arranged to admire the panorama.
- The spiaggia di Tegge: a nice corner with rocks in the water and quite photogenic
- Cala Francese and its rocks of pink granites
- The Carlotto: small cape where is the Madonnetta chapel at the edge of the sea. You will find there small coves not very frequented but it is better to have shoes to bathe because there are a lot of rocks.
- The beach Bassa Trinita: one of the most famous beaches of the 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 crowded so I advise you to stop right before. You will have the opportunity to go down on a small beach less known.
- The spiaggia del Cardellino: a very quiet beach located in a beautiful place.
- Cala Lunga is a tiny beach at the bottom of a bay and belongs to the hotel next door
- The beach of Spalmatore that you will find in the Gulf of the same name. There are 3 beaches in the Gulf, the 2 others are quieter.
And my favorite last: the beach of Capocchia Purpu or Testa di Polpo (in other words “octopus head” in French), located at the West end, on the Isola Giardinelli.
You can get there on foot or by car but the road is in pretty bad shape. There is parking 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.
The octopus beach is just beautiful with its big rocks and shallow turquoise water. For me it is the most beautiful beach on the island of Maddalena! The space is quite limited but you will find around other beaches quieter, really ideal to swim in peace.
2. The island of Caprera
The other major island to see on the Maddalena archipelago is Isola Caprera.
To access it, it is very simple, it is connected by a bridge leaving the island of Maddalena . La Caprera is just a 5-minute drive away. Here too, it is the beautiful beaches that predominate but unlike the Maddalena, most deserve a little more because you have to walk more or less long to reach them.
The island of Caprera is the perfect place of Sardinia to combine hiking and swimming breaks. The trails are well signposted, numbered and specify the approximate round trip duration of your hike. Most walks last less than 1h30 and allow access to creeks. You can of course combine several to organize a loop. Hiking maps are available at the tourist office.
It is also a little different from its neighbor, it is more authentic, more preserved, more wildand you will find pine forests. And that I can assure you that it is the best to enjoy some shade after walking in the rocks in the sun. You may also have the chance to see wild goats (caprera = goat, you made the connection with the name of the island? ;-)).
I have prepared the selection of the most beautiful beaches of the island of Caprera:
- The beach Garibaldi: a sandy beach whose main interest lies in the fact that it allows access to Cala Serena.
- Cala Serena: reachable on foot in about 15 minutes from Garibaldi beach. This beach is really beautiful and I class in my favorites of the island of Caprera. Even if you do not want to swim, do not miss it!
- The Cala Caprarese: reachable from the Cala Serena on foot (a little + difficult than the second option) or by car parking near the Garibaldi memorial. This is where several trails start to reach the coves. The path does not present any particular difficulty but there is no shade. Allow 30 minutes of walking to go. Cala Caprarese is located at the mouth of a river, it looks like a small fjord. The water is very clear and the landscape really nice.
- Cala Napoletena: accessible from the memorial or directly after Cala Caprarese. This beach is the best known and the most popular, a lot of boats are also moored for the day.
- Cala Coticcio: path about 40 minutes to reach it. Do not go in flip flops because there are a lot of pebbles and passages a little difficult. The cove is very pretty but quite small so go there rather early in the day.
- La Cala Brigantina: here also plan sneakers to reach the beach on the rocky path. Departure of the trail at the level of the fortifications of Poggio Rasu. Pretty sandy cove surrounded by vegetation.
- Cala Portese: a sandy beach with shallow water, ideal for families
- The spiaggia Due Mari: also recommended if you have children
- The spiaggia del Relitto known for the wreck of a boat that ran aground there and stayed there, one of the most popular of the Caprera
- Cala Andreani: a beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear water and not very crowded
In addition to beaches, there are other places of interest to visit on the island of Caprera:
- Casa Museo di Garibaldi: You may not know it, but it is on the island of Caprera that Garibaldi, the Italian hero, decided to finish 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 discover his furniture and uniforms. In the garden is his grave and that of his children. The museum is open every day except Monday.
- The Giuseppe Garibaldi memorial: located inside the old fort of Arbuticci, the memorial retraces the life and military conquests of Garibaldi through films and interactive terminals. From the fort, you will have access to a magnificent panorama of the Caprera.
- The fortification of Poggio Rasu: this former military installation offers a 360 ° view of the whole island. For me, one of the most beautiful views and really worth it.
- 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.
3. The other islands of the Maddalena archipelago
I told you about the 2 main islands that are accessible by car but for the other islands of the archipelago , you will have no choice, it will be the boat option! At the same time, it is not an unpleasant activity to do at La Maddalena.
The other islands, smaller and less known , are uninhabited and protected, all construction is prohibited. That’s why the boat is the only way to discover them.
Several providers offer day trips around the islands. Departures are from the port of the city of Maddalena or from Palau.
As these tours are often full, I advise you to book them in advance right here. You will have the choice of the departure port which is really convenient. The day includes swimming and lunch on the boat. Count around 40 € per person.
During this day, you will visit the other islands of the Maddalena archipelago:
- Isola Budelli: known worldwide for its Rosa spiaggia. Unfortunately it will be enough to admire from afar because it is protected and access is strictly prohibited.
- Isola Santa Maria: where you can swim in the crystal clear water of Cala Santa Maria
- Isola Spargi and its beautiful beach, Cala Corsara
- Isola Razzoli and the renowned beach of Cala Lunga
Isola Santo Stefano is also part of the Maddalena archipelago but it is not of particular interest. You will find only a huge resort full of Italian holiday. Boat trips do not go there.
If you are not a fan of organized excursions with a well-defined program, you can also rent your own boat . The same providers who organize cruises also offer to rent zodiacs that do not require a boat license . So you can swim on the beaches you want and take your time.
What to do around the Maddalena?
After visiting the archipelago, you can continue your stay in Sardinia by going to see the surroundings of Maddalena. I recommend 2 nearby places easily accessible by car.
4. The Costa Smeralda
The Costa Smeralda is the upscale coast of Sardinia . Luxury villas and hotels, designer boutiques and a huge marina to welcome yachts, it is known as the favorite resort of the international jet set.
Costa Smeralda is around 40 minutes’ drive from Palau, the ferry’s arrival town from Maddalena. You can go looking for stars in the chic marinas of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo or enjoy beaches such as Principe, del Pevero or the beach Romazzino .
On the other hand, you can also go from the Costa Smeralda to visit the Maddalena Islands. Several seaside resorts such as Poltu Quatu, Baia Sardinia or Canniogione organize day trips around the area.
To know everything about things to do on the Costa Smeralda, check out our article: The 10 most beautiful places on the Costa Smeralda.
The Costa Smeralda is one of the must-see places around the Maddalena Archipelago!
5. Capo Testa
Another place to see around the islands of Maddalena, Capo Testa.
It is located about 40 minutes drive from Palau. Capo Testa is known for being an old granite quarry and the place is really impressive with all its huge rocks with amazing shapes and diving into the sea.
The place is ideal for hiking and you can also swim in some coves including the Cala Francese or Cala Spinosa.
Capo Testa was one of my favorite things on my one week 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 devoted to the island of Caprera. Alternate hiking and discovering beautiful coves. Enjoy the magnificent panoramas offered by the Teialone tower and the fortifications of Poggio Rasu. And if the story of Garibaldi interests you, do not hesitate to visit his house and the Garibaldi memorial.
The third day of this stay on the Maddalena archipelago, I advise you to go around other islands like Budelli or Spargi. Depending on your preferences, opt for a boat trip or rent yours!
You can of course spend more time on the archipelago if you want a relaxing holiday and enjoy the sea.
Where to sleep in Maddalena
- AHR Residence Leonis La Maddalena: Located in the center of Maddalena. Fully equipped studio, large and functional from 70 € per night. Most: the situation 2 steps from restaurants and the port, the kitchen, the quality of bedding.
- Residenza Mordini: Located just 100 meters from the port of La Maddalena. Comfortable, spacious and well insulated double room from 110 € per night, breakfast included. The most: excellent hospitality, calm, the proximity of the center, the homemade breakfast. This is our favorite for its price / performance ratio at La Maddalena.
- Residenza Marginetto: Located just 1 minute walk from the beach and all the way to the north of the island. Holiday house with kitchen, sitting area, patio, barbecue from 110 € per night. Most: the situation at the end of the island and therefore the calm, the beautiful environment, access to the beach direct. 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 double rooms very well decorated from 250 € per night, breakfast included. The most: the pool, the Spa, the attentive staff, close to the beach. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay on the Maddalena archipelago.
Where to eat in Maddalena
- Sergeant Pepper’s Ristorante Pizzeria: Located in Via Giordano Bruno. The pizzas cooked over a wood fire are plentiful 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 also makes restaurant. The local specialties are very well cooked and excellent! Everything is homemade and you can eat there for ten euros per person.
- U Campu of Pastori Osteria: Located Via Quarto. Small typical restaurant with a limited choice of dishes, which is a guarantee of quality! Homemade pasta is delicious as is meat. The staff is very friendly and will be happy to explain the map of the day.
How to go on the Maddalena archipelago?
To reach Maddalena archipelago from Sardinia, you have to take a ferry.
Departures are from the port of Palau, north-east of Sardinia and about 50 minutes from Olbia airportand 3:30 from Cagliari.
Introduce yourself about half an hour before departure to have time to buy your tickets at the box office and be sure to have a place, 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 pretty similar, it’s up to you to see which one leaves first according to your schedule. The journey takes about twenty minutes.
The ferry unloads everyone on the main island of the archipelago: La Maddalena. There is no other possibility.
If you have little time to visit the islands, you can also choose one of the boat trips I mentioned earlier from Palau or Costa Smeralda . Thus, in one day, you will be able to see a lot of beaches and to bathe.
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And you, have you planned to visit the Maddalena archipelago during your trip to Sardinia?