La Maddalena, North-east of Sardinia, is a unique place for an unforgettable cruise in the Mediterranean! The national park is home to a natural reserve known for the beauty of its wild and flourishing biodiversity. A magical and diverse environment that extends over more than 60 islands and islets. La Maddalena, Caprera, Budelli, Mortorio, Razzoli, Santa Maria and Spargi are the main islands composing the archipelago and hold the majority of its 180 kilometres of coastline. An excellent playground for nautical adventurers like you!
Giovanni, a local boater, has been sailing in la Maddalena for more than 25 years, and Jean-Marc has just returned from two weeks cruising the famous islands. Follow their tips and recommandations for a successful cruise in this unique breathtaking Mediterranean setting!
What’s the best time to cruise la Maddalena ?
Giovanni and Jean Marc agree with avoiding the region in high season (or very high season). Indeed, in August and July the concentration of boats is quite impressive and can be overwhelming. You will never fall short of places to anchor, but the most “touristy” ones are saturated and the ports are full and charge high prices due to the high demand. That being said, it remains the time of year when the days are longer and the water is at the best temperature!
So, it’s a difficult choice. Jean-Marc specifies that June or September are good alternatives. The water is not as warm in June and the days are shorter in September, but you will enjoy La Maddalena without the hordes of rental boats flooding the region in summer time. In the end, if you have no other choice than to go in July or August, choose the first half of July or the last half of August.
What are the navigation restrictions and rules to follow in the area?
La Maddalena is an exceptional and well protected nature reserve. Giovanni explained that there are many restrictions (prohibited navigation zones, prohibited terrestrial zones, limited access one… etc). The motivation behind these numerous rules and restrictions is the protection of Posidonia fields, crucial to the environmental balance of the region and the local biodiversity.
A mandatory PASS to navigate is required. You can get it online here or, like Jean-Marc, in one of the numerous marinas in the region. Controls are frequent by park “rangers”. You can sometimes buy your pass when you get controlled but the price will most likely be higher (around 40% higher apparently).
Here is the map provided by the website Maddalena Park listing the different zones and authorizations. To download it, click on the buttons below the map.
The Maddalena Natural Park is mainly separated into three types of areas like most AMPs (Area Marina Protetta) in Italy.
For the land part, we find:
- The Ta zone, in red on the map where the restrictions are the strictest: Access is essentially prohibited for non-residents, apart from excursions with a guide
- The Tb zone, in yellow where access is authorized, but with strict respect for flora and fauna
- The Tc zone, in orange, where the basic park rules apply.
For the maritime part, there are 3 main areas:
- The Ma zone, with the red patterned squares on the map where the restrictions are the most strict: Diving prohibited, navigating and anchoring prohibited, fishing prohibited. Some islands like Bisce, Mortorio or Nibani are therefore completely prohibited to any kind of activity.
- The Mb zone delimited in green on the map where the restrictions remain important: Underwater fishing prohibited, speed limited to 7 knots in the 300m band, mooring authorized only for PASS holders
- The Mb zone delimited in blue on the map which contains the entire AMP and where the restrictions applied are those of the nature reserve: obligation to obtain a PASS in order to be able to navigate, anchor, dive or fish.
How experienced should you be to navigate in these waters?
Based on their experiences, our two sailors consider that a cruise in the Maddalena requires serious navigation experience. They recommend paying special attention to reefs, cardinals, and strong winds that regularly blow in the region in high season.
The map shown previously indicates shallow waters with a “!”. Indeed, there are a few places where the marine cartography is not sufficient and where you will have to navigate by sight. Attention and focus are required in this region.
” Regarding the level of experience, you have to know how to control your boat in conditions of strong winds, because at times it is violent. it is also crucial to know your priority rules, and how to anticipate the mistakes of others… Small yachts that cross a few meters away from your bow sending 2 meter waves without blinking an eye? That’s also part of the cruising experience in la Maddalena.’’
You guessed it, the high attendance also requires special attention to other visitors, and not everyone is a keen sailor in summer in the archipelago… Caution and focus are essential.
What are the anchorages you just cannot miss when visiting la Maddalena?
According to Giovanni, you have to see the anchorage of Spiaggia del Cavaliere. Located North of the island of Budelli, in the slender sea bracket separating it from its neighbor island Santa Maria, the anchorage offers one of the most beautiful natural settings of La Maddalena. The translucent waters have earned the nickname of “swimming pools” by the locals. Cherished jewel of boaters and tourists visiting the region, the anchorage is very crowded in high season. Early in the morning is probably the best moment to appreciate the beauty of this exceptional setting.
Further south, east of La Maddalena on the island of Caprera, Giovanni cites Cala Coticcio and the port of Palma as must-see places in the region.
‘’You have to see Cala Coticcio to believe it exists. This picture is not enough to fully grasp the beauty of the place, but it gives you a hint.”
To make sure you get the full experience, we redirect you to the anchorage page on Navily, where the photos left by the boaters should feed your wildest anchorage fantasy. A U.N.I.Q.U.E place.
Jean-Marc, for his part, often returns in the region undertaking new routes at each visits. Regarding advices, Jean-Marc has a hard time recommending a particular spot : depending on the wind, the swell, the crowd and the season, a place can go from idyllic to terrible.
Nevertheless, one thing is certain, there are enough magical places for all tastes, by all winds, in these unique islands. In order to find a shoe that fits your foot, Jean-Marc advises to do like him : browse on Navily to find your idyllic spot, relying on the many reviews and photos maintained by the community in the region
Are there places in the archipelago that you should avoid?
In this region with many protected areas, it can be difficult to really know where to anchor. Giovanni and Jean-Marc agree that in addition to consulting a map of protected areas, it is a good idea to check if a place is referenced on Navily. Indeed, anchorages not listed on Navily are a good indicator, because if no one has added a review in this busy region, it is certainly not a good anchorage. Giovanni cites another example with the island of Mortorio (an inaccessible natural beauty):
”The island of Mortorio must be avoided at all costs. Not because it is not beautiful but because it is forbidden to go there and the fines are steep when there are (frequent) police checks . Otherwise, avoid Cala Coticcio by strong westerly wind. They are stronger there as they accelerate down the mountain before reaching the sea. It can shake really hard! ’
How do you organize to get supplies in the region? What are the best addresses?
For supplies there is of course the main town of Maddalena. Inhabited by more than 12,000 people year round, you will find everything you need for a well-deserved resourcing stopover. Giovanni particularly recommends the port of Cala Gavetta, because it is well sheltered and therefore the safest. There you will have access to the gas pump as well as supermarkets and water if you stay overnight.
The problem is that spending a night in the port can be quite expensive in La Maddalena, but there are tips as Jean-Marc explains:
“At off-peak hours at noon, it is sometimes possible to stop for free in a port to do some shopping and refuel. When you go to sea for 4 months like us, you manage your budget by, for example, limiting the nights in the port.”
Otherwise, there are campsites that can also be helpful, like Cala Saline, for example. You can get water in Jerry Cans and food in their convenience stores.
Finally, there are plenty of small villages accessible by dinghy from the anchorages, where you can find food supplies for a few nights.
How long does it take to visit the region? What length of stay would you recommend to do a full tour?
The region is not very big and a week should normally be enough to tour the best anchorages according to our two sailors. Problem is, there is often wind in the region which can delay your plans as forced stopovers in ports and sheltered anchorages will be your only options. It is therefore more advisable to allow at least two weeks to fully soak up the unique vibrations of La Maddalena.
In addition, if you want to see more, Jean-Marc advises to extend your navigation to Olbia, a place worth seeing in his humble opinion.
‘’You have to push a little further, all the way to Olbia where there are wonderful places to discover. It is also the largest concentration of magnificent yachts and sailboats that I have ever seen.’’
In your opinion, what makes la Maddalena so unique for travelers visiting?
Our two users agree on this point : it is definitely the beauty of the natural settings that makes a cruise in La Maddalena so unique. The wild landscapes are diverse and beautiful thanks to a good protection of the flora and fauna. It is with poetry that Giovanni gives us his feelings about the place:
‘’ The transparency of the sea in the kingdom of the West. The winds, constantly blowing in the region, create currents which sweep and clean the area. There are also all kinds of beaches, from white ones to darker ones, with fine sand or coarser galets, it is a realm of diversity ’’
From the magnificent wild rocky coves to the white sandy beaches (even pink on one of the most famous beaches of the archipelago) you will be transported by the uniqueness of the landscapes that appear before you. A diversity that can’t be found anywhere else, according to Jean-Marc, who has made it one of his recurring destinations in recent years.
In conclusion, tell us about your best experience in the region.
”I love watching the sun set over the sea with the bow of my boat pointed east. When the other boats have already returned to the port of Porto della Madonna, I take my aperitif in the greatest of calm ”
” Every time I go there I discover new places and I always go back with pleasure, because that’s what I like about La Maddalena: it is never short of surprises. ”
The adventurer and the boater complement each other in their moments of peace… La Maddalena appeals to all its visitors in a peculiar way, and that is what constitutes its uniqueness. Coming next, will be our article presenting the best anchorages island by island on an itinerary in la Maddalena.