This beautiful archipelago situated to the south of the Strait of Bonifacio has been declared a national park and marine protected area just like the island of Asinara. The islands are comprised of red granite and apart from the bushland known as maquis, they have no vegetation. As the majority of these islands are surrounded by surface and underwater rocks and reefs, careful navigation is required. The archipelago is made up of seven main islands, divided into a northern and southern group. The northern group is made up of Razzoli, Santa Maria, Budelli and the island of La Maddalena itself. In the southern group you will find Spargi, the only inhabited island in the archipelago, Santo Stefano and Caprera. Be careful of strong gusts on the leeward side of these islands even in gentle winds. A fee of around EUR 100 must be paid to enter the park, but the wardens rarely check boats flying the flag of a charter company. The bays in the archipelago are mostly equipped with buoys, which were free to use a few years ago. The ends of the bays here are usually blocked off with buoys or chains, making it difficult to anchor catamarans that prefer a deeper anchoring depth. The buoys protect the rare seagrass known as posidonia. Anchoring outside these areas is usually permitted.
La Maddalena Archipelago
Razzoli is the northernmost island in the archipelago, and also one of the lowest: at its peak, the island is only 65 m above sea level. If you are looking for peace and quiet, anchor here. The island is completely uninhabited and deserted. To the north is a lighthouse dating back to the 19th century, making navigation at night easier and also providing a wonderful view of Corsica and Sardinia.
You will find an exceptionally beautiful place to lay anchor by the island in Cala Lunga Bay (though watch out for westerly winds) and in Cala Giorgio Marino Bay. If you are extremely careful, with a catamaran in dead calm and good visibility, you can sail through the strait between the island of Santa Maria and Budelli (but do so cautiously, very slowly, and with somebody checking the depth at the bows, as there is a good reason why this strait is called Secco di Morto). Sailing through this strait is a truly awe-inspiring.
Cala Lunga is a bay with turquoise waters and beautiful rock formations on the coastline. You will find it at the western part of the island. You should be careful here due to inconspicuous rocks around the mouth of the bay and particularly at the southern side of the bay. You can drop anchor here to a depth of 3–4 m on an aggregate sandy-rocky bottom or moor up to a buoy. Entry to the southern part of the bay is only possible with a guide.
Cala Giorgio Marino
This is a beautiful bay at the southern part of the island, where (roughly in the middle) various rock formations jut out of the sea, a place where children will certainly have fun. Adults on the other hand, should take care around these rocks when sailing in. You can anchor by the south shore on sand at a depth of 3–5 m, or raise one of the moorings which were installed to protect the rare seagrass. Moorings are free of charge if you have a valid permit for entry to the national park. But be careful as not all of the buoys have sufficient depth below them. Anchoring on beds of the seagrass known as posidonia will earn you a fine of EUR 50.
Santa Maria is separated from Razzoli by the Passo degli Asinelli Strait, being only 10 m wide and shallow enough for a donkey to cross with supplies for the lighthouse if the weather is too poor for boat transportation. The island is characterised by its habitation and lush vegetation. Santa Maria beach to the southeast of the island is truly beautiful. It is 200 m long, covered in golden sand, and washed by a gradually sloping sea which creates a sort of natural pool. And anchoring here is also great. Either use your anchor in the sand at a depth of 3–4 m or moor up to the AMP buoy. Just behind the beach, you will come across the brackish Lake Palude with its ducks, wild geese, grouse and coots. Another good anchorage can be found in Cala Muro Bay.
The island of Budelli in the northern group is home to a beautiful beach known as La Spiaggia Rosa (The Pink Beach). The beach gained its characteristic colour thanks to the microscopic residue of pink coral and shells. It is now surrounded by buoys and access to it is thus not permitted. Anchoring is possible in Cala Nord, Cala Sud, and the SE part of The Pink Beach. Be on the lookout near the island of Budelli for the stinging jellyfish which are sometimes in abundance here. Also worth visiting are the beaches in the Seca di Morto strait.
The pink beach on the island of Budelli
The island of La Maddalena is associated with many historical personalities. Napoleon Bonaparte tried in vain to conquer the island in 1793 during his first military expedition, and then the island was used during the Napoleonic Wars by Admiral Nelson for attacks against the French, and again, in 1943 the island played host to Benito Mussolini—as a prison. It now boasts beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, ancient forts and a beautiful capital city. You can anchor in one of three harbours in the capital: Cala Gavetta, Cala Mangiavolpe, or Cala Chiesa. Diminutive old Venetian streets lead from the main harbour Cala Gavetta and disappear into the hill above the town. You can also anchor in one of the many countless bays across the whole island, but watch out for the dangerous rocks and reefs, which as recently as 2003, a technologically sophisticated American nuclear sub managed to take a chunk out of. Of all the bays, we make special mention of Spalmore Bay, where you can remain moored up to a buoy.
Cala Gavetta Harbour
The original earth dam has now been transformed into a breakwater with bollards which you can moor up to. The breakwater offers water and electricity. A unique feature here is that the area serves as the city breakwater from 11:00 to 17:00, everything being free of charge according to the information from 2012. The harbour has 130 berths, the maximum boat length is 16 m.
From here and over the bridge, you get to the adjacent island of Caprera, brought to fame by the Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi, who bought the island in 1855 and died there 27 years later. His house has been transformed into a museum that we definitely recommend you visit. But what interests us most as yachtsmen is the abundance of beautiful bays and beaches. There are two fabulous beaches in the Cala Coticcio Bay on the eastern coastline. This bay is known as Tahiti and is definitely worth visiting. To the south of the island is a safe anchorage in Porto Palma Bay.
Allegedly the most beautiful bay in Sardinia. You will find it in the Moneta strait on the NW side of Capreri. Drop anchor here to a depth of 4–5 m on a sandy-rocky bottom and it will hold well. Be careful of the stronger north-westerly wind. If this is blowing, it is advisable to leave the bay. There is an old holiday village on the shore.
Porto Palma is the large bay immediately south of the island. Thanks to its ruggedness, it offers shelter from almost every direction. Recently, restrictions were applied to the bay, and you can only anchor at the official buoy park. The small bay to the east is recommended if a strong surge forces you from your anchorage near Porto Cerva.
This famous bay attracts a lot of tourists during high season, particularly the cream of society from Porto Cerva. The eastern bay is prettier and more popular, so if it is very crowded, wait in the western bay and move in once the motorboats have left. The environment is beautiful and the location offers nice snorkelling. If a strong W wind is blowing, it will be gusty, so it is safer to moor up to the shore.
This rocky and hilly island with a peak 155 m above sea level is situated roughly 1 km equidistant from La Maddalena and Point Diego on Sardinia. On its northwestern side, the sea intersects the small islet of Spargiotto, but according to the latest information, sailing there is forbidden. The official anchorages are Cala d'Alga with a very nice beach, Cala Corsara, and Calla Ferigno which is especially beautiful. However, yachts anchor along the whole of its eastern coastline where the sea is deep enough.
The island of Spargi
This is a relatively flat and deserted island between La Maddalena and Sardinia. There is a military zone at its northern end, to which entry is strictly forbidden. There is practically only one anchorage here (the lovely Cala Villamarina Bay) to the south of the island. You can land stern-to or side-on to the small breakwater, drop anchor at a depth of 9–12 m further from the breakwater, or moor up with a line to the shore. Watch out for the surface and underwater reefs when entering. The coastline inside the bay is a national park zone and entry is forbidden without an official guide. On the shore is a mysterious, unfinished statue, most likely belonging to Admiral Ciano, an Italian naval hero of the First World War.