Boating holiday in France

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Experience the historic waterways of France

On a boating holiday in one of our 12 French areas, you’ll get a relaxing vacation with delicious gastronomy and beautiful surroundings.

Welcome to France

Enjoy a floating vacation with family and friends on the French waterways in your own quiet pace and learn about the French people, history and culture. The French waterways run through some of Europe's most beautiful and varied landscapes.

Shop for a riverside picnic in one of the colorful marketplaces or enjoy a gourmet meal in one of the picturesque fortress towns. Another lovely way to spend a peaceful evening is in the salon on the boat with a glass of wine from one of the region's wineries.

Sailing in France

The difference in altitude between the mountainous country and the ocean is quite large in France. Thus, it is necessary to regulate the water level at different intervals using a well-running lock-system. The locks can be quite close to each other in mountainous regions and it is a very special experience to use the boat-elevator in the Alsace-region.

About 800 years ago the French began to build the intricate canal systems, connecting the large French rivers. Often you´ll see the old barge trails running along the channels, where horses in ancient times laboriously had to pull loads of overcrowded boats against the current. The old waterways have lost their significance as industrial transportation lines but have been reopened with restored bridges and lock systems to the benefit for those of us who love boating holidays.

12 different regions

Seatravel offers river and canal holidays in 12 different French regions. From Alsace with the beautiful half-timbered houses in Northern France to the fantastic Burgundy with prestigious wineries. Further south Camargue lures visitors with lakes full of oyster beds and pink flamingos. Idyllic Brittany has a breath of fresh air from the sea and there are famous Cognac areas along the Charente river. And let us not forget the sunny Aquitaine nor the famous Canal du Midi in Southern France near the Mediterranean.

 

Riverboats in France

In France you will always find a destination to your liking!

In France you can choose between a river holiday in 12 different regions.

Riverboat in Aquitaine

Aquitaine

The scenery in the south of France has inspired artists for centuries. The slopes with vines and plantations of plums face the rivers - and the luxurious foie gras, truffles, and wild mushrooms and especially Bordeaux red wines, are just some of the region's many gastronomical specialities.

Highlights in Aquitaine: 

  • Ancient cities on the hills with stunning panoramic views
  • Beautiful medieval towns with cobbled streets and half-timbered houses
  • Moissac's famous monastery
  • The boat elevator near Montech - a must-see
  • World famous wines such as Margaux, St. Emilion, Graves, and Medoc
  • Colourful local markets for foie gras and truffles
  • The region is rich in art and culture
  • Enjoy a glass of Armagnac - a local alternative to Cognac
Map of Aquitaine
Riverboat on the Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

A boating holiday on the historic Canal du Midi will be calm sailing through southern France´s sun-soaked vineyards between Toulouse in the west to Agde close to the Mediterranean beaches to the east. Follow the meandering channel under the patchy shadows of the plane trees, through quaint little country towns as Trèbes and Homps, past green vineyards and yellow sunflower fields. Sail under beautiful oval arched stone bridges and on exiting elevated aqueducts.

Highlights along Canal du Midi: 

  • The beaches and seafood restaurants in Port la Nouvelle, Narbonne
  • The beautiful landscape of Languedoc – The French wine region that produces the most wine
  • Sun-soaked days and yellow sunflower fields.
  • Automatic and fully manned locks.
  • Sights from the Roman times.
  • The lock stairs Fonsérannes (Beziers)
  • The old walled city of Carcassonne - "La Cité"
  • The medieval town of Castelnaudary - home to the dish Cassoulet
  • The Roman city of Narbonne and the famous "Merchants 'bridge'
  • The antique bookshops in Le Somail
Map of Canal du Midi
Riverboat near a village in Camargue

Camargue

Just a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean you can experience the Canal du Rhône à Sète and the Camargue region's channels from your own riverboat. A boating holiday in Camargue takes you through one of natures larges saltmarshes with flocks of pink flamingos and wild white horses. If you are lucky you’ll see the local Guardian-cowboys drive herds of horses and bulls.

Highlights in Camargue: 

  • Amazing beaches at Palaves les Flot, Carnon, La Grand Motte and Le Grau du Roi
  • Ancient harbours, fishing villages and historic towns - visit Aigues Mortes, Marseillan, Le Grau du Roi and Bouzigues
  • A paradise for wildlife - Camargue is the only breeding ground for the graceful flamingos throughout France
  • Visit the home of the lovely aperitif Muscat de Frontignan at Frontignan and Noilly Prat in Marseillan
  • Dine in the fantastic fish restaurants which serve delicious local specialities such as Moules Marinières, Bouzigues oysters and other grilled dishes
Map of Camargue
Steep hillside by the river Lot

River Lot

The Lot River meanders between broad valleys with vineyards, narrow mountain gorges, under the steep limestone cliffs and past gushing rivers. You won’t forget the many castles or medieval villages such as St. Cirq Lapopie, Laroque or adorable Vers, where you can go swimming in the clear waters.

Highlights along the River Lot 

  • Spectacular natural scenery and varied wildlife - so do not forget your binoculars
  • Prehistoric cave paintings at Pech-Merle Caves
  • St. Cirq Lapopie - a graceful city on a hilltop with honey-coloured houses - famous for its artists and crafts
  • Cahors' Pont Valentré from the 14th Century
  • Pull paths that are cut into the cliffs high above the river
  • Rent a canoe or kayak for a day of exploring
Map of the river Lot
Slow sailing on riverboat in Charente

Charente

The river Charente in western France also goes by the names “The most beautiful river in France”. Experience the real and authentic France in this picturesque region that is famous for its fine cognac, delicious kitchen and roman art and architecture.

Highlights along Charente: 

  • The moats around Angouleme with stunning views and the city's cathedral St. Pierre, from the 12th century
  • The elegant town of Cognac with a guided tour and tasting of Hennesey, Martell and Remy Martin distilleries
  • The town of Jarnac, located on the river - the birthplace of Francois Mitterand and the home of Courvoisier and Louis Royer Cognac´s houses
  • Chocolate Tasting at Trois Pallis
  • The unique castle at St Brice
  • The town of Saintes with its Roman arch, amphitheatre and frescoes
  • Nice golfing right on the riverbanks
  • The shipyard at Saint Simon, where the special Gabares (flat-bottomed river barges) was built to transport barrels of cognac.
  • The maritime museum at Rochefort and the city’s high-class restaurants for fish and shellfish.
  • The amazing children's park at St Savinien with swimming pool and "crazy-golf", a perfect place for a picnic
Map of Charente
Beautiful waterway in Brittany

Brittany

Brittany's beautiful inland areas are steeped in Celtic charm and magic. Ancient customs are enforced and traditional dresses are worn proudly. The canal Nantes à Brest is rich in historical treasures and spectacular landscapes. Fairytale castles like the one in Josselin are reflected in the water while the boat is gliding by. Dock the boat in Malestroit with lovely houses from the 15th century, or in La Gacilly, home to many skilled artisans. Redon is just like a little Venice and was already established in the year 832 A.D.

Highlights in Brittany: 

  • The beautiful medieval town of Josselin with its wooden houses, terraces and impressive castle from the 12th century
  • Redon, the "Flower City" and famous for its botanical gardens and Yves Rocher perfume factory
  • Chateau Blain from the 12th century and its park
  • Impressive castles from the 18-19. century along the river Erdre in the direction of Nantes
  • The beautiful Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul Cathedral at Nantes
  • Rennes - Capital of Brittany and the home of the great Thabor gardens and impressive residence from the 18th century
  • Walk in the medieval streets of the walled city of Dinan located high up in the cliffs overlooking the harbour
  • Sweet crepes, buckwheat "galettes", oysters and seafood - from the typical delicious Breton cuisine
Map of Brittany
People on a bridge in Burgundy

Burgundy Franche-Comté

From dense forest and robust mountainsides to large meadows, wine yards, and a calm landscape, the interplay of calm rivers and canals is a joy to sail and a paradise for anyone who enjoys a relaxed lifestyle, fine wine, gourmet food and beautiful scenery.

Highlights in Burgundy Franche-Comté: 

  • World famous wines which are easily accessible from the waterways near Branges; visit Santenay, Puligny-Montrachet and Mâcon.
  • The charming cities of Dole og Besançon
  • Quaint boating on the rivers Saone and Seille - perfect for nature lovers and fishermen
  • Dijon the former capital of Burgundy, known for its unique art collections and architecture and also home to the original Dijon mustard
  • Bresse-chicken from Louhans, also known for its lively Monday market.
  • St.Vincent's Cathedral og the exciting Friday and Sunday markets in Chalon-sur-Saone
  • The St.Philibert Church in the Roman city of Tournus
  • Historic Mâcon
Map of Burgundy - Franche-Comté
Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy

Burgundy Nivernais Loire

The charming Canal du Nivernais - known as one of the most beautiful canals in France - and its surrounding network of other beautiful waterways such as Canal de Bourgogne and the River Yonne, offering some of the most beautiful and diverse areas of river sailing in France.

Highlights in Burgundy Nivernais Loire: 

  • Classic French wines at Sancerre and Chablis
  • Amazing views from the medieval towns especially Chatel Censoir and Clamecy
  • Gothic cathedrals and churches at Migennes, Auxerre, Sens and Nevers
  • Outstanding castles at Chitry-les-Mines and Chatillon-en-Bazois
  • Exciting local markets in Florentin and Villeneuve-sur-Yonne
  • A fine network of cycling paths between Clamecy and Auxerre
  • Angling at Prégilbert eller Paray-le-Monial
  • Great water sports on the lake Baye
Map of Burgundy - Nivernais Loire
Riverboats in Alsace

Alsace & Saarland

The small French region of Alsace and the neighbouring region of Saarland in Germany is as beautiful as the art and architecture found in its cities. Framed by the spruce trees in "The Black Forest" and the blue Vosges mountains, this culturally unique region greets with a special cosmopolitan atmosphere and offers a fantastic boating holiday for everyone.

Highlights in Alsace & Saarland: 

  • Strasbourg: Visit this UNESCO World Heritage City with its stunning architecture, delicious restaurants and friendly cosmopolitan charm
  • France's oldest church, Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnais from the 4th century
  • Admire the unique glass windows in St. Stephan's Cathedral in Metz
  • The beauty of nature in Saarland in Germany - perfect for nature lovers
  • Baroque castles and the open markets in Saarbrücken, perfect for a meal in the sunshine
  • Arzviller boat elevator - an engineering masterpiece that raises or lowers your boat 45 meters in just 20 minutes
  • Fine cycle routes on the well-preserved old barge paths next to the canals
Map of Alsace
Riverboat slowly sailing in Anjou

Anjou

Just a few hours from Paris, spectacular Anjou lures with a gentle landscape, exquisite gastronomy, dramatic castles and beautiful churches. The river Sarthe meanders quietly and nonchalantly through the green countryside with picturesque villages spread out as exciting cultural oases. It will also trill first-time sailors that there are few locks on the rivers. Along the way you can explore the elegant castle Plessis Bourre with the impressive moats, Benedictine Monastery Solesme and the racing town of Le Mans, who is best known for its racing, but also boasts a charming old quarter.

Highlights in Anjou: 

  • Gastronomic delights
  • The elegant castle Plessis Bourre
  • The Benedictine Monastery Solesme
  • The racing town of Le Mans
  • The museum of naive art in the city of Laval
Map of Anjou
Riverbend in the Ardennes

The Ardennes

Experience the scenic Ardennes-region from your riverboat - the word Ardennes is Celtic and means "dense forest." A boating holiday in this area, with the clean country air, leaves one convinced that the lush area functions as Europe's lung. Nature is home to wild boar, deer and some of France's rarest bird species, not to mention that rare plants can also be seen here, such as orchids and the fly-eating sundew.

Highlights in the Ardennes: 

  • Nature
  • Gastronomic delights
  • The wildlife
  • Taste the local champagne in Epernay and Reims
Map of the Ardennes
Riverboat on a canal in Picardie

Picardie

Take an unforgettable boating trip on one of our pénichette boats and explore the great waterways of Somme Picardie. You can sail on the beautiful Canal de la Somme, the Canal de St. Quentin Canal du Nord. Your boating vacation could, for example, lead you to Amiens, with its beautiful cathedral, listed by UNESCO as world cultural heritage city - and on to Hortillonages - the floating gardens which is one of Picardie's most famous sights.

Highlights in Picardie: 

  • Amiens with its beautiful cathedral, listed by UNESCO as world cultural heritage city
  • Hortillonages - the floating gardens
  • Canal de la Somme, Canal de St. Quentin and Canal du Nord
Map of Somme Picardie

Practical information about sailing in France

In France you can choose from stunning number of rivers and canals. No matter where you sail, you can moor where it suits you – by an idyllic village or in the middle of the nature. Just remember to respect clearly private land.

Distances

On the rivers, the distances are marked with PK (points km), it's 1 kilometre between each PK. Distances along the canal are marked in the number of metres between two points (eg. 3,300 = 3 km and 300 m).

Locks

There are 3 types of locks in France:

Unmanned manual locks: You must operate the locks by hand.

Unmanned electronic locks: The locks are either activated from the boat using a remote control or by pulling down on a rope which is hanging by a wire across the canal. At some places you need to go to a control console on the banks of the lock.

Locks operated by a lockmaster: Lock fees are included in the rental price. If you’d like to show a little extra appreciation you can leave a small tip or buy a bit of the lockmaster’s home-grown products. The lockmaster’s responsibility is solely to operate the locks, NOT to assist you with the boat and ropes.

The locks are normally closed between 12:00 and 13:00. The locks will also be closed on fixed holidays such as Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, May 1st, and the French National Day, July 14th.

"Barages" (= weirs)

Along the way, you'll see on the river card so-called "barages", which is the French word for weirs. This is an artificial small waterfall or further damming of the river on one side, often associated with a lock. They are marked on the map with a heavy black line, designed either partially into the river/canal, or where the river/canal running along with a side river. Keep clear of these, since the water flow here can be somewhat stronger, follow the fairway. Keep some speed on the boat so it does not drift with the current. Should the engine stop, throw an anchor out quickly.

Accommodation

You can moor anywhere along the banks, if you don’t disturb the general traffic or the visibility. On board the boat you’ll find pegs and a peg hammer – put a peg in the ground and tie the boat to this.

By the locks you’ll often find a small mooring spot. These are NOT for staying overnight but for boats waiting to pass through the lock. The mooring spot can be used for very short stop.

Many small towns have a small jetty with room for a few boats that you can use for free. If you want to stay in an actual port or marina, you’ll have to pay a small fee per night depending on size of your boat.

It may require a little more patience to find a good place on the rivers, as there may be too shallow or vegetated along the banks.

Keep in mind, that the rope is not tied to a tree or otherwise going to bother cyclists and walkers on the paths along the canals when the boat is moored in the open. There must be a clear path for everyone, including the service and emergency assistance can arrive.

Shopping

Shop names to keep in mind:

BOULANGERIE (bakery), BOUCHERIE (butcher), ÉPICERIE (grocery store) og SUPERMARCHÉ (supermarket)

Besides, several cities have the "Le Cave" or "Caveaux ", which is a small wine shop where you can buy wine from the barrel. Own bottles can be filled up with a "vin de table" (mainly one surprisingly good "common wine") - and always at a very reasonable price!

The shops have many different opening hours, and many are closed on Mondays. Generally, the shops are closed for lunch between 12.00-14.30. Ask at the base upon arrival.

Most cities - even small ones - have a weekly market, which can be a veritable wonderland for the ship's cook! Fresh vegetables, delicious cheeses, fish, meat and wine can be purchased from local producers.

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