Top seven French destinations to explore on a boating holiday

From strolling around quaint medieval towns and dining on the exquisite local cuisine, to exploring verdant waterside valleys, here are the best places for a boat trip in France.

By Le Boat
Published 28 Nov 2019, 18:03 GMT
Boating in France.
Sailing through the region of Aquitaine gives travellers the chance to appreciate its canals and rivers, lined with quintessentially French villages. 
Photograph by Philippe Benoist

In France, a few short words neatly sum up the appeal of a boating experience: aller dans le sens du courant. In English? Go with the flow. No stresses, no deadlines. A canal in front of you, a landscape unfurling, a week drifting by at a measured speed. Few countries in the world lend themselves to a self-drive boating trip quite like France, with its mellow waterways, swooning landscapes and legendary gastronomy, and few operators understand this better than Le Boat. With 50 years’ experience, it knows exactly what it takes to create a boating getaway to remember for both beginners and more experienced boaters. 

1. Canal du Midi

When the Canal du Midi was constructed in the late 1600s, helping to create a navigable waterway between the Atlantic and the Med, it was one of the engineering marvels of its day. It remains something special. A voyage from the Pink City of Toulouse down to the beaches of the south coast leads boats past medieval villages, Languedoc vineyards and the walled city of Carcassonne. Wine tasting, cycling trails and southern gastronomy all feature. 

A boat approaches Pont Valentr, a 14th-century fortified stone arch bridge crossing the Lot River to the west of Cahors.
Photograph by Le Boat

2. River Lot

There’s lots to love about the Lot, the 305-mile river that flows down from the Cévennes Mountains before spooling lazily across the French countryside, passing high cliffs and historic châteaux on its way. But as with all boating adventures, time on the Lot is about more than just the pleasures of navigation — expect everything from swimming and cycling to fine dining and wildlife-spotting.     

3. Alsace-Lorraine

Canals dappled by plane trees. Cities brimming with stories of the past. Waterways that wind slowly between France and Germany. Trips to the Alsace-Lorraine region are packed with variety, thanks to the collective charms of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin and the Canal des Houillères de la Sarre. Explore Strasbourg, gaze at Saarbrücken’s baroque architecture and pass through the modern wonder that is the Saint-Louis-Arzviller ‘boat elevator’.  

With its tranquil waterways and famous gastronomy, France is the perfect location to experience a boating holiday with the family.
Photograph by Billy Black

4. Burgundy

Boating landscapes don’t come much more ready-made than in Burgundy, where the region’s rolling valleys, waterside towns and timeless traditions combine to famous effect. The Canal du Nivernais, River Yonne and Canal latéral à la Loire thread across the region, letting visitors meander past hilltop vineyards and medieval cathedrals while wildflowers and water birds busy the banks. Save time for cycling, wine tasting and — mais bien sûr — the local gastronomy.

5. Brittany

Bold-natured Brittany is a place apart, with its Celtic heritage, North Atlantic seafood and twisting rivers. No prior sailing experience is needed with any Le Boat trip — travellers quickly get the feel for it. The same can be said about Brittany. The lovely Canal de Nantes à Brest is the journey’s focal point, leading visitors through a countryside steeped in local character. Highlights include spectacular châteaux, nature spotting and the chance to try the fabled local oysters.

The capital of Trégor, Lannion is the a town in Brittany built on the banks of the River Léguer,
Photograph by Le Boat

6. Aquitaine

Bon voyage and — this being the Aquitaine — bon appétit. This handsome southwestern region is synonymous with fine wines and gourmet cuisine. Sailing through its heart gives travellers the chance to appreciate its food and drink to the full and, no less enticingly, its canals and rivers are lined with quintessentially French villages, towns and cities. 

7. The Camargue

The wild wetlands and golden beaches of the Camargue make it a magnet for those in search of Mediterranean sunshine, and a boating journey allows these sun-seekers to appreciate the region’s unique appeal and rich traditions. How travellers choose to make the most of their time is, of course, their call: why not try lagoon swimming, take the family to a waterpark or keep a look-out for wild white horses and pink flamingos?  

While on a boating trip around the wild wetlands the Camargue, travellers can look out for wild white horses and pink flamingos.
Photograph by

Plan it

Le Boat provides travellers with a boat and a handling demonstration. All bedding and kitchen equipment is included and the boats are easy to operate, with no licence or prior experience needed. The only set factor is that the boat has to be returned to its base on a predetermined day.

Early booking discount: save up to 20% by booking now for 2020. Offer valid until 2 December.

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