Canal Holidays in France

Help with Choosing Canal Holidays in France

If you thought the pace of life was slower on the other side of the channel, you don’t know the half of it! Canal holidays in France are the very epitome of relaxation!

Don’t expect to travel more than a few kilometres each day (week-long itineraries rarely go over 40miles) but do expect to get to know some of France’s most beautiful riverside regions from a fascinating point of view.

There are several areas around France that offer great river and canal cruising for the family so, if this is your first time, what should you look out for?

 Attractions close to your canal or river

Depending on your group you may find that although the first few days will be great, after that you may need to look beyond the banks to find some entertainment. Whoever you go to, to hire your boat will tell you tonnes of stuff about the area you are sailing through.

A couple of picturesque towns,  relaxing swimming holes and the odd vineyard should be enough: after all if you wanted more lively surroundings you would have gone to Ibiza!

Rivers or Canals

Water, water, everywhere and nowhere to swim. Yes it is as bad in France as it is in England. The Canals in France are little more than picturesque open sewers. OK that is a little harsh but with locks to slow the water flow down and boats with only one place into which to empty the head (that is what loos are called on boats) it really is not recommended to swim in them.

Most routes will have designated swimming areas near by – it just needs a bit of planning. River routes can be much better – consider the Saône River or its tributary, the Seille River in Burgundy.

Local produce

There are many regions in France famous for their food and wine so look in your larder, see what you enjoy eating and drinking and head to where they make it. My favoured destination is Burgundy.

A Booze Cruise?

Don’t cruise and drink… too much! The chances of you damaging your boat, other boats and more importantly other people are heightened so the chances of not getting your deposit back could be the least of your worries.

Moor up if you feel the local plonk going to your head.


Boating is one of those outdoors holidays that will not be ruined by the weather. Like the snail you are carrying your shelter with you, wherever you go. All you need to do is stock up the larder, batten down the hatches and relax.

Burgundy (do you see a pattern starting to emerge) is one of the driest places in August in France.

Burgundy Boating Breaks

There are closer areas (Brittany), there are more cultural places (the River Lot), there are more famous boating places (le Canal du Midi) to enjoy canal holidays in France, but if it is your first boating holiday in France,  just choose Burgundy. It’s an easy 5 hour drive from Calais, you can sail along the waterways, discover a bit of France, drink and eat some fine local produce, swim, cycle and explore and generally relax. Job Done!

Finally, here are some…

Quick Canal Boating Questions Answered

  • Best way to get to your boat is drive and park up for the week but you can arrange transfers if you want to fly.
  • Any training needed will be done when you get there.
  • You’ll be given maps by the rental company, but yes you can go anywhere you like, unless there is a great big sign saying you can’t and you can stop anywhere you like (unless there is a great big sign saying you can’t)
  • Yes you can do things that are “wrong” but communicate and do so with a smile and people will understand and try to help where they can
  • You can’t sail at night
  • Locks often close at lunch time
  • Locks take about 20 minutes to get through
  • Don’t swim in canals
  • Water points are all along the canals and usually marked on the maps
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question