Explore the waterways of France

  • © ATOUT FRANCE/A. Dupont

Explore the waterways of France

If you decide to explore France by water, you can moor more or less anywhere (except under bridges), and land to go to villages for your food shopping, to the countryside to stretch your legs or go for a cycle ride (bikes can often be hired with your boat for a supplement) or even to sleep in utter peace and tranquillity. It's difficult to say exactly how far you can travel in a week. It depends very much on how many sight-seeing stops you take and the number of locks you come across, but, working on a basis of 20 to 25 km a day, a distance of 150 km seems reasonable.

River cruising is punctuated by the chartering bases, the tourist spots and ports, and finally the embarkation points and the passenger boat stops. All these locations have something to offer holiday-makers: views, possibilities of rambling on the tow-paths, fishing…

There are several ways of going about organising a boat holiday:

Hire a boat without a licence

  • Without sleeping accommodation for cruises of an hour or so
  • With sleeping accommodation for a weekend, or a week or more. There are around a hundred companies chartering out boats from 8 to 15 metres, for two to twelve people, which can be used without a licence after a short beginner's course of an hour or two. There are umpteen models; they're known as house-boats, river launches, or pénichettes – little barges

Relax on a river cruise

A river cruise lasting several days can be taken in several ways: on board a hotel barge or a river liner. Hotel barges are often old commercial barges which have been refitted to hold an average of 12 bunks, but some have been specially designed for this purpose. They often offer gastronomy and heritage cruises. To do this, the boats are often paired with a vehicle – minibus or coach – driven by a team member, and used for daily excursions and logistics support. The layout and quality of the internal arrangements vary more or less with the size of the boat. River liners are like sea-going liners (capacity of more than 100 berths) and they travel the major waterways.