France offers almost every opportunity available on water and sailing is one of them. If your idea of a perfect holiday includes visuals of the azure blue sea, gentle summer breeze cooling your sun-kissed skin as you float across the Mediterranean or south-west coastlines of France, becoming the master of your own boat or choosing to sit back and relax while sipping champagne and letting your crew do the maneuvering - then a holiday in the sailing regions of France lets you do all that and more!
With a long, dramatic stretch of beautiful coastline and superb attractions, from the picturesque harbour of Honfleur to the magnificent Gothic abbey of Mont St Michel, the region of Normandy will give you a wonderful variety of landscapes of idyllic green villages and monumental white cliffs. A cruise in Normandy features calls at ports close to famous destinations such as Bayeux (10km/ 6m from the seaside) as well as more tranquil, less crowded tiny villages like Barfleur. Visit the popular fishing ports of St Vaast la Hougue, famous for its quayside bistros, or journey up the canal to the sleepy village at Carentan. Sail across the Bay de Seine to Ouistreham with its sandy D-Day beaches and easy access to Bayeux, the Pegasus Bridge and Caen.
The canals of western Burgundy form a superb network for boating holidays in France. Historic villages appear as you travel along, from Sancerre towards Apremont-sur-Allier, where you can visit an amazing floral park. Explore Nevers and the rich heritage of its Dukes, don't miss the Digoin and Briare aqueducts which attract thousands of visitors every year, and of course, your boating holiday in the birthplace of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is incomplete without tasting some of the best wines of Burgundy at the cellars of the vineyards of Auxerrois, Tonnerrois, Maranges or Santenay. The towpaths along the canals and rivers, open to cyclists, are perfect for biking and leisure walks. Hotel barges are also a relaxing way to enjoy the Burgundy Canal.
Provence and Côte d'Azur
With glamorous sailing resorts like Antibes, Cannes, Nice or Monaco, the French Riviera is the world's most luxurious sailing destination. Sailing into such glittering places is an experience that cannot be forgotten. Spend some time among the most beautiful collection of yachts in the world, bask in the glowing Mediterranean sun while you glide down the coast of the French Riviera - living the luxurious life never looked so good! Head out during the summer, take your pick from the glittering bars that line the port, and commence your yachting holiday in one of the most famous yachting destinations of the world - the indulgent Saint Tropez in Provence. In your very own yacht charter, please your appetite with a meal on deck prepared by your board chef, before stepping out to enjoy cocktails at Café Sénéquier and dancing at Le Papagayo. Each year, classic yachts of all sizes line up at the quayside in the harbor in Saint-Tropez for the Les Voiles de St Tropez regatta, making it a sight worth watching.
Toulouse - Pyrenees - Languedoc - Mediterranean
Explore the romantic South of France by opting for a week-long cruise down the Canal du Midi. Fancy a lazy evening on the water, sitting on the deck and reading a good book accompanied by a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, while passing through little valleys and fields full of golden sunflowers? No problem. Want to cycle through a grassy meadow or a small village? Most boats come equipped with a cycle, allowing you to reach the out-of-the-way villages like Pexiora and Villesèquelande. Just pull up your boat to the side of the canal and start riding! Cruising on the water won't stop you from tasting the wines of this region as the canal passes through one of France's finest wine regions, Pays d'Oc and smaller, boutique regions like Herault, the Aude, Minervois and Corbieres. Be on the lookout for old castles, churches and ruins that are dotted throughout the countryside and then make your way to the UNESCO-listed La Cité, the medieval castle, at Carcassonne. If your cruising time permits down to Narbonne close to the Mediterranean Sea, then carry on to the largest pound of France (52 km without any locks) up to the Fonserannes staircase, situated close to the historical city of Béziers.
River tourism is a great way to explore New Aquitaine and houseboats can be rented without needing a license. The locks are fully automated, meaning that you can explore New Aquitaine via the Garonne, Lot and Baise which form a crossroads without worry. The Canal de Garonne provides peaceful and sheltered waterways, lined with tow paths for cycling trips or impromptu stops along the way. It flows quietly towards the Aqueduct of Agen, the Cloister of Moissac, "the Water Slope" of Montech and through the historic town of Toulouse. The River Baïse leads you under arching trees moving from historic villages to windmills and fortified towns. Mysterious and bewitching, it meanders its way past bastide towns, abbeys and castles of Gascogny, visiting Vianne, Nérac and Condom. Towards Bordeaux, discover the Rembrandt of Le Mas d'Agenais, the promontory of Meilhan and the charming village of Fontet. Take your time and travel for a weekend, a fortnight, or even longer. The New Aquitaine region and its many routes makes it a canal boating holiday destination to come back to time and again.