Provence boating holidays


We are free to roam the world once more and seek out its beauty. It has been a troubled year, and we have grown used to your homes and the company of a few. It might feel too much to fly out to a major resort to sit amongst thousands of people again. The perfect way to ease your way back into some form of normality could be the most beautiful tour of Provence from her waterways.

To the north, the River Rhone rises in the Swiss Alps and joins with the Saone at Lyon. This confluence of rivers creates the most beautiful route through the region, twisting and turning its way to the Mediterranean. As well as crossing from the north to the sea, you can travel the coast from Arles, through Montpellier and on to Agde and Narbonne. In addition to rivers, miles of canals wind their way through the south of France.

Carmague is the site of Europe’s largest river delta. The area is rich in wildlife, with over 350 species of bird from storks to flamingos. Each day would offer that sense of peace that comes from gently floating on a boat and an opportunity for a different experience.

Your personal luxury cruiser

Your first option could be to hire a boat that would take you and your family wherever your curiosity led you. There is a massive selection of boats to choose from housing from 2 – 12 people and to differing degrees of luxury. We would always advocate the most comfort possible, especially if you are going to take in the wine regions of the Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape.

If you are taking your children with you, there is the option to hire bicycles and go deep into the stunning landscape. You could seek out the lavender fields or take in some history, visiting Viviers, a medieval hilltop village with the most stunning views. If a bicycle sounds too energetic, you can always hire a car for those more ambitious excursions.

The hire of a boat of your own allows you to explore and bathe in the sense of adventure. Children will love coming ashore to explore. You are not held to a set route, and you don’t have to travel at all. You could easily stay moored to your quay, should you wish to spend a few romantic days with a loved one.

You don’t need any boating experience to enjoy a pootle along the Canal du Rhone a Sete. You will enjoy a quick training session before you board, and from there you will learn as you go. It is all part of the fun.

Working barges

Working barges makes it sound like you are going a little more rustic than you desire. However, the inventive French have taken these old working barges and converted them into the most beautiful floating hotels housing between 6 and 12 passengers. If you are worried about sharing such a confined space with strangers, you could gather a few families together and hire out the whole area for your trip. You will benefit from full service and gourmet catering. While there are choices of cruises, these barges tend to stick to the calmer waters of the canals.

Such a trip is great for those that have no interest in self-determination. This boating trip is a tour of the area from the waterways that offers a tranquil stay. You will benefit from being guided to the best locations by the experienced crew while admiring the ever-changing scenery.

River cruises

Although it might be a little while before you want to board a boat with 150 other passengers, you should not discount a cruise along the major rivers. Unlike the monolithic cruise ships of the ocean, these are more intimate experiences. It still will feel like a floating hotel, with a full crew and service provided. However, the cruise along the River Rhone through the wine region is a beautiful way to experience France. Alternatively, you could choose the Seine and make your way to Provence from Paris in the most sedate manner possible.

As you would expect, there is a published itinerary as you board. There will be set stopping off points along your journey when you can escape exploring local town and villages, as well as the beautiful landscape. You can choose to stay with the boat or to pack as many excursions into your holiday as possible. You still have the freedom to create your holiday experience in France from her waterways.

A private affair or a holiday extravaganza

When you are on the boat, you are soaking up the gentle journey. However, what you choose to do when you moor is how you will make this holiday yours to own. For instance, you can opt to leap off the boat and secure yourself to a grassy bank using stakes. You can then enjoy a feast of wine and cheese on board before taking a gentle walk down the riverbank. Alternatively, you can opt for paid moorings in towns such as Aigues Mortes, where your boat is a little more secure to the shore. From the moorings in Aigues Mortes, you could take in the bustling populous of some 8000 people – which will feel massive after your lonely wanderings. You can walk the medieval walls and ramparts before enjoying coffee at the Place Saint-Louis.

As you can see, you could shape a trip along the waterways that allowed you to bask in isolation. Alternatively, you can go from stop to stop, whether it is an ancient village or a summer seaside resort and take in all the tourist sites. The beauty of a boating holiday in France is your freedom – a sensation that we no longer take for granted.

Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.

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Comments (8)

  1. Steven Ham says:

    Alternatively you can row from the Atlantic to the Med. Two of my friends did it. Two summers running. I’m not sure how much of the scenery their appreciated. But, all credit to them it was a great achievement. I saw some pictures of their blisters and wouldn’t recommend it. More conventional boating would be a much more enjoyable option.

    • Julie Humphrey says:

      Although it has not been the best of years for cruises, I’m looking forward to doing some river cruises as soon as possible. As a fan of Provence and river cruises it seems a dream combination to me. What I like most is that most of the travelling is done whilst you are going about the essentials of your daily routine having dinner, sleeping and breakfast. Then you moor up, usually right at the heart of a new city or town and start exploring again. Sometimes there are the blissful hours when you relax and watch the scenery drift past.

    • Dave says:

      Pretty cool. I like coming here to learn about new adventures. I know it’s not very typical but I enjoy stuff like that. It makes me want to check it out and expand my horizons. I see getting out of your comfort zone as a good thing.

  2. Carolyn says:

    If time is tight you can always do a lunch or dinner cruise on one of Provence’s waterways. It’s a double whammy. Gourmet food and fantastic views. No, a triple whammy – great wines too.

    I did a lunch cruise, somewhere in Provence, about a dozen years ago. It was all very jolly and authentic as there was a local family taking up several tables celebrating Grandpa’s 70th birthday. Maybe I indulged in the wine a little too much which is why I can’t remember where the cruise took place.

    • Amanda says:

      Oh man, that’s very funny! This had me laughing. I think you made a great point thought about having fun! This is probably one of the best places in the world to do something like that. I’d love to get there for a holiday — what a treasure for your grandma’s 70th birthday.

  3. Walter says:

    Such a shame that it would be a while before I can enjoy Provence, or any trip at all. Luckily, I was able to enjoy a private charter with the family to — you said it — Cotes du Rhone. My wife and I love wine and we’ve toured Australia’s and New Zealand’s wine region as well. My children love the expansive vineyards and the food or course. It’s money well spent as I was able to enjoy with the kids before the pandemic happened. Now, I’m wondering when we can have another family trip.

    • Grace says:

      I’ve lost count of the number of summers that I have spent in Provence, first as a child and now as a mother, but as we head towards August I doubt that it will happen this year. Also, I can remember strolling along a riverbank thanking that one year boating in Provence might be good fun for a change. Maybe next summer?

  4. Kevin says:

    I was traveling around Europe last summer. And although it was very hot, I think one of my most favorite things was getting to see the large rivers over there. Specifically, the Danube in Budapest was really something to behold and the scenery around it all was just gorgeous. So I can only imagine what this must be like. These places are definitely worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.

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