Top 5 boating holidays for beginners

Top 5 boating holidays for beginners

Whatever your boating experience, explore France’s vast network of rivers and canals with Nicols, France’s best-loved boating provider

Hiring a self-drive canal boat to explore France’s network of rivers and canals is a lot easier than you’d think. There is no need for a licence and, in fact, Nicols, France’s best-loved boating holiday provider, claim that you don’t even need to have set foot on a boat before to be able to rent one their spacious and stylish boats.

Why? Because, in addition to receiving hands-on instruction on collection of the boat from their base teams, crews of families and friends will also find the boats easy to drive and moor up when stopping at the many interesting places found on and around the waterways.

There are however vast differences when it comes to Europe’s rivers and canals so we asked Nicols to pick five routes that would be best for those new to boating holidays in France

Camargue… from Aigues-Mortes

It’s not just the open waters that take you through one of Europe’s largest nature reserves that make a boating holiday in the Camargue a favourite among first timers. The waterways here are also lock-free.

Highlights of cruising in this region include the south of France’s gastronomy, visits to medieval fortified cities such as Aigues-Mortes and a variety of wildlife ranging from wild horses and bulls to the Camargue’s famous pink flamingos. The canal here is also adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, meaning if your crew love the beach then a day trip to the coast is possible at coastal towns such as Le Grau-du-Roi and Palavas-Les-Flots.

Brittany… from Glénac

The great thing about Brittany is that its close proximity to the UK means it is an excellent choice for those wanting to book a short break trip as a way of seeing what a boating holiday is all about. You can hire a canal boat just for the weekend or choose a slightly longer few days short break – there are suggested itineraries to suit all length of trip.

The waterways in Brittany are also devoted to pleasure craft only, so you don’t need to worry about them being busy or coming across larger commercial boats. What you will find with a boating holiday here, though, is a region rich in colour and traditions, fairytale castles and historical villages and regional specialities including seafood, crêpes and cider!

Alsace… from Saverne

A boating holiday in Alsace made it into our shortlist for a number of reasons. Visitors here will explore a land steeped in history – a mix of wonderful art and architecture and magnificent mountain and forest scenery. You can even navigate all the way into the heart of Strasbourg!

Another highlight of a holiday on these waterways is first-hand experience of the famous Arzviller boat lift – a one of a kind construction that has been open since 1969 and lifts boats 45 metres and avoids an alternative route of 17 locks within just 4kms. Now this might not sound like the type of thing a beginner might want to stumble across but the boat lift is as easy to use as it is impressive on the eye! Crews don’t need to do anything once your boat is in position. Everything is automated and there is a lock keeper present to oversee the climb. In fact in Alsace, all of the locks are automatic making them nice and easy to use.

Burgundy… from Brienon

The Canal de Bourgogne is one of the best known canals in France and therefore is perfect for a boating holiday. It winds its way through beautiful Burgundy countryside and there is so much to see and do with waterside vineyards, numerous castles and medieval villages and an exceptional number of historic sites and monuments…all of which borders the canal. We can’t include Burgundy without also mentioning the famous wines that are waiting to be tried!

Getting to the region is also hassle-free thanks to it being reasonably close to the excellent travel links of Paris.

Canal du Midi… from Le Somail

If you’re going to try a boating holiday then you may as well try it on one of the most famous canals in the world! From Le Somail you can choose to travel in either direction along the Canal du Midi – towards Carcassonne one way or the opposite way towards Narbonne and close to the Mediterranean sea.

The canal is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and there is so much for you and your crew to find from sun-drenched vineyards and canal side restaurants to pretty villages and historic places of interest.

Whichever region you choose we’re sure that you’ll enjoy the fun and flexibility that a boating holiday provides, whilst travelling in comfort and style in your very own floating accommodation.

About Nicols

For over 30 years Nicols have been operating boating holidays across France. Currently short breaks and longer holidays are available from 19 different start bases. Nicols boats sleep crews of anything between 2-12 people with 27 different models to choose from.

Find out more by visiting or or by calling 02392 401320.

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