Our beginners guide to boating holidays
Every year, France’s best loved self-drive boating holiday operator Nicols sends hundreds of travellers who haven’t previously set foot on a boat to explore the beautiful network of French canals and rivers. We explain below why a boating break is a great holiday idea – even if you’ve never tried it before...
One of the great things about a boating holiday is that while cruising the waterways your view is ever-changing as you pass towns, villages and ever changing countryside – all enjoyed from a completely new perspective from your floating home-from-home. France is excellent for this as its extensive network of canals and rivers run throughout the country’s many diverse regions - Nicols operates from 18 different bases in popular locations such as Burgundy, Alsace, Franche Comte, the Loire Valley and the renowned Canal du Midi and Camargue.
Don’t worry if you’ve never been on a boat before. No licence is needed – in fact not even any previous boating experience is required! Nicols will provide everything you need to know before you set off and you’ll be taken out on the water and given a hands-on demonstration of everything – from how to go through locks to tying up at the water’s edge.
Once you’ve been shown around your boat and left the base for the start of your holiday navigating is easy. All Nicols boats are easy to operate with either just one inside steering position or a second rooftop position to navigate under the sun with a panoramic view. You will discover simple controls that are easy to use: the wheel, a gear lever and a few instruments on the dashboard.
You can’t get lost! The comprehensive waterways guides provide detailed information of the waterways on which you will navigate, highlighting useful information such as the location of locks, quays, water fill-up points etc in addition to tourist information such as places to visit and their opening hours, market days, good restaurants etc. Most of the time it’s simply a case of the following the river – keeping an eye out for your next stop-off point of interest!
One of the biggest advantages of a boating holiday is the complete flexibility it offers. From the moment you leave your departure base – you control your holiday itinerary going where you want when you want and stopping wherever takes your fancy. You can moor in the countryside by the river bank or, if you prefer the hustle and bustle of the towns and villages you pass on route, you can take advantage of the purpose-built ports and mooring sites. Sometimes a small fee is charged but these comfortable and serviced areas will provide easy access to the town.
The modern day hire boat provides extremely spacious and comfortable accommodation – on par with other types of quality holiday accommodation. Nicols’ fleet of over 500 boats have all been built by Nicols’ own boatyard with over 30% of the fleet less than five years old. Using customer feedback and new technologies designs are constantly evolving and improving which has resulted in one of the largest and most stylish inland waterways fleets in the world.
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Although there is a range of different sized boats what they all have in common is a vast living room with a 360� panoramic view and spacious cabins – some even with en suite shower rooms. The kitchen is fully equipped including a fridge with a freezer compartment, ring-hob, oven/grill and plenty of worktop areas. All kitchenware (crockery, cutlery, utensils etc) is supplied as well as the bedding (sheets, duvets, pillows). The boats terraces are equipped with garden furniture and either sun awning or parasol depending on the model.
A boating holiday offers the perfect mix of relaxed and tranquil travel with more energetic activities such as cycling, swimming, fishing and walking. Half of the fun is in driving the boat, mooring up and passing through locks with the entire crew getting involved, be it steering the boat, holding the mooring ropes or operating the lock gates.
Families can enjoy an adventure – kids will love the boat, planning the day ahead and following the map, spotting the river wildlife and enjoying the family time together. The heated splash pool (an exclusive to Nicols) that can be added to all of the boats is a particular favourite with families.
A boating holiday isn’t just all about the many different activities you can enjoy. After swimming, fishing, walking, cycling and exploring the many towns and villages you pass you should take some time to enjoy the slower pace of life that a boating holiday provides. Put your feet up and relax in the comfort of your boat – either in the spacious rooms or out on the sun decks and terraces. Moor up and enjoy a lazy lunch in the shade with nothing but the noise of birdsong and gently lapping water.
Nicols offers boats to suit all budgets and party sizes from two to twelve people and flexible durations mean that itineraries are available for short-breaks, one-week holidays or longer stays.