Boating holidays in the South West of France will appeal to foodies, wine connoisseurs and fans of rugby (a real cult). And the best way to explore this typical French region is on a waterways cruise aboard a self-drive boat.
It’s not just a cruise; it’s a journey into the soul of South West France.
The South West of France is a perfect destination for boating holidays: it’s a place that’s worth exploring properly, not just the must-see sites, but every twist and turn. It’s a region of plenty, from its rich gastronomy, which has given us delicious dishes and fine wines, to the lively atmosphere, green countryside and picturesque villages. This is the land of the good life, where the sun doesn’t just shine but warms people’s hearts. Take your time to visit every stopping place on your canal boat and enjoy the varied landscapes that make this cruise so enjoyable. As you go further, immerse yourself in the impressive heritage, from the famous Moissac abbey to the château of Henri IV at Nérac. If you’re passing through at the time of the bull festivals (the ferias), why not stop and join in this tradition with the locals? Don’t forget to wear a red scarf! Whether you follow the Baïse, the Tarn or the Canal de Garonne, travelling by Pénichette® gives you a new perspective on the South West.
Take an out & back or one way journey and explore South West waterways
Your waterways cruise on the Baïse and the Canal de Garonne will be bathed in sunshine and singing with the lilting accents of the South West of France. Boating holidays in the region offer all kinds of interesting journeys from Agen or Valence-sur-Baïse.
Agen & Valence s/ Baïse
The pretty southern town of Agen is famous for its prunes. It has a top-rated rugby team and is the ideal starting point for your boating holidays in the South West of France.
destination and its waterways
This region is full of surprises: cruise the South West by Pénichette® to discover its secrets.
The Confluence of the Tarn and Garonne, sport, nature and relaxation
At Saint-Nicolas de la Grave, this 29-hectare nature and bird reserve is teeming with wildlife. Try some watersports, just relax, or do some birdwatching: there are species here you never knew existed!
The V86 bike path, a cycle excursion
Mooring your Pénichette® and pedalling along the banks is one of the pleasures of canal boat holidays. So take a bike on board with you from our base and follow the Lot & Garonne cycle route. Then you can wave at the other boats from the banks and explore the surroundings.
Fishing in the South West, for sport or for fun
Taking a cruise on the River Baïse and forgetting your fishing rod would be like going to the beach and forgetting your costume. Once you’ve got your fishing licence or day permit, you can catch carp, roach, or even pike.
The Agen Aqueduct, the second biggest in France
After 10 years of construction, this 549-metre aqueduct, built entirely of dressed stone from the Quercy area, is one of the region’s treasures. Steer your self-drive boat under this waterways monument with its 23 arches – but remember, it’s one-way traffic!
Exceptional heritage for everyone to enjoy
The South West is not only famous for its food and drink. Your cruise will take in abbeys, churches, walled towns and chateaux – so remember your camera!
Boating holidays in the South West of France: a new perspective on the region
Along the Baïse, the Tarn and the Canal de Garonne, 300 km of waterways take you into the heart of the South West, with its rich and unique historic heritage. This region, well known for its joie de vivre and the friendliness of the locals, is just as famous for its food and wine. There’s also a huge range of listed sites in the South West, set in beautiful, lush landscapes that are full of wildlife, from the familiar to the exotic. As the water carries your canal boat along, you’ll pass lush green banks, where the occasional bird takes off, and beautiful towns steeped in Medieval and Renaissance history.
Gascon bastides – fortified Medieval towns – alternate with rolling hills. The waterways are full of fish and the banks are alive with birds to keep you company on your cruise. Follow the history trail to Moissac, with its famous abbey, or Nérac, which leads you to Henri IV’s château. Then from Agen to Vianne it’s time to sample some of the wines from Buzet, a delicious vintage. It’s easy to explore this remarkable region: just rent a boat from Locaboat. Our very comfortable self-drive boats, with no license required to drive them, give you a luxurious way to cruise the South West without a care in the world. Choose from routes that lead you to Romanesque art and Medieval treasures, or opt for a gastronomic odyssey; all you have to do is step aboard your Pénichette®.
Unforgettable memories on the Canal de Garonne
Choosing a starting point for your boating holiday
You can start your boat holiday in southwest France from a number of different locations. It all depends on your own preferences. When travelling along the Canal de Garonne, holidaymakers can begin their journey at either end of the canal. This includes either starting further south in the city of Toulouse or at the northern section in the commune town of Castets-en-Dorthe. Although Castets-en-Dorthe is the canal’s most northerly section, its proximity to the city of Bordeaux makes Bordeaux a great place to visit before starting out on your canal boat.
Exploring the city of Bordeaux is a must-do activity when in this area of southwest France, as there is so much to see and do.
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks is the palace of Place de la Bourse. Designed and constructed in the early 18th century, the breathtaking palace is a reflection of France’s royal and pre-revolutionary history. As the world capital of wine, Bordeaux plays host to the museum of wine, known as ‘La Cité du Vin’. Inside the La Cité du Vin museum, visitors can see a whole collection of wine exhibitions and wine-centred history.
Aside from its fantastic architecture, wine and gastronomical must-haves, Bordeaux is one of the country’s most famous and iconic cities. This being said, no exploration of France’s southwest would be complete without a visit here, via boat, car or foot.
Agen boat hire in the south-west of France
With a Locaboat centre based in the city of Agen, the town presents itself as the perfect location to travel along the Canal de Garonne in either direction. Before you secure your boat from Locaboat and decide on your direction of travel, it is worth exploring the city of Agen itself. The city of Agen is one of the largest along the canal and in this area. Home to an assortment of different attractions and landmarks, you are sure to find something to take your fancy here, no matter your tastes.
Those with an interest in all things art and culture-based should not overlook the 12th century Agen cathedral. Granted UNESCO World Heritage status since the late 1990s, the cathedral is home to many points of interest, including one of the largest church organs in the entirety of southwest France.
Agen’s central boulevards are also must-see sights when in the city – having been pedestrianised, you are able to really soak in the feel of the city without looking out for automobiles.
A short walk out of the southside of the city will bring you to the village of Moirax. This short excursion will take you to the village’s Romanesque church, once part of the Cluniac Priory and seemingly unchanged as it was constituted in the 11th century. With so much to see and do, exploring the city before you take off on your boating holiday is surely a must.
Sailing your Canal de Garonne boat hire westwards
After setting out from Agen, heading on a westerly route will take you along some of the greener and more picturesque routes of the canal. Passing out of the city will open your view up to the stunning views of the many arched canal bridges and aqueducts that line this section of the canal. You will now have to make the first major decision of your boating holidays; whether to follow the canal route northwards to Castets-en-Dorthe or to follow the southerly route south along the River Baïse.
Turning into the Canal de Garonne’s tributary river, known as the River Baïse, you will be confronted with the commune town of Buzet-sur-Baïse.
As the River Baïse’s first commune, Buzet-sur-Baïse is a great place to stop and gather your thoughts and assess the new route and its surroundings. Following this tributary south, you will eventually come to the town of Nérac. Giving inspiration to the novel and film ‘Chocolat’, Nérac is a truly quintessential French town, complete with all the romantic connotations.
One of the most visited attractions in all of Nérac is the Château de Nérac. This medieval castle has a long and disjointed history, peppered with the many names and families of French royal rule. Most notably, the castle was the home of the French King Henri IV and his fellow court. Later, the castle was used as the town’s prison – all this can be learnt in detail by visiting the castle itself.
Navigating the southern regions of the River Baïse
Passing on from the town of Nérac, your boating holiday will pass into the southernmost area of the River Baïse and the many settlements along its banks. The village of Moncrabeau is a perfect stop off along the river, home to traditional French village life, complete with all its eccentricities and small village charm. One such eccentric pastime is the yearly festival known as the Festival des Menteurs or Festival of Liars in English. Contestants are scored on their abilities to tell convincing tall-tails, a tradition that has existed in Moncrabeau for many decades.
Moving on from these small riverside villages, you will come to the port town of Condom. The French commune of Condom takes its name from the Gaulish placename of Condatomagos, which in turn evolved to the more Latin, Condom.
Apart from being a major settlement along the River Baïse, Condom has many of its own attractions that make stopping here and exploring definitely worth the journey.
The principal landmark of Condom is the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, located in the heart of the town. Constructed between the 14th and 16th centuries, the cathedral is a stunning example of European Gothic architecture. Alongside the town’s architectural beauty, Condom is also known for its production of Armagnac, a local brandy that is a must-try for spirit connoisseurs travelling to southwest France. This mixture of culture, history and food are what truly make great boating holidays in France.
Boating along the Canal de Garonne towards Toulouse
Take a picturesque easterly course from Agen
Exiting the town of Agen along a more easterly route will take you towards the Mediterranean side of southwest France. This idyllic course passes through many smaller towns and communes before arriving at the mighty French city of Toulouse. Similar to Canal du Midi boat hire, boaters along the Canal de Garonne will be drawn in by the many canalside sights that adorn this section of the water. The first of these major settlements holidaymakers will come to is the commune of Valence-d’Agen. Although this commune is quite small, it still has enough of an appeal to warrant a good exploration, especially in the sun.
Once you’re back on the easterly canal route, you will arrive at one of the most famous locations on the Canal de Garonne, the town of Moissac.
Although the town is not too large, its historical significance has meant the town often precedes itself to outsiders and foreigners. This fame largely comes from the Benedictine Moissac Abbey, which is a must-visit landmark when in the town.
Constructed as early as the 6th century, Moissac Abbey is one of the best-preserved and breathtakingly beautiful monastic buildings in all of Europe. Adorned with stone carvings and romanesque sculpture throughout, a visit to Moissac Abbey takes visitors back down the centuries to a world of monks, ultra Christianity and medieval piety.
Pass through the busy metropolises of Montauban and Toulouse
Passing on from the small commune town of Moissac and its world heritage abbey, you are then swept on further, ebbing closer to Mediterranean France. Before you make your way further east, your journey will take you to some of the biggest cities in this area of southwestern France, with the first being the city of Montauban.
If you are arriving in Montauban during the early morning hours, then head straight out to the main town square, known as the Place Nationale. Here you can watch the whole city wake up, complete with the mini market and jaw-droppingly beautiful brick townhouses and arched arcades. With its many museums, art galleries and restaurants, you are sure to find your own version of Montauban that will make you glad you moored up in time.
Following the ever-flowing canal south, your journey can end similarly to where it began, in a major French city. This time it’s not the Atlantic facing Bordeaux, but the Mediterranean sun-soaked city of Toulouse. As another of France’s world-famous cities, no journey through southwestern French waters would be complete without a visit here.
Among its many fantastic sights is, what is considered one of the greatest churches in all of France, the Basilica of Saint Sernin. This epic basilica is a combination of centuries of architectural changes and an impressive collection of sculpture and carvings. Apart from Toulouuse’s stunning architecture, the city is also home to modern French life. From its award-winning restaurants and hotels to captivating theatres and space themed museums.
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Questions & Answers
BLOG South West
The area around Marmande is a land of history, a place where you can enjoy the pleasant way of life and a rich and sometimes surprising heritage.
Everyone knows the South-West is one of the best regions in France for fine dining.
It may not be as famous as the Canal du Midi, but the Canal de Garonne runs through the countryside with a very rich cultural and architectural heritage.