Wind your way through the Canal du Midi to the Mediterranean Etang de Thau

Where is Etang de Thau lagoon?

Etang de Thau, France lies in the south of the country, in the Hérault department of southern France. The lagoon is flanked by the Mediterranean Sea on its southern border and the town of Mèze on its northern side, creating an idyllic turquoise lagoon.

Etang de Thau is the largest of several lagoons that stretch along the French coast, from the River Rhône all the way to the Pyrenees mountains. The lagoon was once connected to the rest of the other lagoons creating an inland sea, boosting trade to early settlers and providing access to Marseillan, a small fishing village that would become a booming trade centre.

Alongside being a natural lagoon that boosted sea trade, Etang de Thau is also an area of extreme natural beauty. This natural beauty is both fantastic to behold and provides a great habitat for wildlife. Also known as the Bassin de Thau, the huge bowl-like stretch of water is home to huge flocks of herons and great flamingos. As well as birds, the lagoon holds swathes of oysters, mussels and a variety of fish.

All of this creates a unique area of southern France that just screams out to be explored via a boat. There is a reason why so many French canal holidays seek out Etang de Thau as one of their final destinations.


Taking the Canal du Midi to, or from, Etang de Thau

One of the most rewarding and interesting ways to explore Etang de Thau is to navigate the Canal du Midi with an Etang de Thau barge. The famous canal is one of the most popular routes in France and draws in thousands for boating holidays. Boaters can navigate the Canal du Midi from either its northern point or from Etang de Thau itself.

It is more popular to start the Canal du Midi route from its northerly point, the city of Toulouse. With waterways naturally running from inland landmarks and towards the sea, this route seems the most natural.

Travelling down the Canal du Midi towards Etang de Thau allows holidaymakers to take in a plethora of must-see sights, even before they reach the famed lagoon. Starting with the city of Toulouse, where you can delight in a myriad of sights, including the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, will give an introduction to the beauty of the French cities along the canal.

After navigating the canal further south, you will come to one of the most famous sights along the Canal du Midi, Carcassonne. Carcassonne is a preserved medieval fortified city set atop a hill overlooking the countryside below. A mass of towers and battlements, turrets, ramparts and the longest city in Europe, Carcassonne is a real sight to behold. Continuing ever closer to Etang de Thau, you will pass through towns close to the lagoon, such as Narbonne and Béziers. Finally arriving at Etang de Thau with your Canal du Midi boat hire, the lagoon looms large as the perfect way to end such an eventful boating holiday.

Explore everything Etang de Thau has to offer

Visit historic villages around the shore of the Etang de Thau lagoon

While its natural beauty is one of the biggest draws to Etang de Thau, the lagoon is home to many residents. Whether it’s idyllic small fishing villages or substantial towns, bringing your Etang de Thau boat to the lagoon doesn’t mean the end to sightseeing.

The small commune town of Marseillan is arguably one of the most famous that stands along the shores of the lagoon and has a history twinned closet with the water it stands so close to. Once a small fishing village, Marseillan now attracts visitors for its quaint and idyllic charm. Standing at the official end of the Canal du Midi, Marseillan is likely to be the first settlement you visit when arriving on the shores of Etang de Thau.

On the opposite side of the lagoon to Marseillan is the largest settlement on Etang de Thau, Sète. Known as the Venice of Languedoc, Sète is a jewel of a town and has attracted a plethora of France’s artistic scene for decades. Aside from its perfect position along the lagoon, Sète is also home to a number of must-see sights. These include the old port section of the town, perfect for wandering along the quays and catching sight of the beautiful coloured houses and warehouses – straight out of a turn of the century holiday postcard.

For the art lovers amongst you, Etang de Thau’s Sète is also home to the Paul Valéry museum, showcasing artwork from across southern France and rare examples of Paul Valéry’s works.

Relax with nature or get your heart pumping with watersports

Aside from the many towns and villages that dot the shore of Etang de Thau, the waters and natural habitats provide so much more for visitors. Keen animal lovers and bird watchers can spend a sun-swept dawn watching out for birds such as the Greater Flamingo, Common Kingfisher, Red Kite and Little Egret – all of which call the lagoon their home.

If your visit to Etang de Thau demands a little more excitement and watersports is more your thing, you’ve come to the right place. As well as the many boats and barges that pass through the lagoon, the shores are also peppered with numerous sailing clubs – perfect if you want to add a little more sport to your boating trips. Alongside the sailing, the conditions of Etang de Thau lend themselves perfectly to windsurfing and kitesurfing. Despite being surrounded by land, the lagoon’s natural winds make wind and kite surfing a breeze.

After your eventful holiday visiting a multitude of places, you may simply wish to kick back and relax on the beach. Although a beach runs right down the southern edge of Etang de Thau, it is also flanked by the main road. To get the perfect beach settings, head to the beach at Cap d’Agde, the most south-westerly point on the lagoon.

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