Including its overseas territories in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, the “Grand Nation” of France has almost 4900 kilometers of coastline. Of that, almost 3500 kilometers are part of France’s mainland and its nearby island, Corsica. Along with its direct or almost direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, France has a wide variety of water sport and sailing options open to visitors. Traveling by sailboat, motorboat, houseboat, canoe, and kayak are all possible on the many waterways, rivers and canals in and around the country. Among the largest, longest and most beautiful of their kind for river tourism are the Loire, Maas, Rhône, Seine, Garonne, Mosel, Marne, Dordogne, Saône, Doubs, Cher, Allier, Charente, Oise, Yonne, Sarthe, and Creuse rivers. These are part of the 70 mostly navigable waterways in France, which are connected to each other with man-made canals, so one can sail to from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and back via the Garonne, the Canal Latéral à la Garonne, the Canal du Midi and the Canal du Rhône à Sète. The Rhône then flows via Lyon and the Saône, and the Canal du Rhône au Rhin (Rhine-Rhône Canal) goes to Mulhouse on the Rhine. This is also how you can reach the Canal Latéral à la Loire and the Canal du Centre from the Atlantic Ocean via the Loire. For those wishing to discover the Loire in the direction of Paris, you should travel on the Canal du Loing and the Seine. These go from the French capital to Rouen and Le Havre in the west, and heading east will bring you to the Marne, the Canal Latéral à la Marne, and the Canal de la Marne au Rhin (Rhine-Marne Canal) all the way to Strasbourg in the northwestern region of Alsace. You can also reach France’s neighbor to the north, Belgium, on the many waterways. You can use the Oise and the Canal du Nord, the Canal de la Somme and the Liaison Dunkerque-Escaut (which is also navigable for large vessels) as well as the Canal de la Sambre à l’Oise to reach Belgium. Scenic regions between Belgium, northeastern France and the Mediterranean Sea include the areas around the Canal des Vosges and Canal de la Meuse, among many others.
The many lakes in France are well suited for boat trips and water activities of all sorts. They are also incredibly popular destinations for fishers and swimmers, both from local towns and foreign countries. France has claim to about 580 square kilometers of Lake Geneva, which has been the site for the Bol d’Or sailing regatta since 1939 but is also widely used by private skippers. The region of Jura is also rife with lakes, including the small Lac des Brenets, also known as Lac de Chaillexon. This lake is very popular for vacationers and bathers in the summer, and can be used for ice skating in the winter. The close by Lac de Bonlieu is even more pristine, and Lac de Narlay in Franche-Comté is known for its very clean water. Lac des Rousses, northwest of Lyon, is a favorite among bathers. The same is true for Lac de Saint-Point/Lac de Malbuisson in Département Doubs and the dam-made Lac de Vouglans near Lons-le-Saunier. Lac de Chalain also plays an important role in the region, especially as an area for hiking, and Lacs de Clairvaux serves as a bathing lake in the summer. In very southern France, the reliable wind speeds of the Lagune des Étang de Leucate near Salses-le-Château create great conditions for this well known surfing area, and the Lagune de Étang de Thau, near a city of the same name, has very pretty, but also demanding for boaters, waters. For swimmers and bathers, Lac de Hourtin and de Carcans in the Département Gironde are equally popular, and Lac du Causse in Département Corrèze in the Région Limousin is a central location for water sports and activities. Lac d’Aiguebelette in Département Haute-Savoie in Rhône-Alpes has already been used as the venue for the World Rowing Championships, and will be again in 2015. For fishing, Lac Pavin in Département Puy-de-Dôme is a good place for fishers to congregate, as it is a home to the popular Arctic charr fish. Lac de Lacanau near Bordeaux lies just inland of the Atlantic coast, and the dam-made Lac de Naussac in Languedoc-Roussillon is used both to generate electricity and as a place for recreation. Further inland, Lac de Villefort is east of Mende, and a popular weekend excursion site near Paris includes the man-made lake Étangs de Hollande in Département Yvellines. Some wonderful lakes that are more difficult to get to, and which are only accessible by foot, are Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello on the island Corsica, off France’s southern coast in the Mediterranean. An itinerary for Corsica can be found here.
In accordance with the characteristics of the local language, natural beauty is present in all its forms, including in the previously mentioned stretches of coastline along France’s borders with the sea. The most famous of France’s coastal areas since the 18th century, Côte d’Azur, or the French Riviera, sits on the Mediterranean and is home to the famous cities and vacation towns Cassis, Menton, Toulon, Hyères, Saint-Tropez, Antibes, Cannes, Nice, and Monaco (a suggested itinerary along the Côte d’Azur is available here. As on the western Côte Bleue (Blue Coast), Le Rove, Ensuès-la-Redonne, Carry-le-Rouet, Sausset-les-Pins, and Martigues all are famous for their wild white horses that roam around the land. Camargue between Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône and La Gran Motte, also has these horses, and along with Côte d’Améthyste near Port-Camargue, Palavas-les-Flots, Le Cap d’Agde, Gruissan, Port Leucate, Port Barcarès et Saint Cyprien, also has many marinas, berths, and docking areas tucked into hidden coves. On the Atlantic coast, follow from south to the north the Basque Coast (Côte Basque) to Hendaye, Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Ciboure and Angelet and then the almost 100 kilometer long Silver Coast (Côte d’Argent) from Angelet to Soulac-sur-Mer, whose name is almost like precious metal shimmering in the sunlight. France’s most famous nude beach is Montalivet-les-Bains, and the towns in the Lège-Cap-Ferret region on the Arcachon Bay have lovely anchoring and docking places in the small harbor.
The Coast of Beauty (Côte de Beauté) earns its name from La Palmyre to Meschers-sur-Gironde, the Light Coast (Côte de Lumière) boasts Beauvoir-sur-Mer to L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer, the Jade Coast (Côte de Jade) has Saint-Brevin-les-Pins and Moutiers-end-Retz, and the Megalith Coast (Côte des Mégalithes) sits on the Gulf of Morbihan. The Breton sections of the Côte de Cornouailles coastline from Pointe du Raz to Pont Aven, the Côte d’Íroise between the Sein and Quessant islands near Brest, and the Coast of Legends (Côte des Légendes) around Saint-Pabu are all beaches with similar attributes: shores with large rocks and deep fjords. The Golden Belt (Ceinture dorée) of France lies in two municipal Départements, Côtes-d’Armor and Finistère Léon. The area is named for its many hours of sunshine and lovely mild climate, even in the winter. The Pink Granite Coast (Côte de Granit Rose) offers little sand, but instead, huge boulders litter its beaches and the area experiences strong tides. The Emerald Coast (Côte d’Émeraude) is located between Cap Fréhel and Cancale. Lower Normandy is the home of the Flower Coast (Côte Fleurie) and is known for its seaside resorts Honfleur, Trouville-sur-Mer, Deauville, Villers-sur-Mer, Cabourg, Varaville, and Merville-Franceville-Plage. In upper Normandy you’ll find the 120 kilometer long and sometimes very steep Alabaster Coast (Côte d’Albâtre), on which Le Havre, Fécamp, Dieppe, Le Tréport, Étretat, and Yport can be found. In Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the Opal Coast (Côte d’Opale) has long, narrow sand beaches, salt flats, and the well known bathing areas Stella Plage, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, Berck, and Saint-Vallery-sur-Somme.
Francophiles from around the world have chosen from about 650 houseboats, catamarans, motorboats and sailboats available on the global yacht charter platform, YACHTICO.com. Most boats were manufactured between 2005 and 2012, and feature packages ranging in price from 550 to 41,000 euros per week. All preferences and budgets can be accommodated for locations around the world, whether you want to sail along the coasts or on the many inland rivers, leisurely passing by France’s many breathtaking landscapes.