Houseboating havens: spots for foodies, sport enthusiasts, and wine lovers

Houseboating havens: spots for foodies, sport enthusiasts, and wine lovers

Whether you're a foodie, an athlete, a wine connoisseur or a nature enthusiast, we have some fantastic destinations for you to indulge in your passions on your houseboating vacation.

Plan your next houseboating cruise around your favourite pastimes! Explore the finest French cuisine and wines, take leisurely bike rides along scenic canals, test your skills on renowned golf courses or immerse yourself in historical wonders. A houseboating holiday in France, Holland or even Germany will be an unforgettable experience.

Tips for foodies and wine lovers

If you love good food, restaurants and discovering regional specialities, head to France. One of the local treasures is the Charente region on the river of the same name, famous for its Marennes Oléron oysters. These are produced in shallow tanks about 5 kilometres from the sea, and it is the mixture of fresh and salt water that accounts for their excellent quality. There are several categories, fine de claire are rich in water and have a delicate flesh with a balanced flavour, and fine de claire verte are coloured green thanks to the special algae in the tanks. In Charente you can also taste the local aperitif Pineau des Charentes. The town of Cognac, which gave its name to the drink, is also on the Charente (to be called cognac, alcohol must be produced in the vicinity of the town and meet strictly defined production regulations).

YACHTING.COM TIP: For all the lovers of good food and drink, we have written some tips for interesting itineraries to discover great local specialties. Staying on a houseboat as you delve into the local dining scene, soak up the vibrant city life, and bask in the peaceful nature is truly an amazing combination!

Oysters

Oysters from Marennes Oléron

But all places in France are a culinary experience. In the south-west, try foie gras with truffles, in the Camargue local sweet pastries Fougasse d'Aigues-Mortes, in Brittany, the local sweet tarts with prunes and savoury galette pancakes made from buckwheat flour. Alsace offers cuisine that combines French and German influences. This region is often called the gourmet capital of France — not least because there are many Michelin restaurants around Strasbourg. Don't miss the Alsatian wines in particular, whether Riesling or Gewürztraminer, they are truly magnificent (the region also offers beer from local breweries).

As previously highlighted, a trip to a Michelin star restaurant can significantly enrich your visit to France. With over 600 such restaurants dotted across the country, you are spoiled for choice. Conveniently, some are located near popular canal boat routes. For instance, consider a visit to La Table de Franck Putelat in Carcassonne, situated by the Canal du Midi, or explore La Côte Saint-Jacques  in Joigny in the renowned region of Burgundy. Speaking of Burgundy, don't miss the opportunity to explore the acclaimed Chablis and Grand Auxerrois vineyards.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Thinking of spending your holiday on a houseboat but have never tried it before? We've put together the most common questions and answers our clients have before their first cruise. Check out our guide — First time on a houseboat: 25 things you need to know

Routes for cyclists

Do you enjoy exploring new landscapes from the saddle of a bike? Then a houseboat holiday is just the thing for you — there are cycle paths lining most of the canals. The Canal du Midi is one notable destination that provides this blend of boating and biking. This 240 km long canal forms a beautiful link between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. On your journey, you'll pass through a series of picturesque locales - starting from Toulouse, passing through Carcassonne - Europe's most well-preserved medieval fortress town - and beyond to Narbonne. Cyclists will particularly enjoy the 250 km long cycle path that follows old roads, easily accessible from here. While riding the entire length may not be feasible, every distinct segment along the canal offers its unique appeal.

Canal du Midi cycle path

Cycle path along the Canal du Midi

Another option is the sunny Camargue region  in the south of France. It is full of colour, beautiful nature (watching flamingos is an unforgettable experience, as is the impressive sandy beaches of the dunes), and offers plenty of unusual cultural experiences, including bullfights, gypsy culture festivals and modern cowboys. Explore the medieval town of Aigues Mortes by bike, the area around Lake Étang de Thau, or take a trip to the town of Arles (which is off-limits to boats). There are a number of Roman monuments here, and a renowned photography festival is held every summer.

And of course, the flatlands of Holland are a promised land for cyclists. Whether it's Amsterdam itself or the surroundings. For example, the route from Amsterdam to Haarlem is fantastic, along which you can visit numerous places where tulips are grown.

YACHTING.COM TIP: The Netherlands is a real paradise for a houseboating holiday, even without a skipper's licence (but of course you must be of legal age). Combined with a biking, you can really see and experience a wealth of things. Discover with us the 10 must-see places in Holland.

Tulips in Netherlands

Tulip meadows in the Netherlands

Destinations for golfers

Going on a canal trip doesn't mean you have to sideline your passion for golf. If you choose the right route, you can get to some great golf courses and combine the two.

Try Alsace, for example — cruising the Marne-Rhine Canal or the  Saar Canal offers a stop at the Golf du Pays de Sarrebourg course overlooking the Vosges mountains, the hilly Golf de Sarreguemines or the Golf de Nancy.

The Anjou region in the west of France is also ideal for golfers in the Sarthe Valley (near the Loire River) — the Sablé-Solesmes golf coursedesigned by architect Michel Gayon and offering the highest quality, can be reached by pontoon directly from the boat. When you've had enough golf take a trip to the historic town of Sablé-sur-Sarthe with its beautiful marina, or to the Abbey of Solesmes, one of the centres of Gregorian chant.

Solesmes Abbey

Solesmes Abbey in Sablé-sur-Sarthe

You can also cruise to Germany for some golfing, specifically MecklenburgThere are around a thousand lakes in the region in the north of Germany on the Baltic Sea coast and a number of fantastic golf courses in the area check out the range at the Winston Club in Gneven near Pinnow with its natural sand dunes and small streams, or the GOLF Fleesensee course. 

Excursions for nature lovers

We have recommended Mecklenburg to golfers, but those who enjoy peace and nature will appreciate it too  visitors are advised to bring binoculars and a camera,  as they will see countless animals, birds and beautiful vegetation as they sail through the interconnected lakes. Don't miss the nature reserve around Lake Plau, which boasts 150 species of birds, or the Müritzeum, the gateway to the National Park on the lake of the same name. Here, they can advise you on the numerous routes to take and things to see.

Müritz National Park

Müritz National Park in Mecklenburg

Do you find France appealing? As we mentioned earlier, the captivating sight of pink flamingos in the Camargue region offers a unique experience. If you decide to explore further along the Rhone Canal in Sète, make a stop at the port of Gallician and consider visiting the nearby Scamandre Nature Reserve. Make sure to bring your binoculars! The reserve not only showcases various species of birds, including flamingos, but also offers several birdwatching trails that guide you through footpaths and marshes towards observation gazebos and scenic viewpoints.

Another option for immersing yourself in nature and experiencing tranquility is in Friuli, Italy. Starting from the town of Precennico, which boasts a delightful medieval centre, you can take leisurely strolls through fishing villages and eventually reach the picturesque islet of Isola delle Conchiglie.

Top spots for history lovers

Let's return once again to Alsace. If you have a passion for history, Strasbourg is an absolute must-visit. The Grand-Ile center of the city, protected by UNESCO, is steeped in historical significance. One iconic landmark you shouldn't miss is the Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame, which held the title of the world's tallest building until the mid-19th century (and remains the sixth tallest church building). Another highlight is the medieval Kammerzell house, dating back to the mid-15th century, located in the square. From Strasbourg, you can cruise to Besancon in the Franche-Comté region. The 17th-century citadel in Besancon is widely regarded as one of France's most magnificent, offering a captivating glimpse into the past.

When exploring the southern region of France, make sure not to overlook the Romanesque cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Maguelon, nestled in the picturesque Camargue region. This cathedral, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, is a true gem located on a lush green islet situated between the sea and the lagoons. While traveling along the Canal du Midi, you can make a worthwhile stop at Carcassonne, as mentioned earlier, renowned for its legendary fortress. Take some time to admire the historic Le Pont Vieux bridge. Alternatively, you can continue towards Narbonne, a town with a history dating back more than 2,500 years.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne Castle

If you have a fascination for technical monuments, don't miss the opportunity to explore Arzviller in Alsace before you depart. Located on the sloping plain of the Canal de la Marne au Rhin, Arzviller houses the only boat lift of its kind in Europe, allowing you to traverse the Vosges mountains. While cruising through France, make sure to admire the historical marvels of the Ecluses de Fonserannes, an impressive lock on the Canal du Midi, which itself holds the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

Ecluses de Fonserannes

Ecluses de Fonserannes lock on the Canal du Midi

Fishing spots

For avid anglers, there are various options to choose from when it comes to fishing routes. Simply ensure that you have the necessary fishing licences, and boat charterers can provide specific route advice. In France, a great option is the Charente River, which winds its way through the scenic wine region and is teeming with trout, carp, pike, perch, and eels. If you're targeting catfish, which can grow up to two meters in length, the Saone River is a recommended destination. In Portugal, the artificial lake Grande Lago offers abundant opportunities for angling enthusiasts. From the deck, you can enjoy catching perch, carp, and parma, making it a delightful experience.

River Saone

River Saone

France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Italy — all these countries welcome you to explore their captivating charms from the deck of a boat. With a variety of experiences to suit every traveller, there is something for everyone to enjoy. So, don't hesitate to embark on your next adventure. We hope these tips will help you create unforgettable memories. Have a fantastic voyage!

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FAQs: Best boating regions: for wine, food and sport