Are you planning to try kayaking in France?
Kayaking in France is a sport that has become increasingly popular as it provides plenty of fun. Kayaking will make you feel closer to nature as you can see sights that are only accessible to a very small population.
But before that, you need to know the history of kayaking.
In the early to mid-1800s, kayaks found their way to Europe, and soon the German and French men began kayaking for sport.
There are plenty of natural landmarks and great coastlines that make it a perfect destination for kayaking.
People come from all over the globe to kayak in France as it is one of the most popular adventure attractions in France, especially kayaking at the Ardeche river.
Best Kayaking Spots in France
- Verdon Gorge
- Ardence Gorge
- Lake St. Croix
- Cap d’Antibes
- The Serre Poncon Lake
- Brittany’s Coastline
- The Canyon of the Tarn
- The Gard
- The French Alps
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Where Can You Go Kayaking In France?
There are plenty of locations in France where you can go kayaking. It is a perfect way to explore different locations that you cannot reach by car or any other form of transport.
Here are the 11 top places you should go kayaking in France.
1. Verdon Gorge
Another option for the best kayaking in France is Verdon Gorge. It is a popular place to kayak and canoe in Europe and the amazing view will mesmerize you. The length of the Verdon Gorge in Provence is 21 km with a depth of up to 700 m.
If you are visiting for the first time, the first hundred meters will be a tough paddle but you can overcome it. Even if you don’t have your own kayak, you can still enjoy this activity because you can rent one. However, you need to go in the morning to have a better choice of kayaks.
The best time to kayak the Gorges du Verdon is in the summer months but the spot will be very busy. Alternatively, you can try visiting in June or September to avoid the peak season.
You can rent a kayak at the Base Nautique de l’Etoile, right by the Pont du Galetas. Park your car at the free parking area and walk down the path to Lac de Sainte Croix. You will see plenty of booths on the shore where you can pay the rental for your kayak.
Hot tip: Go early in the morning to avoid the long lines if you plan to go during peak season.
The rate for a double kayak is 40 € for 2 hours. You can check Base Nautique de l’Etoile for other prices. The prices vary depending on the kayak type and duration of rental.
You don’t have to worry about your belongings as the rental companies will provide either a dry barrel or a dry bag to keep and bring them along with you to the kayak.
There are other activities you can do apart from kayaking at Gorges du Verdon. Your day will be filled with fun activities to enjoy in this region.
Ardeche Gorge has one of the most scenic kayaking views in the world. You don’t want to miss experiencing this firsthand.
You can enjoy kayaking the Ardeche River from the shortest route (8 km) to the longest route (36 km), covering the entire canyon (30 km). You will pass under Pont D’Arc, a huge natural stone bridge if you choose to kayak the longer routes.
Kayaking here is easier than in other places in France because the water current is not strong and safe for beginners and family. If you have no experience kayaking, then this is a good choice. Plus, by kayaking at this river, you will have a few choices of routes you can follow.
If you book a kayak in Saint- Martin-d’Ardeche, you will be taken to the north but most routes will start near Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.
You can check out Checkyeti Blog to find out more about which routes are suitable for you.
Bordeaux is popular for its wines and football. If you love wine, you must have included this place in the itinerary.
You can get a chance to enjoy wine tasting kayak style along Gironde and other close-by rivers. Doesn’t it sound fun?
If you plan to have a wine tasting tour, there is a chance you can include kayaking in the tour but you need to deal with the organizer.
This lake is located in southern France and it was formed in the 1970s. Lake St. Croix is the perfect place for you to relax and unwind while enjoying the azure lake’s color.
You can rent a kayak in the town of Moustier Sainte-Marie, where the Verdon is located in Lake St. Croix. The water current is weak which makes it suitable for children as they can swim in the lake or river.
Verdon river is located on the other side of Lake St. Croix and it is best if you like more challenging paddling. Challenging paddling is not for beginners as there will be many obstacles while kayaking and the water current is strong and fast.
One place you might want to consider when kayaking in France is Cap d’Antibes. You will enjoy magnificent facades and coves while kayaking at the sea.
You will reach the other side of Cap d’Antibes after a 2 hour trip and paddle along the “Chemin des Douaniers”. Here, you will discover the diversity of Mediterranean trees and stunning gardens of castles and villas.
Blue Drop & Cap Kayak offers different paddle rentals at the best price. They are a great option to look at if you wish to experience sea kayaking.
Basic kayaking rates by Blue Drop & Cap Kayak:
- 1 Hour – € 16
- 2 Hours – € 26
- 1/2 day (3 Hours 30 Minutes) – € 37
- Daytime – € 55
The Serre Poncon Lake is one of the largest manmade lakes in the west of France. This lake is a perfect location to enjoy kayaking in France.
It is filled by the Ubaye and Durance and is bordered by mountains. The atmosphere will make you feel like you are at the Nordic fjords.
A fjord is an elongated sea or lake drain with steep land on three sides (Like Arendelle in the Frozen movies!) It is formed by the giant glacier tongues that shape the landscape over time. You can be sure that these make for stunning views!
Brittany’s Coastline has numerous spots to enjoy kayaking but this region is not suitable for beginners as the coastline has a great tidal range and stronger tidal flow.
There is also an expanse of water along the coastline where you can kayak and plenty of beautiful islands to explore. Sounds fun right? However, the tide in this location can reach up to eight knots. As such, you need to be an experienced paddler if you wish to go through such areas.
This canyon is located in Lozère. You will experience the gorges and massifs that line up the canyon.
There are hamlets and villages where you can take a break from kayaking to get some food or replenish your supplies.
Once you pass the bridge of La Malene, you will be captivated by the wildest part of the gorges as it offers a magnificent landscape with large cliffs standing on both sides of the canyon.
If you are lucky, you will come across vultures that nest in the hollow of the cliffs.
Located in the Occitan region, Gorges de l’Herault offers plenty of leisure activities including kayaking. You will love the rocky landscape here which is the natural habitat for animal and plant species.
The devil’s bridge that links Saint- Guilhem-le-Desert and Aniane marks the beginning of the famous Gorges de l’Herault. This bridge is considered as one of the oldest medieval bridges in France and UNESCO has classified it as a world heritage site.
This river is located in the Occitanie region in the southeast of France. The Grad is one of the wildest rivers in southern France.
You can book with Canoe Collias if you decide to kayak here. They have great offers to suit your preference.
- Collias to Pont Du Gard (8 km) – € 24 per adult
- Pont Saint Nicolas to Pont Du Gard (20 km) – € 31 per adult
- Russan to Pont Du Gard (30 km) – € 36 per adult
Kayaking at the Grad, you will enjoy a peaceful and quiet environment and will be able to cross paths with Bonelli’s beavers, pikes, and eagles. These are species that live in the area where you can hardly find in other places.
11.The French Alps
Kayaking at French Alps is not for beginners as they are technically challenging and are primed for experts only. There are a few rivers that are decently close to each other and can be combined into a single trip.
You can also paddle each river on different days. The best kayaking rivers in the French Alps are The Bonne, The Guil, the Durance, the Guisane, the Gyr, the Souloise, and lastly, the Ubaye.
What Are The Best Kayaking Spots In France?
The Dordogne is one of the best kayaking rivers in France. This river is famous for kayaking and canoeing. You will get to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the river. The Dordogne runs through Beynac, Quercy and Perigord.
This river is a perfect spot if you want to have kayaking holidays in France with your family because the river is long enough, approximately 500 km long, and has no significant risk. That is why this river is popular with families as you can enjoy family time while kayaking.
Tourists also enjoy kayaking holidays in France, especially in this region. Plus, the river flow is fast but with no rapids and no whitewater challenges, you will not have to keep paddling. Some stretches will need you to keep on paddling to avoid you from completely stopping.
The best part is you can explore the river beaches along the main river if you want to experience some challenges.
This river is listed first in the Top 100 Places to Paddle in the World by the International Canoe Federation.
It flows through the countryside north-west of Pont-Aven, west to Pont Minaouet, and out to sea at Pointe de Grignallou. The river is a gorgeous location for paddlers trying to progress to moving water.
Other spots listed in the Top 100 Places to Paddle in the World by the International Canoe Federation:
- The Calanques National Park, Bouches-du-Rhône, France
- Isère river, Bourg Saint Maurice, Savoie, France
- Marne River, Ile-de-France, France
- Odet river, Finistere, Brittany, France
Can I Kayak In France?
You are allowed to kayak along the channel in France. It is a nice place for paddlers as the channel’s system is good.
But it is not advisable to kayak along the canal as there are a lot of amazing rivers for kayaking in France. The reason is some canals require a lot of physical stamina due to the countless difficult portages.
So, make sure you choose the right place to kayak and do research on the difficulty level to avoid any injuries while enjoying kayaking in France.
Can you kayak in Paris?
Kayaking in Paris is not advisable and it is dangerous to kayak on the Seine river due to the narrow waterway and busy motorboat traffic. However, you can kayak at a local kayaking area outside of the city that I listed above in the article.
Do You Need A Licence To Kayak In France?
You don’t need a license to kayak in France as long as you are in the “Basique “ zone, meaning you are up to 2 nautical miles from a “safe landing place”. A safe landing place is a spot where you can start and return in a safe condition in the event of a failure.
To be exact, you can kayak up to 4 miles without a license.
You can read the Sea Kayaking Guide Brittany 60 Paddles to get a better understanding of the rules and regulations. Additionally, this book also covers the tidal flows, weather forecast, and some hazards you may be facing while kayaking.
What To Consider When Going Kayaking In France?
1. Less Than 3 There Should Never Be
It is better to kayak in a group and find someone who is at the same pace as your kayaking style. It is no good pairing up with a speed demon if you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and relax.
When you are kayaking on more remote routes, stick together so everyone can protect each other. Waters are unpredictable and anything can happen at any time, especially when it is the first time on a particular route. The same goes when you kayak in the ocean.
So, travelling in a group is vital for safety reasons as well.
Plus, it would be a wonderful experience if you are kayaking with friends and family.
2. Tidal Waves
For sea kayaking, planning is important and proper attention to tidal waves is needed. Would you rather paddle with the current or against the current?
Check the tidal table before you plan the trip. Note that, the higher the coefficient the bigger the tidal range will be and the fiercer the accompanying currents you will have to encounter.
If you fail to properly plan kayaking in France, you will face an extremely dangerous situation. Even after careful planning, make sure that you keep checking the minute weather conditions with atmospheric pressure charts and nautical forecasts.
Having a backup plan is always better than sticking to a plan.
3. Skills and Local Knowledge
If you are a beginner or it is your first-time kayaking in France, try to get as much information as possible about the place you plan to kayak. There are plenty of short courses you can take to make sure the provider is licensed by the French equivalent of the British Canoe Union (FFCK).
Kayaking courses you can take:
Can You Kayak With Kids In France?
Yes, you can!
You can bring along your kids kayaking in the South of France. There are a few great locations for kayaking in the South of France with kids.
- The famous Pont d’arc in Ardèche
- Pont du Gard close to Nimes and Avignon
- The Gorges du Verdon, one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe and one of the largest canyons in France
- The River Orb in the Languedoc
- The Gorges d’Herault located near the beautiful village of Saint Guilhem le Desert
These spots for kayaking will give your kids some amazing memories and it is a good alternative to the water parks and beaches which will always be crowded and inconvenient.
Beginner Kayaking Tips
Here are some beginner kayaking tips you need to know before you enjoy this activity.
1. Dress for the water
No matter what the weather is, always dress according to the activity you will be doing.
Here are some of the recommendations you can consider.
The best kayaking shoes
- Neo Sport Premium (Best kayaking shoe overall)
- NRS Boundary Shoe (Best kayaking shoe for cold weather)
- Promate 3mm Beach Dog Water Sports Boots Shoes (best kayaking footwear for stability)
The best kayaking life jackets
- Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Life Vest (Best kayaking life vest overall)
- STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (Best kayaking life jacket budget-friendly)
- Coleman Comfort Series Life Jacket
Best kayaking hats
Best kayaking shorts
2. Know Paddling Style
You need to get a feel of how to paddle-stroke correctly. Get a broomstick or any stick and sit on an armless chair. Imagine yourself paddling from side to side and you can also learn the correct techniques to paddle.
3. Standby Duct Tape
Duct tape is useful if the shaft of the paddling rod is cracked or you want to secure gear from rolling around your kayak seat. Simply tape it up!
4. Learn Rapid Safety Practices
Always be prepared and learn some safety practices. You can learn some of the rapid safety practices from Raft Masters. Kayaking may not seem like an extreme sport, but a quick flip of your kayak can immediately put you in a life-or-death situation. At such a time, every decision and every minute counts.
5. Know the River Language
There are a series of hand gestures and signals that help kayakers communicate with one another because the rapids can be quite loud and distracting. These will be very helpful to communicate with others, especially when you are kayaking in a group.
Kayaking Safety Tips
- Be alert of the weather and current conditions and water temperature. It is always best to be prepared for changes in weather and plan ahead.
- Always wear your life jacket. Wearing a life jacket for a long time will make you feel uncomfortable but don’t take it off at all cost.
- If you are already dressed for the water, protect yourself by wearing clothes that suit the weather.
- Choose the appropriate kayaking location according to your skill level. The perfect kayaking environment has protection from wind and waves, a nice flat area for launching and landing, and minimal boat traffic.
- Be comfortable with the kayak you use by practicing getting in and out before you need to do it for real.
You can read more on kayaking safety tips from Expert Advice.
Kayaking in France is bound to create wonderful memories for you. This is especially a new experience. Not only will you take part in an enjoyable activity, but you get the bonus of stunning nature views!
So, don’t miss out on trying this activity while you are in France. Go and make a reservation now before it is fully reserved!