15 Kayaking In France Rivers, Lakes + Coast [2024]

Looking for the best kayaking in France experience?

Well, France has some of the best kayaking spots in Europe!

Kayaking in France is a sport that has become increasingly popular, as its not only fun for all ages but also makes you feel closer to nature- getting front row seat only accessible to a very small population.

My brother lives in France with his wife and my gorgeous nephew and we spend many summers kayaking in different rivers throughout France!

kayaking in france

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.

Here are some of the best ones we found:

15 Best Kayaking Spots in France

  1. Verdon Gorge
  2. Ardence Gorge
  3. Bordeaux
  4. Lake St. Croix
  5. Cap d’Antibes
  6. The Serre Poncon Lake
  7. Brittany’s Coastline
  8. The Canyon of the Tarn
  9. Herault
  10. The Gard
  11. The French Alps
  12. Vézère
  13. Roquebrun
  14. Les Calanques National Park
  15. The Sorgue


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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 you cannot reach by car or any other form of transport.

Here are the 15 top places you should go kayaking in France.

1. Verdon Gorge

best kayaking rivers

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€ (42USD) 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.

best kayak destinations europe
Photo by Prewett Coles

2. Ardence Gorge

Ardeche Gorge has one of the most scenic kayaking views in the world and 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.

You can park your car in either Vallon-Pont-d’Arc or Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche. Then, the kayak service provider will give you the appropriate equipment and accompany you to the starting point.

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.

kayaking in bordeaux
Photo by Bordeaux Canoë

3. Bordeaux

Bordeaux is popular for its wines and football. If you love wine, you must have included this kayaking in Bordeaux place in the itinerary- where you get to taste wine & kayak at the same time!

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.

4. Lake St. Croix

kayaking holidays in France

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.

You can check out Taylors Falls Canoe if you plan to rent a kayak there and the National Park Service to find out more information about this France kayak destination.

5. Cap d’Antibes

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 (17 USD)
  • 2 Hours – € 26 (27 USD)
  • 1/2 day (3 Hours 30 Minutes) – € 37 (38 USD)
  • Daytime – € 55 (56 USD)
best kayaking holidays
Photo by Sbrava Nautique Location

6. The Serre Poncon Lake

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, placing this canoeing France destination on top of the must visit list!

7. Brittany’s Coastline

best kayaking in France

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- not ideal for a relaxing canoe holidays France type of activity.

france kayak
Photo by Canoe Aigue Vive – Gorges du Tarn Facebook

8. The Canyon of the Tarn

This canyon is located in Lozère. You will experience the gorges and massifs that line up the canyon. 

The route from Les Vignes to Ste-Enimie offers the most scenic views and there are also medieval buildings along 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.

You can book a kayak with Canoe France if you wish to kayak at the Canyon of Tarn.

kayaking in france
Photo by Naimo.r

9. Herault

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.

his bridge is considered as one of the oldest medieval bridges in France and UNESCO has classified it as a world heritage site.

The Occitan region is the heart of a large number of kayaking spots such as  Canoe Kayapuna, Kayak HeraultCanoe Rapido, and Les Canoes du Pont Diable.

If you are looking for kayak rentals in Herault, you can check out Kayak Herault, and Canoe Rapido.

kayaking in france
Photo by Canoe collias Facebook

10. The Gard

This river is located in the Occitanie region in the southeast of France. The Grad (also known as Pont Du Gard) is one of the wildest France kayaking rivers in southern France.

You can book with Canoe Collias if you decide to experience kayaking Pont du Gard. They have great offers to suit your preference.

  • Collias to Pont Du Gard (8 km) – € 24 (25 USD) per adult
  • Pont Saint Nicolas to Pont Du Gard (20 km) – € 31 (32 USD) per adult
  • Russan to Pont Du Gard (30 km) – € 36 (37 USD) 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. So be sure to add The Gard in your next kayaking holidays France!

best kayaking in France

11. The French Alps

The French alps kayaking 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.

If you wish to experience whitewater kayaking in the French Alps, you can check out Undiscovered Mountains and Responsible Travel. They have great offers for the kayaking holidays.

12. Vézère

If you are looking for a canoeing France adventure, The Vézère is made up of calm shallow water, beaches and banks, great for a fun family canoeing holidays France activity.

You can rent a kayak or a canoe from various cities along the Vézère river- Le Bugue, Limeuil, Mantignac or Terrasson. 

A 1-hour kayak rental cost 17 (18.25 USD) per person. But I highly recommend trying one of their tours depending on your preference- from 2 – 7 hours tours. 

From the Vézère river you can paddle to the popular Dordogne river at Limeuil where the two rivers meet. 

In comparison to the Dordogne river, the Vézère river has more narrow banks, shallow water with no rapids. If you have a fear of deep water, kayaking at Vézère river is for you!

canoe holidays france
Photo by Canoë Roquebrun Facebook

13. Roquebrun

For family fun canoeing in France during the summer, Roquebrun is one of the best kayaking South of France has to offer along the Valley of the Orb! 

The route along The Orb is truly spectacular with ever changing  landscape from passing by the Pont de Ceps bridge to the little beach oasis and medieval village of Vieussan.

Canoeing Roquebrun offers a variety of canoe and kayak packages, based on different distances and duration. You can also rent a kayak hourly without a tour, starting at €12 (12.71 USD ).

kayaking in france
Photo by Lo’kayak Facebook

14. Les Calanques National Park

Located on the coastal region of Marseille, Les Calanques National Park is the favorite destination for any outdoor enthusiasts for hiking and kayaking. 

For optimal kayaking France experience, the summer season is the best time to paddle on the azure water with minimal waves. 

Kayak rentals can be found at the small town of Cassis. You can embark your kayak tour from there and head to the old town harbor of Vieux Port of Marseille.

Check out this great guided kayak tour through the creek of La Ciotat at Calanques National Park while learning about the protected environment. 

The breathtaking vista of the high chalk cliffs and crystal clear water that feel tempted to swim in will be one of the best kayaking holidays experience! 

kayaking in france

15. The Sorgue

The Sorgue river is a scenic and gentle ride down to the small town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue- truly one of the best kayak destinations Europe for all ages!

Imagine kayaking through a crystal clear emerald green river while soaking in the screen greenery and some wildlife sightings depending on your luck- including beaver, trout or nutria. 

The total distance is around 8 km, and it can take around 1-2 hours depending on your pace and stop duration. 

If you are going solo or with a partner, go for Kayak Vert, whereas Canoe Evasion is suitable for groups with personal guide.

canoeing in france

Beginner Kayaking Tips

Here are some beginner kayaking tips you need to know before your next kayak trips in France:

1. Dress for the water

No matter what the weather is, always dress according to the activity you will be doing. 

For Here are some of the recommendations you can consider for your canoe trip France:

The best kayaking shoes :

The best kayaking life jackets

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 in Paris France

If kayaking in Paris France is on your bucket list, the best time to do it is in the summer. 

Every Sunday during Paris Plages, Bras Marie water sports center offers free kayaking and canoeing activities on the Seine! 

This is available from 9th July – 3rd September for anyone over the age of 15 years old. 

Kayaking Safety Tips

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. If you are already dressed for the water, protect yourself by wearing clothes that suit the weather.
  4. 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.
  5. Be comfortable with the kayak you use by practicing getting in and out before you need to do it for real.
  6. Understand kayaking in France rules by remaining approximately 12km from a safe landing space/ shore.

You can read more on kayaking safety tips from Expert Advice.

FAQs on Kayaking in France

What Are The Best Kayaking Spots In France?

kayaking in France

The Dordogne

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.

Minaouët river, Brittany, France 

This river is listed first in the Top 100 Places to Paddle in the World by the International Canoe Federation.

Minaouët river is a favorite playground of the French canoe sprint athlete, Hector Henot.

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:

Can I Kayak In France?

beginner kayaking tips

YES! 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. Instead, you can find kayaking near Paris at a local kayaking area outside of the city that I listed above in the article.

Kayaking in Nice, France is also fun. Kayaking down the Var river from Villars-sur-Var is a great spot to kayak in Nice.

Do You Need A License 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 of kayak France. 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?

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 to kayak or canoe 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:

Make sure to carry all the proper safety equipment. You can check out this detailed list of proper kayaking equipment from Rei Co-op and Angle Oar

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.

  1. The famous Pont d’arc in Ardèche
  2. Pont du Gard close to Nimes and Avignon
  3. The Gorges du Verdon, one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe and one of the largest canyons in France
  4. The River Orb in the Languedoc
  5. 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.

Where Can You Kayak in France?

Where can you kayak in France? Here are 15 best place to kayak in France:

  1. Verdon Gorge
  2. Ardence Gorge
  3. Bordeaux
  4. Lake St. Croix
  5. Cap d’Antibes
  6. The Serre Poncon Lake
  7. Brittany’s Coastline
  8. The Canyon of the Tarn
  9. Herault
  10. The Gard
  11. The French Alps
  12. Vézère
  13. Roquebrun
  14. Les Calanques National Park
  15. The Sorgue

What’s the Difference Between Kayaking and Canoeing?

So what’s the difference between kayaking and canoeing? The main difference between kayaking and canoeing is the seating position and paddle. In kayak, the seating is much lower with your legs extended whereas in canoe, your seating is leaning toward more into a kneeling position. When it comes to the paddle used, canoe paddle is single-bladed and kayak paddle is double-bladed. 

Is Kayaking Safe for Non-Swimmers?

Is kayaking safe for non-swimmers? Yes, kayaking is absolutely safe for non-swimmer, as long as you prioritize safety measures such as wearing a safety life vest. If you are not a confident swimmer, steer clear from kayaking in large open water such as on the ocean and opt for calm and swallow water with minimal rapid. 

What are Four Mistakes in Kayaking?

What are four mistakes in kayaking for beginners? If it’s your first time kayaking, avoid the following four common mistakes in kayaking:

1. Going kayaking alone- It’s always safer to paddle in a group 

2. Go kayaking on big open water- opt for smaller calm lake or river bank

3. Kayaking on busy waterway with boats- may cause distraction and panic

4. Wearing cotton clothes- instead wear quick-dry Polyester shirts.

What are the Most Common Injuries in Kayaking?

What are the most common injuries in kayaking? The most common injuries while kayaking is wrist tendonitis and hand blisters from paddling too long. If you are not used to paddling for a long period of time, your hand or wrist are more prone to injury. To prevent this type of injury, listen to your body and rest when needed.

france kayaking

Ready to Experience the Best Kayaking in France?

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 French kayak activity while you are in France and experience the best kayaking in Europe! Go and make a reservation now before it is fully reserved!

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