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Canal boat hire in charente: at the heart of nature

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Canal boat hire in Charente

The wide and unspoilt Charente River ©Sébastien Laval

The charente: the most natural of waterways 

The Charente River is a river. Ok that might sound like a silly statement to make but bear with us! There is a significant difference between a river and a canal with a river being a natural waterway that flows directly into the sea or ocean.

Whereas some canals, which are in essence man-made and therefore can have a slightly artificial feel to them, the long and winding nature of the Charente River has retained a natural and wild feel which offers a special charm to it as you cruise along.

With 171km to explore you can cruise from sunrise to sunset going where you want, when you want. There are 21 locks along the river but they’re manual locks so there are no time issues of waiting for a lock keeper to let you through.

Getting the most from your towpath

Canal boat hire with bikes

Discover the Charentais vineyards by bike © charente tourisme

As you navigate on your boating holiday on the Charente River you’ll notice the accompanying towpath. This is great for walking, jogging and cycling along. Why not use the tow path from lock to lock whilst the rest of the crew bring the boat!

A major project is underway in the Charente called ‘A Green Flow’ with the aim of allowing easy travel by bike from Angoulême to the coast and this is part of the bigger EuroVelo network project that criss-crosses Europe as far as Spain and Norway.
Cyclists can benefit from excellent access already on some stretches – in particular between Angoulême and Sireuil and also Cognac and its surrounding area (in particular between Jarnac and Chaniers).

On foot, by bike...and why not by donkey!

Boat rental and walks with donkeys

Walking with donkeys © charente tourisme

For something different why not take the children on a donkey walk! Moor your canal boat on the banks of the river in Chaniers and either cycle or get a taxi to the village of St Césaire just 7km away. Here you will find "Anes de la Reverie" and a group of friendly donkeys who will accompany you on a range of walks and hikes of anything from an hour to a full day.

For more information take a look at their website:

Observe nature from your nicols boat

A boating holiday on the Charente provides an excellent vantage point of the ever changing nature that surrounds you.

Whether you’re a passionate birdwatcher or simply enjoy the great outdoors you’ll be amazed at the number of bird species you’ll spot from your self-drive canal boat. The most fruitful areas for bird watching are either the valley just upstream from Angoulême or around Chaniers as you enter the Natura 2000 zone. Pack your binoculars and be on the lookout for the herons, swans, ducks and storks. If you’re lucky you might also get to see:

Boating holidays with bird watching

See the Kingfisher on the Charente River

  • The Saint-Martin Harrier, a rather common bird of prey in the Charente.
  • The Kingfisher, a distinctive bird due to its bright colouring. It feeds mainly on fish so can always be found on the waterways!
  • The Little Egret, a wader bird from the Charente coast.

Boating holidays and swimming in charente

Canal boat hire and swimming in the Charente

Swimming in the Charente © S. Laval

There’s nothing better than either using your mooring stakes and mooring at the river bank or heading closer to a supervised beach and enjoying a swim, read a book in the sun or even try and catch a fish (assuming our friend the Kingfisher above has left any!).
Your boating holiday in the Charente region gives you access to several great beaches including:

  • The Bain des Dames in Châteauneuf sur Charente: this sandy beach is monitored throughout the months of July and August.
  • The bathing area at L’ïle Madame located in Jarnac, next to the campsite.
  • Also the beaches in Gondeville and Chaniers…

You don’t have to wait to get to the beach though! The advantage of a Nicols boating holiday is that you can enjoy a dip in the water at any point. A swimming ladder makes getting back on board your canal boat nice and easy.

Fishing from your canal boat:

Boating holidays and fishing in Charente

Fishing in the Charente © nicols

The Charente River is full of fish! Fisherman can try their hand at catching species such as trout, carp, pike, perch and eels!

Make sure you pack your fishing gear but remember, although you don’t need a licence to hire your Nicols canal boat, you will need one for fishing! You can easily get these in fishing shops or alternatively buy it online at (the price is approximately 32€ for a one week licence).

Another point of interest is the Essacs ancient fisheries at the village of Saint Simeux. Here you can learn more about the history dating back to the 12th century and listen to the testimony of John (fisherman of eels) and Paul (president of the association of Essacs of Saint Simeux) who are both passionate about fisheries.

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We think you’ll agree that the Charente is an excellent destination choice if you’re looking for a boating holiday surrounded by nature.

To see our various cruising itinerary suggestions from the Nicols base at Sireuil click here.

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