All our boatingholidays

Renting a canal boat is an excellent way to discover France and Europe with a novel form of travel and accommodation. No previous boating experience or licence is needed to undertake a cruise in any of our holiday destinations. We’ve over 150 different cruising routes and itineraries on offer so why not use the filters tool below to narrow down to your perfect holiday!

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Discover why more and more people love boating holidays with Nicols

Whether your crew is made up of family and friends or you’re simply travelling as a couple, you’ll enjoy the fun and flexibility of a boating holiday. Nicols offers canal boat holidays onboard spacious and stylish canal boats from 24 different bases across Europe:

  • Renting a canal boat in France gives you access to one of the largest networks of inland waterways in Europe making it the ideal destination for those who enjoy spending time on the water. No previous boating experience is needed to start exploring France’s rivers and canals on board your Nicols canal boat.
  • A boating holiday is by far the best way to explore the areas of Germany we offer on this website. Choose from the great lakes of Mecklenburg or waterways at the gates of Berlin in Brandenburg.
    A cruise in Germany sees you travel through exceptional landscapes and whether it’s your first time or you’re coming back for a second visit we’re sure you’ll make holiday memories to cherish.
  • Enjoy a Nicols exclusive – a boating holiday on the Grande Lago in Portugal. This region is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. What’s more, the weather and climate mean that it’s possible to enjoy boating holidays in Portugal all year round.
  • Rent a canal boat in Holland – the land of canals! The network of canals runs through fields of tulips and past traditional windmills as you cruise between small villages and historic towns. Discover Gouda, Amsterdam, Utrect and Maastricht all by Nicols boat!
    Sandy beaches and clean and clear water invites you to take a dip, while towpaths provide excellent cycling opportunities.
  • Exclusive to Nicols: Hire a self-drive canal boat and discover the waterways of Hungary! Enjoy a boating holiday from the Nicols base at Tokaj in the heart of an internationally renowned wine region, or alternatively choose to cruise from a second Nicols base at Kisköre on the River Tisza. This area is nature at its very best with plenty of swimming, fishing and exploring of national nature parks on the ‘must do’ itinerary.

Whatever destination you choose the waterways transport you from lock to lock, village to village for an unforgettable holiday. Everyone onboard will love being part of the crew – driving the boat and helping when it comes to mooring up or going through locks. Remember, no previous boating experience or licence is needed and our boats are well equipped and ready to comfortably accommodate crews of anything between 2 – 12 people.

  • Easy Holidays - Boating Holidays in Europe

Cruising is easy

Don’t worry if you’ve never set foot on a boat before. Nicols boats are easy to drive and no previous boating experience or licence is needed to take the helm! The Nicols base teams will give you instructions when you collect your boat to ensure you sail away confirmed as a captain!

A great resource of information to find out everything you need to know about boating holidays is the "Canal boat hire" pages of the website. We also recommend you look at the wide range of canal boats on offer and the videos that provide a great flavour of what life on the waterways is all about. Of course if you still have questions or would like some help then don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team who are always happy to help!


  • Happiness on the waterways - Boating Holidays in Europe

Happiness is on water...

Whether you are a lover of culture, fine food and wine or nature, a holiday on the water has something for every taste.

Renting a canal boat allows you to tailor the holiday to suit you:

  • Navigate at your own pace, whether that’s starting off late after a lazy breakfast and spending plenty of time in the places you find; or like a real sailor, casting off at dawn to discover as many hidden treasures as you can around the canals and rivers that you’ll explore .
  • It’s not just about fun on the boat. Organize a picnic or barbecue at the water's edge in stunning surroundings, or why not take a dip and enjoy a swim on a beach along the river.
  • Meet knowledgeable lock keepers who are any excellent source of information and can offer good advice on must see things to see and do in the area.
  • Enjoy small markets for shopping, or savour the fine gastronomy at local restaurants.

It’s all about flexibility with boating holidays. As the captain of your stylish Nicols canal boat you are in charge of your holiday and decide to stop wherever you want, whenever you want!

Boating Holidays our guide to helping you choose

Are you new to the waterways or comfortable around a canal boat? Is your crew a family with young children or teenagers or is it just two of you travelling as a couple? What is your ideal type of holiday – are you fans of history and heritage or do you enjoy fine dining and trying local specialities? Luckily, our vast collection of boating holidays means we have an option for all of these questions – but they are worth thinking about when planning your trip.

  • Laid-back and lock-free : locks are a familiar part of a holiday on the rivers and canals of Europe. Although no previous experience is needed, some cruising routes are completely lock-free and therefore might appeal to first time boaters. Even when considering those regions with locks it is worth researching the type of lock in each region as whether they are manual, with a lock-keeper or operate automatically may well influence your choice of destination. If you’d prefer to avoid locks think flat landscapes! Regions such as the Camargue in France or the Netherlands and Hungary will offer lock-free cruising. At Nicols we love locks – from the manual ones that are wound by hand give a true feel of navigation (as well as a bit of a workout!) to those that will see you meet lock-keepers and other boaters to share stories with.
  • Lock lovers locations : for super fans of locks we highlight the lock ladders in southern Burgundy (the valley of the Ouche from our Venarey base), the locks of the Canal du Nivernais (the section around Sardy which is accessible from our Plagny or Brienon bases on a 2-week itinerary) or the locks of the Blavet valley (as part of the 2 week itinerary from our Glénac base in Brittany).
  • Turn mutinous children into delighted deckhands : if your crew will include children, in particular teenagers, then we understand that you might be worried as to how you are going to convince them that they’ll love a boating holiday. Reassure them that Nicols boats are not only one of the most stylish available on the waterways and feature all the mod cons – with some even having TVs. What’s more, all of the Nicols bases offer WiFi dongles which mean that you can stay connected whilst onboard. We think that children of all ages will simply enjoy being in the great outdoors and the adventure of navigating your very own floating accommodation. As long as supervised by an adult, steering of the boat is allowed from the age of 16 while younger crew mates can get involved with reading maps, jumping onto banks and helping with mooring and ropes. Youthful energy is also welcome on manual locks where you need to wind the lock handle in order to open and close the lock! Towpaths that run adjacent to the rivers and canals also provide a different challenge. Get some of your crew (young or old!) to disembark and then follow the tow path on foot or by bike and meet you and the canal boat at the next lock. On average you will spend 4-5 hours per day cruising which leaves plenty of the day left for the many other places to visit and activities to enjoy on and around the waterways. Many of our customers enjoy swimming and, as you might expect, there are numerous opportunities for this. These range from swimming in the sea, in destinations such as the Netherlands and the Camargue, to splashing about in clean rivers in Charente or the Lot. The large open lakes in places such as Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands also offer excellent swimming and watersports facilities.

So, in summary, a canal boat holiday has something for everybody and it is more than simply navigation. Yes you will benefit from seeing a region from a completely new perspective but you also keep all of the best bits of a usual family holiday. Whether your interests are history and heritage, nature and beautiful countryside, fine wines and good food or simply enjoying activities such as fishing, swimming, hiking and cycling in the great outdoors then you’ll find a cruising itinerary that offers these - just a stone’s throw from the waterways. For more help choosing your canal boat holiday destination check out some great ideas based on your crew and their interests in our themed boating holidays guide.