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By Tanya Aitken - Owner of House of Travel Mt Maunganui, Papamoa & The Crossing

tanya aitken canal boating 1

WITH TWO SMALL CHILDREN, travelling can have its low points. Driving is one of them! Children don’t tend to enjoy the restraints of cars. So what better way to be flexible, run to our own agenda and see the natural beauty of France than by canal boat?

It was with trepidation that we collected our Locaboat: we had no boating experience, very basic French and Burgundy was unknown to us. But after a quick lesson, my husband found that the only way to learn was to give it a go…So off we went!

Tanya aitken canal boating 2

I would however, recommend some pre-study. Just like driving, you need to know where you can “park”, what the signs mean, who gives way to who, and general courtesy rules. The locks — once you have a few under your belt — are a breeze, and great exercise in between the rosés!

Stocked to the brim with beautiful French groceries, we spent days in idyllic spots where the picture-perfect views are absolute proof why so many great painters gained inspiration from these areas. We would spend the days either relaxing on-board and cruising along to the next spot, or parking up for a look around. Cooking is one of my greatest pleasures, so being able to purchase fresh produce, whip up a stunning meal and devour it on deck, as the sun went down, doubled the enjoyment.

The canal boat itself was well-equipped and became our own little sanctuary for the week. I would recommend taking one berth higher than you need for your luggage, some bikes and, if budget allows, book one with outdoor seating for al fresco dining.


On many occasions, us parents would drive, and the children would hop on their bikes and cycle along the pathways. We’d meet friendly and interesting locals - and their pets! We had lovely residents come and meet our boat and then take us to incredible wineries. We even found a Michelin restaurant a short stroll from dock, and awed at the oh-so-perfect French villages.

Our French canal boating experience was one of the best family holidays we’ve had. Yes, we’d had concerns, but I would say, if you can motor-home around NZ, you canal boat around Europe. It was easy, super relaxing and we all got to see the real France.



No prior boat skills are required and you will be run through a basic lesson. The Captain’s Handbook provides tips on safety, navigation, locks and more.


You travel at very slow speeds (between 8-10 miles an hour). Children are encouraged to wear life jackets on the open deck.


The best time to travel is between May and September. We sailed in September and the days were beautifully balmy while the evenings were cool enough to sleep.


We collected our boat from Locaboat’s small depot of Joigny, but there are many different canals you can experience (and start from) throughout the country. Boarding is between 2pm – 6pm.

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