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Wonderful Waterways: Rivers of Southern France

France's beautiful streams, rivers, canals, lakes and coasts offer some of the most fantastic opportunities for exploring the country.

France's beautiful streams, rivers, canals, lakes and coasts offer some of the most fantastic opportunities for exploring the country. They wind their way through tranquil scenery and historic towns, crisscrossing agricultural countryside, breathtaking mountain landscapes and forest-filled valleys.

If you're planning your own French adventure, what better way to start than with its rivers? We've already explored the main rivers of Northern France and Eastern France, but now it's the turn of Southern France.

In this week's Wonderful Waterways series, we'll look at five rivers gracing the South of France. We've also included creative campsite recommendations and nearby outdoor activities, so you'll never be stuck for things to do.

Var

The Var is a 114-kilometre-long river found in southeast France. Flowing from its origin in the Maritime Alps, it stretches through the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence before ending in the Mediterranean Sea near Nice.

Ancient village and citadel of Entrevaux on the Var

The Var is unique in that it doesn't, at any point along its course, flow through the department in which it is named after. Another unusual claim to fame is the Var had no bridges until the nineteenth century!

Great for: nature

If you want to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, head to the Origan Village Naturiste campsite in the beautiful Côte d'Azur. It's a naturist site set in the mountains behind Nice, offering some impressive scenery and guided walking tours into the nearby peaks.

Origan is a naturist site set in the mountains behind Nice at a height of 500 m. The access road is single track and winding...

Rhône

The Rhône is one of the most important rivers in France and Switzerland. In fact, along with the Po (Italy) and the Nile (Northeast Africa), it's one of the three Mediterranean rivers with the highest water flow rate.

Medieval papal city of Avignon

At 813 kilometres, the Rhône rises in the Alps and flows through Lake Geneva before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea just south of Arles. The river's source stems from the Rhône Glacier. This glacier also feeds three other major rivers: the Rhine, the Reuss and the Ticino.

Great for: history and culture

To soak up France's remarkable history and culture, head to Camping du Pont d'Avignon. It's based on the Ile de la Barthelasse in the centre of the river. Despite the rural scenery, you're within walking distance of historic Avignon. Some pitches even boast views of the Papal Palace, which is beautifully floodlit at night.

Pont d’Avignon is on the Ile de la Barthelasse in the centre of the river, within walking distance of the town centre, via the bridge...

Hérault

At 147 kilometres long, the Hérault rises in the slopes of Mont Aigoual in the Cévennes mountains. Like the Rhône and the Var, it empties into the Mediterranean Sea (near Agde).

Old mill on the River Hérault
Old mill on the River Hérault [Image 📸 plumguide.com]

Its lowest 2.5 kilometres are tidal, while the next kilometre also forms part of the Canal du Midi – one of the most famous canals in Southern France.

Great for: family fun

For a bit of riverside fun with the family, Camping les Fleurs d'Agde is an excellent option. Located on the banks of the Hérault near the town of Agde, there's a superb, heated pool complex (including a dedicated children's pool and three toboggan slides). There's also a large children's play area with plenty of beautiful beaches and shops nearby.

This comfortable site beside the Hérault river is opposite the town of Agde with its famous black basalt cathedral and is now owned by FranceLoc...

Aude

The Aude river flows from its source in the Pyrenees through the historic fortified city of Carcassonne before finally reaching the Mediterranean Sea near Narbonne. It's a fantastic river for swimming, rafting and canoeing – navigable for almost all of its length.

Night view over illuminated fortification of Carcassonne
Night view over illuminated fortification of Carcassonne

The name derives from the Latin label Atax. This was, in turn, borrowed from the Gallic Atacos, meaning "very fast" or "spirited".

Great for: fishing

To make the most of a spot of angling on the Aude, head to Camping Val d'Aleth in the upper Aude valley. This small but popular site is open all year round, offering direct access to river fishing. If all that fishing wears you out, head to nearby Medieval Alet, a beautiful spa town with a thermal pool.

In the Cathar country of the upper Aude valley and open all year round, this popular small site is run by Christopher and Christine Cranmer...

Garonne

Last but not least is the Garonne, which flows through France and northern Spain. Beginning in the Spanish Pyrenees, the river flows through the city of Toulouse before ending at the French port of Bordeaux.

City of Toulouse, on the River Garonne
City of Toulouse, on the River Garonne

Its 529 kilometres long, the river also plays a crucial role in inland shipping, allowing seagoing vessels to reach the port of Bordeaux and the Canal des Deux Mers. The Latin origins of the Garonne's name (Garumna) translates as "stony river".

Great for: outdoor activities

Sites et Paysages le Moulin, found in Haute-Garonne, offers a massive variety of outdoor activities for the whole family. As well as guided walks, canoeing, archery and a large sports field, you'll also find a large swimming pool and birdwatching – all just a stone's throw from the banks of the Garonne.

With attractive, shaded pitches and many activities, this family run campsite incorporates 12 hectares of woods and fields beside the River Garonne. It is close...

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