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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.