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River cruise on the Canal du Midi from Port Cassafières

Giulia Maurilinkedin Giulia Mauri

Editor for Filovent magazine. “Born and raised on Lake Como, I joined Filovent to share with you my passion for sailing! ”

Laura and twenty friends decided to spend the Easter holidays on the Canal du Midi with an houseboat rental in Port Cassafières.

The Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a 241-kilometre-long canal connecting the Garonne River to the Mediterranean Sea, between the cities of Toulouse and Sète in southern France. It is a perfect destination for those who want to sail with calm, letting themselves be fascinated by the variety of cultural landscapes and Mediterranean fragrances. In order to navigate the Canal du Midi it is essential to rent a houseboat from one of the bases along the canal and it is not necessary to have a nautical license!

“I have had many experiences sailing at sea and on the lake, but the one on the Canal du Midi was my first river cruise. Being a large group and since some of the components did not have a nautical license, the houseboat seemed to us the perfect option to have a nice weekend together. ” Laura tells me.

On board of the houseboat

On board the houseboat

No sailing experience? No problem! The owner will take care of training on how to maneuver the boat and on the safety rules to be respected before setting sail. Houseboats are built specifically to navigate the canals, so the speed they can reach is not high and the navigation maneuvers are very intuitive. In addition, with houseboats you are really free to moor where you want along the canal and you do not pay transit fees.

“We split into three different houseboats. During the navigation we were one after the other, then you go so slow that we could joke even from one boat to the other. ”

Laura's itinerary:

laura's itinerary =
The itinerary of Laura and her crew (clickable map).


For the trip, the group of friends chose to depart from Port Cassafières with three houseboats: a Classique Star, a Continental and a Grand Classique and spent the first night there because unfortunately upon their arrival they found the lock, literally closed. Port Cassafières is an excellent starting point both for visiting the Camargue, sailing eastwards, and the Canal du Midi, sailing westwards. On the Canal du Midi you can find automatic and manual locks with custodian and are open from 9.00 to 18.00 with a closing time between 12.30 and 13.30, except for holidays when the time may vary.

“With some locks, you just have to seize the moment to get through them!” Laura tells me.


 Mooring at Port Cassafières


Finally, the group of friends leave for Béziers, a medieval town that with its 26 centuries of history is considered one of the oldest cities in France. To get to Béziers from Port Cassafières you go through 4 locks and the navigation time is about 3 hours. For those who do not know, a lock is a structure used to allow boats and ships to navigate on a waterway despite the differences in height and slopes. The most evocative part of the navigation is probably the passage on the “Bridge-Channel on the Orb”. It is a 12-meter high bridge that connects the banks of the Orb River and allows the continuation of the water flow of the Canal du Midi.

The first thing you notice when you get to Béziers is definitely the imposing Gothic-style Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire, which dominates the town and the “Point Vieux” (Old Bridge), testimony to the influence of the ancient Roman Empire. The streets of Allées Paul Riquet are a very lively place, hosting markets and various important events of the city and to the south you can find the statue of Paul Riquet, creator of the Canal du Midi.

“Béziers impressed me a lot. It's a very big city with a wonderful historic center. ”




To reach Colombiers from Béziers Laura and her friends crossed the 9 locks of Fonséranes, a true masterpiece of civil engineering. The locks are composed of nine gates and eight tanks for a total length of 315 meters that are filled and emptied in succession.

“The 9 locks look like almost 9 steps that follow each other, forming a staircase. A real work of engineering, it's very impressive.”

The Canal du Midi is also renowned for its culinary culture, in fact the group of friends took the opportunity to make stops and enjoy the cities and local cuisine. Right in Fonséranes, the group for lunch went to the restaurant Le 9 Écluses.

Le 9 Écluses Restaurant

Le 9 Écluses Restaurant


Continuing towards Capestang from Colombiers, the group crossed the Malpas. Excavated in 1679, it crosses the Ensérune hill in the Hérault and was the first navigable tunnel in Europe.

While sailing, looking towards the banks of the Canal you can admire the numerous vineyards that make the Canal du Midi a coveted destination for wine lovers, especially the Rosè.

“We moored in Capestang, a typical French village. We visited the city, then went to the main square and enjoyed some bottles of Rosé!”


From Capestang to Port Cassafières are only about thirty kilometers, but with the limited speed of the houseboats and the locks to cross, to travel such a short stretch takes a whole day. This is ideal to fully enjoy the navigation, the chatter among friends and the river views that the Canal du Midi offers.

“It was fun, a nice experience that also allows those who do not know how to go by sea to have a little experience of boat life. On the Canal du midi we will return for sure next year, probably starting from another port to see also another part of the Canal. We made the right move to come in April, out of season there are not so many tourists around and the weather was great to be able to sail. ”

Houseboat (1)

On board the houseboat


  • Port Cassafières - Capestang: round trip
  • Distance travelled: 68 km.
  • Navigation time: 15 hours.
  • Points of interest: Béziers, Écluses de Fonséranes, Tunnel de Malpas, Capestang, Colombiers.

ack nowledgements

I would like to thank Laura for sharing her journey with Filovent. To the next adventure on the Canal du Midi!

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