Water sports in Aquitaine

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Get active on the water!

A beautiful region on the Atlantic coast, Aquitaine is also home to some of France's most stunning lakes and rivers, making it a perfect place to try a variety of water sports.

Whether you're looking to explore the sunny seaside and coast, or the lush river valleys and lakes, Aquitaine has something for everyone who wants to get out and about on the water. Famous for surfing, the coast is also a great place for many other water sports including windsurfing, waterskiing, catamarraning, scuba diving and much more. Yet, the region has much to offer those looking to try water sports further inland too.

River tourism is a great way to explore Aquitaine and houseboats can be rented without needing a license, and the locks are fully automated, meaning that you can explore Aquitaine via the Garonne, Lot and Baise which form a crossroads without worry. Take your time and travel for a weekend, a fortnight, or even longer.

Or, if you feel like being a bit more active, you can canoe down Aquitaine's rivers on discovery tours that last from half a day to several days. Those looking for real adventure can try their hand at white water rafting in the mountainous Pyrenées-Atlantiques department.

River and coastal boat trips take the hassle out of travelling by water for those who prefer to sit back and relax while someone else steers. There are some excellent boat trips in the Arcachon Bay area where you can discover the beauty of this remarkable place.

Aquitaine is also home to some of France's biggest lakes, many created amongst the sand dunes that line the coast. Try your hand at sailing, pedal boating and waterskiing in a peaceful and verdant environment.

With so many water sports on offer, your biggest problem will be deciding which sport to do next on your trip!

White water

Take the plunge and go white water rafting in the Pyrenées-Atlantiques! With 4,500km of mountain streams and rivers, Aquitaine has much to offer thrill-seekers who want to try white water rafting, canyoning or sailing the rapids in an inflatable 'hot dog'. There is also a white water stadium in Pau where you can train alongside Triple Olympic champion Tony Escanguet. The stadium has a slalom route for canoes and kayaks, and a 2 hectare lake with club house, in an exceptional natural setting.

River canoeing

With so many beautiful rivers, it's hard to decide which is best for canoeing and kayaking. The river Vézère, the Dordogne's 'little sister', has several canoeing firms operating in the area from whom you can rent canoes and take guided trips along the river to discover cave dwelling settlements and Saint León sur Vézère, one of France's most beautiful villages. The Leyre Delta near Arcachon is fantastic for those looking for a sedate canoe journey in a beautiful, lush setting as the smooth amber-coloured waters are rarely more than 1.5m deep with no white water sections or waterfalls. Overlooked by the forest canopy, the river Vezere travels through the heart of the Landes de Gascoyne Regional Natural Park. There are several trip options in this area with 10km, 20km and 30km trips available with a guide. You can also hire unsinkable canoes for safety. The Gelise river which flows into the river Baise also offers a route with supervised canoeing at the eco-resort of Barbaste.

River surfing

Never though that you could surf on a river? Well, in Aquitaine, you can! The mascaret, a unique tidal wave that occurs in the Gironde estuary whenever there is a tide that travels far inland, makes for some great surfing opportunities on the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Saint Pardon de Vayres celebrates a festival of the mascaret and the waves here can reach up to 2m high! You can also try stand up paddle surfing (SUP) which uses a long, very stable surfboard and a large paddle - an easy and accessible way to discover the 'valley of 1001 châteaux' in Perigord.

The lakes

Aquitaine is home to the largest lake in France, Lac Carcans-Hourtin-Maubuisson, and the country's 2 largest freshwater lakes, Lac Carcans-Hourtin and Lac Cazaux. Lac Carcans-Hourtin-Maubuisson is a 6,00 hectare inland sea of exceptional natural beauty that is just an hour's drive from Bordeaux. South of the bay of Arcachon is the 5,800 hectare Lac Sanguilet, situated amongst the stunning sand dunes of the Aquitaine coast. Many lakes can be found amongst these dunes including the Etang d'Aureilhan, which has been a favourite place of such people as Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, and the Etang de León where you can take a trip in a traditional flat-bottom boat, a galupe, out to the Atlantic sea along the Courant d'Huchet - a stunning coastal river surrounded by lush forest.

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