6 days sailing on the Canal du Midi

Homps 6 days

Localisation d'Homps

Until the end of this year 2022, works are to be expected on the towpath and/or the bridleway of the Canal du Midi between Homps and Carcassonne. Detour are proposed, accompanied by road signs. A follow-up will be set up as the work progresses to inform users of the reopening of the sectors. Please be careful if you encounter construction equipment.

Nathalie © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Experience recommended by
Nathalie, Canalfriends blogger

What better way to break up your routine and get a change of scene than a few days sailing on the Canal du Midi and its canals?! Stop and visit a village or château, go shopping by the canal, take a walk or bike ride and make new friends… A wonderful way to recharge your batteries!
  • Itineraries
  • Nature
  • Slowtourism

Day 1:
From Homps to Ventenac in Minervois - Maiden voyage

Navigation sur le canal du Midi, prise en main du bateau © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude
Cabine d'un bateau de location sur le canal du Midi© Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Our girl gang of Raquel, Albane and Cathy have hired a boat to explore the canal du Midi and the Jonction and Robine canals.
Once we’ve gone through all the formalities with the boat company, we visit our spacious and comfortable houseboat with two cabins and a saloon that can be turned into a double bed.
There’s no need for a permit to sail the boat; Jean Michel tells us how the boat works and shows us how to sail it. He’s very on hand and happy to answer all our questions. He puts all our worries at bay.
We load our bikes on and are ready to set sail.

01 HIGHLIGHT

First lock!!!

Navigation sur le canal du Midi, pont canal du Rupédre © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Stay focused

The first bridge demands all our concentration. And now comes the first lock…
We go through it with two other boats to use less water. The expert lock keeper ensures each boat has its own space. We unleash our inner sailors and everything feels relaxed. We learn about sailing together.
We meet back up with the other two boats at the next locks and chat about our sailing plans.

Sailing on the canal du Midi

We’re now in the Grand Bief that goes as far as Béziers.
The weather forecast says it will be stormy this evening. That doesn’t put us up, a bit of weather is part of the adventure! As long as it’s not raining, we’re sailing. We’ll visit the villages here on the way back.
The Minervois vineyards lead us to our first stop in Ventenac in Minervois. When we reach the port, Albane teaches us about mooring hitches.

Guinguette à Ventenac Minervois, sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Dinner in Ventenac in Minervois

We get together at a table under fairy lights and Chinese mulberry trees for a mouth-watering meal at Grillade du Château.
Nathalie the owner tells us about the history of the château and its wine cellars. That’s settled, we’re visiting the lovely village tomorrow!

Jour 2:
From Ventenac to Sallèles - Legendary heritage and vineyards

La cave du château, dégustation à Ventenac Minervois, sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

From Ventenac to Sallèles - Legendary heritage and vineyards

A storm broke out overnight. Raquel is sleeping in the saloon and loved the magical night. She’s sorry it’s over! The contrast between the brooding sky and canal is quite something! It feels like we’re in another world!
After breakfast on the boat’s deck, we head off to visit the wine cellars at Château de Ventenac. It may look like a religious building but it’s actually a “folie viticole”, a traditional winemaker’s country pile that looks like a neo-medieval building with a tower. Inside, children’s drawings on wine bottle labels show how the entire village celebrates its winemaking heritage.
A tasting inspires us to stock up on a few tipples to serve on the boat’s deck as we wind down at the end of the day.

"Canal" vibe

Back on the canal, we spot the passengers on a boat we went through the locks with yesterday. They’ve visited Argens. That’s what point-to-point travel is all about. You meet people then spend the rest of your holiday running into each other at different stages.
It’s the same thing with cycling! We meet four cycling tourists riding from Toulouse to Sète. We chat about our plans and next stops; we see each other again in the afternoon in Le Somail.
Before we head out again, we do a bit of shopping at Edwige and Sébastien’s little shop La Cabane au Bord du Canal.

02 HIGHLIGHT

Le Somail, an outstanding village

A magical hamlet

The hamlet itself is packed with impressive heritage from the Canal du Midi’s heyday. Its humpback bridge, chapel where crews stayed, inn where passengers stopped and ice house that stored blocks of ice from the Montagne Noire until summer.

Pont de pierre au Somail sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

We visit Tourist Information to meet Marga, an iconic local figure who gives us some top tips and tells us the story of the Canal de Jonction. It was built a hundred years after the Canal du Midi to connect the Canal de la Robine and helped trade flourish with Narbonne.
We make the most of our time here to stock up at the lovely Péniche Epicière grocery shop.

Did you know?
The lovely bookshop is well worth a visit. It’s actually where the literary TV programme La Grande Librairie was shot.

Librairie au Somail sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

In the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson

A plaque on the bridge marks Thomas Jefferson's visit. Before becoming President in 1801, the Francophile US Ambassador (1785-1789) took a boat ride down the canal du Midi.

Le canal à vélo à port la Robine © Canal des 2 Mers à vélo, Lezbroz, T. Verneuil, ADT de l'Aude

canal de Jonction

We reach the junction with the Canal de Jonction.
The locks here are automatic so we get off the boat to activate the system. Since they’re fairly close, Albane cycles ahead to take care of them.
We feast our eyes on the canal’s signature rows of umbrella pines once we go through the first lock. The landscape is jaw-dropping!

Sallèles d’Aude

Beautiful old houses mark the entrance to Sallèles d’Aude where we stop for the night.
Sallèles d'Aude sur le canal du Midi, le port © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

We spot La Barque de Poste de Robert (replica of a postal boat built to original plans) on the opposite bank.

Did you know?
Until the railway arrived in 1858, these boats transported passengers on the canal.

Barque de poste à Sallèles d'Aude sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Day 3:
Narbonne, between the canals and river

Ecluse sur le canal de Jonction © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

A unique experience

Today we’re crossing the Aude River (which the area is named after) to hook up with the Canal de la Robine in Narbonne. We’re excited to switch from a canal to a river. We visit the VNF centre (French waterway authority) at the lock to check the river hasn’t flooded after recent rainfall.
Robert comes to say hi on the dock. He looks a long way away when we’re at the bottom of the Sallèles lock. We should mention that its 5.4m drop height makes it one of the biggest canals in the area.

Gailhousty lock

The Gailhousty lock is an impressive structure: fantastic stone staircase, huge service building with a siphon, dry dock etc. Everything about it makes you think that the site had a strategic role.

Ecluse de Gailhousty sur le canal de Jonction, bâtiment de service © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude
Sur la rivière Aude, entre canal de Jonction et Robine © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Crossing the Aude

We reach the Aude River just after the lock. The 650m crossing is fast but we have time to experience the far wilder nature and river current.
The Moussoulens lock marks the entrance to the Canal de la Robine. It’s always open unless the Aude floods.

03 HIGHLIGHT

Narbonne, a trip back in time

Narbonne, canal de la Robine et Palais des Archevêques © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Cycling to Narbonne

We moor the boat to ride to Narbonne on the towpath.
We cross the Canal de la Robine then ride along the docks to Pont des Marchands, one of few bridges in France that is still inhabited.

A city break

Place de l’Hôtel de Ville reflects Narbonne’s splendour over time.
We visit what’s left of the Via Domitia Roman road and the impressive Bishop’s Palace home to several architectural styles from the 12th to 14th century. The neo-baroque building opposite was once Les Dames de France but is now Monoprix.
A trip to the indoor market is a great excuse to stock up on supplies. A warm and friendly atmosphere with fresh produce: vegetables, meat, cheese and wine… everything we need for dinner.

Repas sur le pont du bateau © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

On the way back

We still have so much to see on the way back and this time…the sun shows us another side to the scenery. The rows of umbrella pines and stone structures around the locks are even more beautiful.
We spend the night in the great outdoors on the Canal de Jonction. There’s not a sound… silence is golden! We feast on our Narbonne buys as we watch the night draw in.

Day 4:
 From one canal to the next

Navigation et pilotage sur de Jonction © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Adieu Canal de Jonction

Waking up on the Canal de Jonction is magical and unique, everything seems to stand still!

We watch the squirrels play hide and seek in the trees.

Pont-Canal du Répudre

We reach Pont-Canal du Répudre bridge. The plaque saying Torrent du Répudre on the side gives you an idea of how fast-flowing it must be when it rains.

Paraza, le pont-canal du Rupèdre © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

You can’t help but be dazzled by all the structures designed in the 17th century during the canal’s construction to avoid weather hazards: reservoirs to combat drought, bridges over rivers, sandbanks or overflows during floods.

Did you know?
Pierre Paul Riquet built the canal bridge in 1676 and it’s now the oldest working one in the world.

Paraza, le pont-canal du Rupèdre, navigation © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

04 HIGHLIGHT

Visiting Minervois villages

Paraza

We hit a little footpath on the canal that leads us to Château de Paraza.
The grounds are beautiful and ideal for a stroll. A painting of Pierre-Paul Riquet in the tasting cellar reminds us that he lived in the château during the canal’s construction. We drink in fabulous views of Corbières from the terraces.
The little village lanes lead us to CLAP art gallery, a friendly spot on the banks of the canal.
Our boat trip takes us to the Minvervois vine-growing area. One after the other, the villages celebrate the local lifestyle, heritage and community.

Roubia, cadran solaire © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Roubia

What sets Roubia apart is its heritage, just take its sundial on the wall of a house and the stained-glass ceiling at the church.

Argens en Minervois

We go through the Argens lock and moor the boat for the night.
A quick walk in the village takes us to the château ruins (closed to visitors).
On the way back to the boat, we pass the guinguette, a buzzing canalside restaurant.

Manger le long du canal du Midi en guinguette ©Renaud Fresquet - ADT de l'Aude

Day 5:
 From Argens to Jouarres

Passage d'écluse sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Last locks

We stock up at the little grocery in the village before we leave Argens.
We head upstream to Homps. We enter the lock at the lowest point. On the pontoon, one of us has to get down to catch the ends (rigging) thrown down by another of us.
We use the time to chat to fellow sailors and lock keepers.

05 HIGHLIGHT

Jouarres Lake

Water babies

We reach Homps in the afternoon and decide to carry on for another 1km to go for a dip at Jouarres Lake. We walk along a footpath that takes us to the breath-taking lake with the Minervois mountains in the distance.

Homps, accès au lac de Jouarres depuis le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude
Homps, le lac de Jouarres, plage © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

It’s so nice to have a dip after a hot day! Once again, a sense of wellbeing washes over us before this jaw-dropping setting.

We make the most of our last supper on the boat with a fabulous sunset.

Day 6:
 The end of an adventure

Back to base

We have to drop the boat off by 9am. We sail the last kilometre between us and the Homps base.
Cathy has loved being the captain and squeezes every last drop out of her sailing experience.
Raquel hopes to find pleasure boaters looking for crew so she can carry on sailing.

Homps, base de location de bateaux sur le canal du Midi © Canal Friend, ADT de l'Aude

Patrick, one of the sailors we met the day before at the locks, comes up to us with a smile on his face and a bottle of Blanquette de Limoux in his hand. He gives it to Albane to thank her for helping him navigate the locks during the trip.
The joy of meeting people, sharing experiences and meeting up again: that’s the real “canal spirit”! We all go back our own way with a head full of memories and a smile on our faces!

Go further ...

Check out all the best places to make the most of your canal trip.
photo by StuartPearce.com © All rights reserved

LE BOAT HOMPS - MIDI

Water activities HOMPS

CHÂTEAU DE PARAZA

Drinks, wines and spirits PARAZA

CHÂTEAU DE VENTENAC EN MINERVOIS

Drinks, wines and spirits VENTENAC-EN-MINERVOIS

LES HALLES

Civil buildings NARBONNE

Canalfriends' top tips for smooth sailing

Delegate roles
- 1 person to steer,
- 1 or 2 on the rigging and/or off the boat for upstream locks or nearby locks,
- and 1 to help the captain (especially at the start to help with the bow thruster).

Knots
Practise your mooring hitches, clove hitches, cleat hitches etc.

Schedule
For a return journey, adapt your schedule to suit the weather, market days at villages you sail through and keep some things to visit on the way back.

One last tip
Keep some wiggle room for going through the locks on the last day so you have time for other activities if you get back to base early.

Give a note
to this experience

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Getting her?

By car

The Boat company has set up a rental base at Homps Port in Minervois. How to get here: 1.5 hr from Toulouse on the A61 and D610 1.5 hr from Montpellier on the A9 and D5 30 mins from Narbonne on the D6113 and D11.

By train

Nearest stations
Lézignan à 12 km.
Narbonne à 35 km.
Carcassonne à 45 km
Car hire options.

Get directions :