There are boat services along France's coasts and to its offshore islands, and ferries aplenty to/from Corsica.
Transportation and tranquillity are usually mutually exclusive – but not if you rent a houseboat and cruise along France's canals and navigable rivers, stopping at whim to pick up supplies, dine at a village restaurant or check out a local château by bicycle. Changes in altitude are taken care of by a system of écluses (locks).
Boats generally accommodate from two to 12 passengers and are fully outfitted with bedding and cooking facilities. Anyone over 18 can pilot a riverboat, but first-time skippers are given a short instruction session so they qualify for a carte de plaisance (a temporary cruising permit). The speed limit is 6km/h on canals and 8km/h on rivers.
Prices start at around €650 a week for a small boat and easily top €3500 a week for a large, luxurious craft. Except in July and August, you can often rent over a weekend.
Advance reservations are essential for holiday periods, over long weekends and in July and August, especially for larger boats.
Rental agencies include the following:
France Afloat (https://franceafloat.com) Anglophone, canal-boat specialist in France.
Free Wheel Afloat (www.freewheelafloat.com) UK-based, self-drive barge specialist.
H2olidays (www.barginginfrance.com) Hotel barges, river cruises and self-drive barges.
Worldwide River Cruise (www.worldwide-river-cruise.com) River-cruiser rental, price-comparison website.