Beginners guide to barging

If big ship cruising isn’t for you but you’re still looking for a holiday on the water, then barging could be the way to go. Our beginners guide to barging is sure to whet your appetite for the waterways of regional France.

Forget caravanning, senior Australians increasingly want unique travel experiences. They wish to be taken off the beaten track to some of the most scenic and beautiful parts of the world, where they can immerse themselves in local culture, and dine in restaurants to which only locals are privy. Barging offers all this and more

So what is barging and how do you know what region would suit you best?

Barging became a trend in the 60s with the Barge Palinurus, converted from a coal-carrying barge and captained by Richard Parsons along the canals of the Burgundy region, France.

Barge cruises are small floating hotels and unlike other cruises, cater for small groups – normally no more than 12 are on board at one time. 

The appeal is to travel through regional France at a leisurely pace, with the ability to get off and on at a whim, walk or bike along the towpath, veer off into unexplored villages, discover the history and culture of the region, talk to the locals, or simply sit on the deck and watch the world go by – and the costs are all inclusive, so there are no hidden surprises.

On board is your own personal crew, including a chef who creates restaurant quality cuisine using fresh, local food from the region through which you’re travelling.

When planning a barge route, it’s important to speak to the experts and ensure the region fits with your travel requirements, whether that’s a region full of rolling countryside and medieval castles, or something with a more Mediterranean feel.

Each barge also offers the wine of that region, so if your favourite wines are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, you would choose to travel through Burgundy.

Ensure you also consider the type of room and space you require – barges vary from standard to first class and deluxe, which primarily impacts on the cabin space and interior décor of the barge.

It’s also vital to consider the time of year you wish to travel.  May/June and September are the peak months for barging, so for these months it is wise to plan well in advance.

If you’re planning a group charter, you’ll need to plan up to one year in advance, so you can ensure you can lock in the dates best suited to you and have the entire barge to yourselves.

Whether you’re interested in culture, history, art, food or wine, or authentic, untapped tourism – barges allow you the flexibility to explore the region at your leisure, in an environment where every detail is taken care of by your experienced crew.

There’s little wonder barging is becoming the latest craze in travel by adventurous senior travellers.

Click NEXT to find out the top tips for planning your trip.

Top tips when planning your trip:

  • Use an expert to ensure you choose the barge best suited to your needs whether that’s exploring untapped villages, food and wine, culture, history – or a combination of all.

  • Plan well in advance and consider tagging on a week in a different region to further explore France.  Barges depart weekly on a Sunday, and the cruise lasts six nights, so many guests add extra nights at a hotel in another region, or spend a week or so in Paris.

  • Consider the time of year you want to travel – taking into account the weather and peak tourist season, to enhance your experience. For example, if you want to sit outside on the deck to enjoy al fresco meals, then further south would be your choice, eg the Canal du Midi or Provence.

  • Think about the space you require in the cabin and whether the barge has extra luxuries such as a Jacuzzi on deck, antique furnishings or a larger sun deck.

For more information, visit Toujours France.

Written by Debbie McTaggart