About Charente

Find yourself spellbound on the shimmering Charente River

A river of incredibly clear water lined with pines, vineyards and meadows, the Charente is amongst the prettiest waterways for canal boat holidays in France! Long known for its Cognac, gracious châteaux and friendly people, the valley opens its arms to you, inviting you to savour a leisurely journey on a river that looks as beautiful as it did many centuries ago.

 

Map showing where Charente boating region is in France

Find your bearings...

Charente region map

 = Le Boat Base           = Canal           = Navigable river          = No navigation beyond this point

The perfect boating region for...

 

Nature Lovers

Meandering at a slow and easy pace through the valley, the Charente River is rural enough to support all kinds of wildlife. You’ll especially love the birds — herons, kingfishers, ducks, swans, hawks and others.

History & Heritage

The rich history and heritage of the Charente Valley constantly surrounds you. The ramparts of St. Pierre Cathedral in Angoulême soar high. You’ll enjoy the Rochefort Maritime Museum in Rochefort and the Archaeology Museum in Saintes.

Wine Tasting

Whilst you're in Charente, take a tour of Courvoisier’s Cognac factory in Cognac, and then visit the Musée des Arts du Cognac. The Good Food and Wine Festival held every August in St. Savinien could also be part of your wine tasting cruise.

Fishing

Charente angling holidays are a favourite amongst many! Carp, pike, bream, roach, chub and black bass are all present in the river. The fishing is great in Jarnac, especially for roach. Stroll half a kilometer from the quay to a great spot for a fishing picnic.

Family

Take the kids cycling along the shaded towpath and explore pretty Charente villages. For a pleasant outing, hire canoes and kayaks at the watersports base in Angoulême. The town also has a good comic book museum. The kids’ll love gabarre rides at St. Simon.

Useful information

A bit of background

The Charente River follows its winding course to the Atlantic for 361 kilometres (224 miles). Only 147 kilometres (91 miles) is navigable from Angoulême to the sea. The inland reaches of the river are tamed with a series of locks that create calm lake-like gems ideal for canal boat holidays in France. As you round the next turn, you’ll see pretty châteaux built from the native white and yellow stone of the region, and a medieval village might tempt you to stop for a bite.

Gentle rolling hills punctuate the upper stretches inland from the river’s source in Chéronnac, separating the 10,000-square-kilometer (6,213-square-mile) Charente basin from those of Garonne and Loire. It’s best to view the river as two bodies of water. The inland reaches are easy, but below St. Savinien is a free-flowing tidal river that can show its wild side.

In times past, convoys of flat-bottomed Charentaise gabarres (sailing barges) plied the waters of Charente, carrying salt, produce, wine and cognac to market. Though it was all business, the beauty of the craft complemented the overall natural splendour. King Francis I, who was born in Cognac, is said to have described the waters as “the most beautiful river in my kingdom.” Others say King Henry IV said it, but most bets are on the Cognac native as the true source!

The Charente is very easy to navigate all the way to St. Savinien. After that, you run into big Atlantic tides with a range of up to 5 metres (16 feet) and velocities of 4 knots or more. Thus, we do not recommend proceeding past St. Savinien to Rochefort unless you have previous boating experience in tidal waters.

There are 21 locks above St. Savinien. They are easy to operate. There are no lock keepers

Opening hours: Locks are open all day. No transits are allowed after sunset.

The lock hours at St. Savinien are 08:00-18:00 (6:00 p.m.). The lock closes for lunch between 12:00-14:00 (2:00 p.m.).

Public holidays: Locks are open on bank holidays.

Moorings are plentiful on the Charente River. A trip to the seaport of Rochefort is well worth the effort. If you don’t want to tangle with the tides, moor at St. Savinien and hop on the train to Rochefort!

To find out how to get to our base in this boating region, as well as what facilities and amenities are available there or nearby, click on the base below:

  • Hire of the boat and its onboard equipment
  • A fully equipped kitchen
  • Towels and linen for all passengers
  • A boat handling demonstration prior to departure
  • Technical support
  • On-board maps and visitor information
  • Passage through locks
  • Optional holiday extras
  • Boat damage waiver
  • Running costs (diesel, gas, engine wear and tear) - charged by the engine hour (by the litre in Scotland).
  • Travel to and from the base(s)
  • Waterside services if you use them (i.e. moorings where a charge is applicable, pump-out if needed, water, etc)
  • Cancellation plan & any travel/personal insurance
  • Food and drink

Download our region guide

We've produced a handy PDF guide for this region to give you an overview of all the stops and things to do along the waterway.

Download our region guide

Interactive map of the Charente

  = Le Boat base       = Point of interest

Great to see...

Must see
Seafood in Rochefort

Blending the modern and contemporary periods, Rochefort has a long and rich history. Discover its monuments and sights, like the churches Saint-Louis and Notre-Dame. Why not walk in the gardens near the beautiful Arsenal door?

Must see
Port Minature in St. Savinien

Along the canal lies one of the most picturesque villages in the area. Dating back to Roman time, Saint-Savivien is a peaceful and charming village to see. Visit the local church Saint-Savivien, which overlooks the Charente on the hill.

Must see
Arch of Germanicus, Saintes, Charente

Saintes is the second most important city in the area. It's a city full of history with magnificient monuments like the basilica Saint-Eutrop. Enjoy visiting the old pedestrian streets where you will find both good views and good restaurants.

Must see
Glasses of Cognac

Cognac is a dynamic and historic city. Walk the old winding streets lined with timbered houses, and explore the green gardens next to the city hall. Cognac is famous for its delightful brandy, which you can enjoy tasting while you're here.

Must see
Lock in Jarnac

Jarnac is a welcoming town. Take time to discover the city and its history and to learn about the powerful Chabot family of barons.

Must see
Angoulême

Also called the 'Wall of the Canal du Midi', Angoulême is a great city which has seen many wars over the centuries; evident in the many fortifications you'll see around town. It is now a charming neighborhood of restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Downtown, discover many monuments like the impressive and marvelous City Hall, which is a former castle.

Welcome to Chaniers, a pleasant town to stop and visit. You will enjoy visiting the Church of Saint-Pierre, whose foundation dates back to the eleventh century. Take time to walk along the canal banks; they are absolutely beautiful.

In this quiet yet brilliant place, you will find a natural and pristine town surrounded by vineyards. Downtown, you may discover the beautiful old castle and its green gardens. Welcome to Bourg-Charente.

Saint-Simon is little peaceful town where you will enjoy the fresh air. Downtown, take your time and walk along the winding streets; discover the old church Saint-Sigismond.

In the heart of an area known for great spirits like Cognac and Pineau, historic Châteauneuf-sur-Charente welcomes you. Visit church Saint-Pierre and dine in one of the fine restaurants downtown.

Trois-Palis is a peaceful town where you will enjoy walking, and perhaps visiting the old Romanesque church, Notre Dame. The old mills have been replaced by a chocolate factory; its shop may be open.

Itinerary suggestions

To help you get an idea of how far you can travel in the time you have, here's a selection of routes to and from our bases in this region. You dont have to stop at all the places listed or follow the route exactly. So long as you return your boat to your end base by the date you've booked - you're free to enjoy your cruise however you like. For a comfortable pace, allowing you time to regularly stop and explore, we'd recommend an average of 2 - 4 hours cruising each day.

Jarnac RETURN via Cognac & Saintes

Jarnac
Bourg-Charente
Cognac
Chaniers
Saintes
Jarnac

15 hr(s) of cruising

90km 10 lock(s) 4 nights

Jarnac RETURN via Cognac & Saintes

Distilleries hum with activity, filling the air with the sounds and aromas that have made the town of Cognac famous for eons. You’re in the heart of beautiful Charente! On the river, lush vineyards, fields ablaze in colourful sunflowers, imposing castles, and picturesque villages create an ever-changing tapestry from your sundeck — the essence of a Charente boat hire in France!

15 hr(s) of cruising

90km 10 lock(s) 4 nights

Jarnac RETURN via Angoulême

Jarnac
Saint-Simon
Chateauneuf-sur-Charente
Trois-Palis
Angoulême
Jarnac

22 hr(s) of cruising

88km 30 lock(s) 7 nights

Jarnac RETURN via Angoulême

Head eastward on the River Charente to beautiful villages with cafés, historic sites, museums and eclectic shops. The 1,000-year-old abbey in Bassac and 12th-century St. Pierre Cathedral in Angoulême reflect the rich history of the region, which is always apparent in the narrow streets and the ancient market squares. Charente boating in France ushers you into incredible pastoral beauty.

22 hr(s) of cruising

88km 30 lock(s) 7 nights
Added on 24 September 2018

Gary Murphy said

Very helpful and friendly staff, the boat was well equipped and the information was very good. 5 nights on the Charente was a good introduction to river cruising.
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Crusader
Added on 15 September 2018

Claus Mygind said

This branch of Le Boat (Jarnac) really took good care of the boats. We were very pleased. The staff was very helpful. A fun vacation spot lots to see
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Caprice
Added on 08 September 2018

Christine Mulvanny said

Extremely helpful with the booking process and all related questions. We were a group of eight who got on splendidly, the weather was great and the boat and river were good.
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Vision 4
Added on 28 July 2018

Alan Johnson said

everything about the boat was as the description on the website we all had a fabulous holiday brilliant holiday! boat was great
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Salsa A
Added on 17 May 2018

Philip Whitehurst said

All the Le Boat staff were very informative, friendly and helpful with all aspects of our holiday. From informing about the River Charente, suggesting restaurants, places to visit, local food shops and market to emergency repairing a cracked water pipe which left us with NO water, the staff were tremendous! Lovely fresh produce and wine in Jarnac and Cognac!!
READ MORE
Good Afternoon,
Many thanks for your five star review. Our customers' comments are very important to us and we will be sure to pass your feedback on to the Base in the Charente.
The Le Boat Team
Jarnac - Jarnac
Royal Mystique A
Added on 07 May 2018

Clive Jenkins said

Second time we have used Le Boat and it did not disappoint. The Clipper was perfect for 4 and the Charente beautiful. No purchases only lovely meals
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Dear Mr JenkinsThank you for your response. We are happy to learn you enjoyed your cruise and we hope to welcome you back on board with Le Boat soon. Best wishes, The Le Boat team
Jarnac - Jarnac
Clipper
Added on 04 October 2017

Mary Mcginley said

The receptionist was very friendly, helpful and accommodating. Instructions, explanations and tuition first rate. The manual and route information very good. We were made to feel welcome and nothing was too much trouble. A silly captains hat gave us and people we passed a reason to smile.
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Caprice
Added on 18 September 2017

Bob Jensen said

Office and boat demo good. Needed to mention size of tides below last lock at Charnier (approx 1 metre) because of boat catching on jetty there. A small boat sank near us and several other boats got caught. A spare fender or two would have helped here. Thought not having cushions provided a bit "cheap" as they are fairly essential - a better scheme would be to include them in the bond. Bikes were good (although hand picked). Boat needs a small pack of maintenance items as its not reasonable to go and buy cloths, sponges, washing up liquid etc for a short trip (4 days). Pleasant river with enough to see and do. Thought locks were very time consuming - most rivers allow you to leave the lock the way you exited it whereas closing everything just seems to make life difficult for everyone. Had trouble buying meals outside larger towns - perhaps some information re opening hours and dates in advance would help here as we were near the end of the season. Calling this a "purchase" is confusing
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Clipper
Added on 11 August 2017

Benjamin Knowles said

All very well organised from a great base at jarnac. Only complaint was cost of breakages for a plate and glass. That was a scam, frankly. Much better to charge nothing for minor breakages. It leaves a bad taste. A pretty stretch of river with interesting towns for cognac drinkers
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Dear Mr Knowles,
Thank you for your feedback. We are sorry to learn you were disappointed with the charges for breakages. We appreciate that this is not what you expected and we will make sure that this is reviewed as soon as possible.
We are pleased you enjoyed your holiday nonetheless and were satisfied with your boat.
We hope to welcome you on board with us again soon.
Best wishes, The Le Boat team
Jarnac - Jarnac
Elegance
Added on 26 June 2017

Robert Mcwilliam said

Very good on the way out but unhelpful on the return. We were a little late and staff insisted on the full late return surcharge. We then say the boat was left unattended so hardly a rush to get it ready for another customer. Situation could have been handled much better and left a bad feeling. We have been frequent Le Boat customers over the past 10 years, but will now be looking carefully at alternatives. Not sure we purchased anything....
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Jarnac - Jarnac
Crusader