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The World’s Best Canal and River Boating Destinations

Cruising slowly along the inland waterways is one of the most magical ways to travel. It is boating with a difference, the great watery highways weaving through changing landscapes and centuries of canal and river heritage. There are almost 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometres) of rivers and canals in mainland Europe, and 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometres) of navigable inland waterways in Britain alone. Head to the United States and you could spend a lifetime exploring the more than 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometres) of navigable waters.

Boating along inland waterways is something to savour and enjoy. You travel at walking speed, allowing time to soak up the rural views unfolding before you, and the native wildlife flittering along the banks. Great cities emerge along the routes, where once these waterways thrummed with cargo vessels. It is a chance to experience the very best of a country in the spacious comfort of a riverboat. Whether it’s a Dutch barge in Holland, a narrowboat in the British countryside, or a freshwater boat in the US, the choices are endless. Here we look at some of The Best Canal and River Boating Destinations in the World.  


United Kingdom


Britain’s canal heritage dates back centuries, and boating along the inland waterways brings not just bucolic villages, balmy summer evenings and the greenest of countryside views, but impressive engineering feats. Indeed, there are over 3,000 examples of industrial heritage and ancient scheduled monuments along the country’s maze of waterways. From magnificent structures such as the Pontycysyllte Aqueduct and Anderton Boat Lift, to the 29 locks at Devizes, they are historic engineering projects on a vast scale.  

For a true taste of Scotland, the Caledonian Canal is as iconic as the come. Set off in a barge as you saunter along one of the country’s finest inland routes. You’ll glide past grand castles such as Eilean Donan, past historic highland battlefields and stop at traditional distilleries for whiskey tasting. For a quintessential English canal boat experience however, our top vote is the Avon Ring.

The Avon Ring: Like a pretty watercolour painting, the English countryside and pretty historic towns unfurl along this 110 mile- (170 kilometre-) long route which combines canals and rivers. You’ll pass through Stratford-upon-Avon, home of Shakespeare, and long the longest aqueduct in the country at Edstone. There are quaint mills along the River Avon, the picturesque River Severn to Worcester and, if you’re up to the challenge, the longest flight of locks in the country on the Worcester and Birmingham canal.

Discover our selection of British narrowboats and barges in the UK.




Canals wend through some of France’s most astounding countryside, from the Loire Valley to the vineyards of Champagne, from Brittany to the Camargue. Along the way, rural life prevails, with far-reaching views, traditional villages and local restaurants serving regional specialties using the same recipe they have done for centuries.

Boating in France is a feast for the senses. Discover wonderful wines and gastronomic delights in Burgundy, or the profound historic sights of the Somme region. There are chateaux perched high on rocky cliffs, the wild horses and wildfowl of the watery Camargue region, or great towns and cities from Toulouse to Paris to explore. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but this is definitely high on our list;

Canal Au Midi: In the heart of the Languedoc Region, the Canal Au Midi is one of France’s most spectacular barge cruising destinations. It stretches from Toulouse to the Etang de Thau, with views of the Pyrenees in the far distance. Float gently past immaculate vineyards, where sunset wine tastings await, or hop off to explore the ancient walled city of Carcassone.

See our selection of barges for sale in France.




The Netherlands are world famous for their beautifully crafted – and colourfully decorated – Dutch barges and houseboats. The country is delightfully flat, meaning fewer locks than in some other countries, and more time tootling happily along the canals and waterways.

From bustling, vibrant Amsterdam, whose canals are as legendary as its bicycles and culture, to beautiful Utrecht and the serene countryside in between, the Netherlands makes for one of the best inland boating destinations in the world.

Friesland-Amsterdam Region: Slowly turning windmills, pastoral fields as far as the eye can see, pretty little villages and culture-filled cities create the perfect patchwork in this northern region of the Netherlands. With museums to visit, the blaze of colour which is the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, and lazy afternoons spend sipping locally brewed beers on your Dutch barge, this is a trip to remember.

Check out our range of Dutch barges in the Netherlands.




Germany sits in the heart of Europe, and its rivers have been major thoroughfares for centuries. The Danube, Elbe and the Rhine are the perfect barge boating destinations, and all are connected by a series of canals – the Main-Danube Canal is simply stunning - meaning the options are endless. Lakes add to the mix, such as those in the region of Mecklenburg and Brandenburg, creating a watery patchwork of rivers, lakes, streams and canals. Discover medieval castles, towering mountains, national parks, wetlands, and the trendy, cosmopolitan city of Berlin.

As always, it’s hard for us to pick our favourite river boating journey in Germany. The Mosel River in western Germany, with its castles, forests, villages and ancient city of Trier was a strong contender. But we believe there is no more iconic river journey in Germany than the Rhine River.

The Middle Rhine River: The great Rhine River thrums with life, much as it has done since the days of the Romans. Europe’s busiest river makes for some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, and a cruising destination second to none. The central section is 40 miles (65 kilometres) long, and the Middle Rhine Valley is home to a fairytale medley of medieval castles, baroque palaces, bucolic vineyards, and historic cities. From the comfort of a penichette, cruise through Germany to the French border, finishing in ancient Strasbourg, with its iconic Cathedral.  

See our range of cruiser boats for sale in Germany.


United States


The vast and varied territory that is the United States has some of the greatest navigable rivers on the planet. What could better than traversing some of its most iconic cities by riverboat, getting a unique waters’ eye view of New Orleans, Chicago or Memphis? The majority of navigable rivers are concentrated in the east of the country, around the Mississippi River System, where a flat terrain and mild weather make for far preferable conditions to the wild rivers and their steep gradients of the west. The west’s main exception is the Colorado River, where grand scenery, snow-capped peaks and an abundance of wildlife in the Rockies make for true adventures.

The Mississippi River: Embark on a voyage of the lower reaches of the river, and discover a landscape filled with American Civil War relics, and iconic cities. Beginning in New Orleans and cruising to Memphis is the journey of a lifetime, where the stories of Mark Twain, rock n roll legends, and the sobering history of slavery are brought to life. Pass by traditional paddleboats and wild swamps, stop off at historic battlefields and let your hair down in the flamboyant cities.

We have a huge range of fresh water boats to choose from in the United States.   As the area and requirements really are so vast, here are a few suggestions to get you started: Try searching for the bass boat, Jon boat, Sailing yacht, Pontoon boat - Rightboat.com have 1000’s more boats for sale to choose from depending on your individual needs.

Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

More from: Samantha Wilson

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