Coming to France by Sea

  • Boating in France

    Boating in France

    © Atout France/Phovoir

  • Ferries in France

    Ferries in France

    © Atout France/Phovoir

  • Barges in France

    Barges in France

    © Atout France/Phovoir

Coming to France by Sea 75000 PARIS fr

With the world’s second largest maritime surface and 18,000km of coastline, France has long been a big maritime nation. Having hundreds of thousands of nautical enthusiasts, it truly is a ‘land of every sea’. Being the only country with territory in every ocean, France has a permanent window on the world.

There are many ferries linking France with other countries, notably England and Ireland as well as other Mediterranean countries. The main ferry companies include Brittany Ferries, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries.

SNCM and Corsica Ferries offer several connections to Corsica departing from Marseille, Nice and Toulon.

House boats

France has a particularly rich canal and river network, stretching to around 8,500km, allowing you to discover the countryside in depth. The Fédération des Industries Nautiques (French Nautical Industries Federation) group together the boat hire companies who are members and present them to you with all the necessary information about house boat holidays in France.

You can equally find information from the Voies navigables de France (Waterways of France), a public institution created in 1991 to manage and operate the network of inland waterways.

Sailing in France: licenses, river halts, fuel...

In French waters, a boat licence is necessary to be able to operate a boat when the power of the motor or motors exceeds 4.5 kilowatts or 6 horsepower. There are three different licences:

  • Carte Mer - daytime coastal sailing, 6 to 50 HP;
  • Permis Mer Côtier - nighttime sailing, further offshore, over 50 HP;
  • Permis Mer Hauturier - high seas, all forms of boating.

For inland waterways, there are separate specific licences. Licences to operate
motorised pleasure craft are for non-commercial use only. Anyone wishing to
sail for commercial purposes must obtain the relevant professional
qualification. More information is available through the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing.

However, for the majority of boats available for hire in the canal and river networks a license isn’t necessary. Upon arrival at your chosen point of departure, you will be given a demonstration of how to use and navigate your boat by a professional before setting out on your trip.

Harbour Masters post daily weather updates and forecasts on the French Sailing Federation’s website, as well as tidal information, port by port. 

Things to see

Point of interest