Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Monday, July 18, 2022

The Camargue Part 1, July 3-8

 The Camargue is the vast flood plain created by the Rhône River. A region of shallow lakes, marshes and swamps, it is crossed by the Canal Rhône a Sète which strangely enough, travels from the Rhône River at Beaucaire to the city of Sète, a maritime port on the Mediterranean Sea. It follows courses that have been used since Roman times. The lock from the head of the canal at Beaucaire into the Rhone has been put out of service so we traveled the section from Saint Gilles, where the canal connects with the Petit Rhône, to Sète, about 70 k. 

The canal crosses the shallow lakes and marshes in a channel dug out of them. There are salt marshes, the famous white horses and black bulls, pink flamingos, no shade, the wind can be fierce and all of the people around look baked. It is just a short distance inland from the Med, however, so we referred to our 10 days on it as our beach vacation.

Our first stop was 24k away from the St. Glles landings but no locks so we made the 3 hour trip on Sunday morning. The town of Aigues-Mort (Dead Water) was built as a fortress port by Louis IX in the 13th century to serve as a departure point for the Seventh Crusade. Its walls are still intact and you can just imagine hoards of crusaders clanking their way out the gates on their way to liberate the Holy Land from the “Infidels”.

The movie was taken from the side facing the sea which is about 5 k away. 

Inside the walls, however, it’s all about the tourists. Bars, restaurants and various types of gift shops abound. Not a knight to be seen.

It is also headquarters to one of the bigger salt suppliers in the region. The picture is from quite a distance away but that is a mountain of fleur de sel.

We had been told by others that there was free mooring in the basin right under the city’s main gate but, it being July, all of the free space was taken up by trip boats so it was into the marina for us. It’s just a short bike ride to the open Med at la Grau du Roi so we made the ride on Monday. Another big marina town but no walls, just many bars and restaurants.

Tuesday morning we headed off another 28 k to our next stop, Villeneuve les Maguelone. 

The beach is the site of a Roman port on a small spit of land now separated from the larger town by the canal. A small cathedral was built on a hill overlooking the port in the 5th century, “liberated” from its Arab occupiers in 737 by Charles Martel and rebuilt in the mid 9th century. It became a bishopric of some importance, even sheltering popes in the 15th century. Abandoned by the church in the 16th century, it was purchased and restored by the Fabrège family. The interior is very calm and peaceful.

The moorings are three landings in the canal just before the opening pedestrian-only bridge that leads to one of the few “wild” beaches along this coast. The beach is kind of pebbly but not as crowded as we would find further along.

The bridge is normally closed but when a boat approaches, 

the operator uses outboard motors swing it open and closed.

On the other side of the bridge is a paved bike path to the beach that also features a tourist train. There are also moorings along the canal but since the bridge is left open at night, access is limited. We made the trip to the beach by bike twice as it’s not far. 

We even bought a beach umbrella!

Don at the bar after an afternoon at the beach,

grapevines and the Med behind.

On Wednesday we noticed workers setting up pavilions and a large number of trestle tables and chairs in the parking lot for the bridge, right behind the boat. Then we saw a banner for a fete held every Wednesday evening. Guess we’d be joining in.

Hosted by the city, for €6 we each got a wine glass and two pours. There were several wine producers and many tents serving local specialties. We complemented a white wine with a plate of some of the famous local product.

A local red wine went with a most excellent grilled octopus salad. There was also the obligatory mediocre local musical talent but luckily the whole thing was over by 11 pm so our sleep was not hindered.

We enjoyed the last couple hours of the fete

from our back deck. That big barge behind us 

is a chambre d’hôtes complete with pool.

Thursday evening we had a good sunset view of the entrance gate to the beach road and the cathedral on the hill before our Friday morning departure for our next stop, Frontignan.


  1. Ho wonderful to be there, Don and Cathy Jo! I have a few of your posts to catch up with, but had to read this. I have long wanted to go to the Carmargue and your photos remind me of why. It looks wonderful!

  2. It was and we enjoyed something completely different from our usual cruising. Also good to see you may be underway soon on Hennie H. Good luck to you and Koos!


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