Looking for your next holiday idea and like the idea of spending time on water? Australia offers some incredible river and canal journeys, and for the more adventurous there are some memorable overseas adventures, too.
Many of us will agree with Rat in Wind in the Willows – there is simply nothing better than messing about in boats. And a canal boat journey is slow travel at its best. Calm and scenic, a boat trip allows you to fully relax on board, often with great food and drink, while hopping off and exploring the towns and sites along the way. If you want to keep it local, Australia has many surprising canal and boat journeys, and we’ve found a couple of tempting overseas options, too.
Canal and river boat journeys in Australia
Intrigued by the idea of a cruise but don’t want to commit to an international trip? Holiday at home and you can take the risk of lost luggage and missed flights out of the equation and experience some beautiful waterways right here in Australia.
New South Wales
The Riverboat Postman is a riverboat mail run, with guests. Enjoy a cuppa, a drink, some food and wonderful commentary on this unique boat trip. Some 600 households along the Hawkesbury River are only accessible by boat, and you can join the postie on Australia’s only riverboat mail run. The three-hour journey is reasonably priced, with a discount for seniors, and you can also enjoy morning tea, a ploughman’s lunch, tea and coffee, plus drinks from the bar. It leaves at 10 am every weekday from Hawkesbury River Station in Brooklyn, about an hour north of Sydney’s CBD.
The Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler is great fun, even if it doesn’t go very far. Cruising along the Nepean River, an hour’s drive west of Sydney, tours range from an hour-long scenic trip with coffee to a twilight dinner or a longer 5.5-hour journey with a two-course lunch and afternoon tea. Entertainment might include a historic commentary or a consultation with an onboard psychic.
The Murray River Paddlesteamers in Echuca offers a range of options, from a Wharf to Winery lunch cruise to a seven-night All the Rivers Run cruise. Winter on the Murray is particularly lovely and there are many short and long journeys on offer, including cruise-and-glamping options – have a look on the website and you’ll find something to suit.
Over in WA, Mandurah Cruises are a fun option if you’re holidaying south of Perth. See dolphins, pass beautiful jarrah forests, and check out one of the area’s new giants, Seba’s Song, one of a series of bold sculptures from Danish artist Thomas Dambo.
Head up to the Northern Territory for some truly spectacular cruises. Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National will take you between cliffs and sandy beaches where you can see an open-air gallery of ancient Aboriginal rock paintings and the incredible night sky. You can also see and learn about the region’s saltwater crocodiles from the safety of your boat, go fishing and get up close to the wildlife, including birdlife like sea eagles, brolgas and maybe a jabiru or two. Have a look at the NT’s comprehensive tourist website to find your ideal journey.
A little further afield
Heading overseas? There are too many options to even begin to cover in a blog post, but here are three ideas:
A traditional houseboat in Kerala
Kerala in Southern India is known for its palm-lined beaches and canal networks, and tourists can hop on a traditional thatched houseboat in Alleppey, the main starting point for exploring the region’s backwaters. Resorts and hotels will often have a houseboat for guests to hire for a sunset cruise or overnight stay. Spice Coast Cruise packages from CGH Earth offer 7-day Kerala tours that include time on a traditional houseboat at Lake Vembanad.
The Canal du Midi, France
The Canal du Midi starts at Toulouse and takes you all the way to the Mediterranean. Here you can either self-navigate a narrow boat or hire one with a captain, exploring rural villages along the way. Start at Toulouse and end in the beautiful Camargue region, then venture on to Provence. The Hotel Barge Anjodi is a luxury vessel to enjoy this journey, with wine appreciation and golf tours on offer.
If you want to investigate further, Barge Lady Tours offers many options in Europe and the UK if you’re planning a trip and looking for more options.
The waterways of Berlin
Berlin offers some wonderful water experiences in the warmer months, including autumn day trips to the Spreewald, about an hour east of the city and home of pickles and a lovely thermal bath and hotel for some rest and rejuvenation. Or, to warm up in winter, spend a few hours in a floating sauna on the Havel in Berlin – jump into the cold water, then relax in the steamy, timber-lined interior. If you have some experience on the water, you can hire a houseboat and explore the city’s waterways and neighbouring Potsdam. Visit Berlin Bootsverleih and choose from a range of options and destinations.
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