Go with the Flow in Provence
It's hot and everyone is looking for Provence's best bathing spots and refreshing waterside walks. The beach is an obvious choice, but hear this: Provence is also home to magnificent reservoirs, marshes, lakes and rivers where you can bathe, fish and stroll. Here are our top freshwater spots in Provence.
Plan d’Eau de Plantain in Peyrolles
Located just an hour from Marseille, Plan d’Eau de Plantain in Peyrolles, is an ideal water sports centre for all the family, with everything you need for a zen day out with the kids.
It's stress-free too, with a car park, lifeguard, toilets, showers and picnic tables. Parents can relax at the bar and boules court, while the footpath running around the lake is perfect for a soothing walk. If you're feeling sporty, try your hand at rowing, beach volleyball or the waterski ropeway. This is a paradise for children, with a playground, ping pong tables and the big plus: an inflatable water obstacle course.
Take our tip and sleep over too at this B&B on the lake: Presqu'île de Réal Plantain
Lac de Zola & Lac Bimont in Aix-en-Provence
Head off to explore Lac de Zola and Lac Bimont – the lakes make for a great excursion and the breathtaking views from the top of the dam guarantee impressive photos in all seasons. You can't swim there, but you won't get bored with all the activities on offer, including walking, relaxing, jogging, sunbathing, family games, or simply enjoying your own company!
Bimont dam and reservoir are located to the North-West of Sainte-Victoire mountain, at Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde.
IMPORTANT: due to major works, walking and cycling are only possible on weekends and bank holidays until end 2019.
The dam allows you to access a plethora of signposted footpaths leading to Sainte-Victoire mountain and Lac de Zola, easy to spot with its magical green water. The dam, part of the town of Le Tholonet, was built by the author's father. This little 8 km walk (round tour) is suitable for all levels.
Etang de l’Olivier in Istres
FOR SUMMER EVENINGS
Set right in the town centre and boasting France's highest water jet, Etang de l'Olivier offers locals and tourists alike an ideal spot for relaxing, strolling – and partying!
This is the centre stage for the "Jeudis Etoilés d’Istres" festival on summer evenings, offering a fun programme of open-air dances, craft markets, children's workshops and music. The evenings start at 7 p.m. and end with a fabulous firework display every Thursday evening from July 19th to 23rd.
The lake makes for a great excursion throughout the year, whether you fancy watching the sun go down with your loved one or a family day out. You can tour the lake by boat and the banks offer plenty of activities including a fitness course, Segway and hoverboard hire, exhibitions at Chapelle Saint-Sulpice, a Mediterranean garden, Dinosaur'Istres amusement park and an Art Zoo.
Etang de Berre Istres & Marignane
FOR THE BEACH
Etang de Berre lake suffered from a poor reputation for many years but we (the connoisseurs), appreciate it more and more. Its beaches are actually becoming very popular and the lake's water is often cleaner than other bathing waters along the coast.
If you want to enjoy a new angle on Etang de Berre, head to the beach, where white sand, pine trees, turquoise waters, village fêtes and fishermen's huts await, topped with a truly warm atmosphere. Perfection! Families will opt for the larger beaches (Ranquet and Jaï), where you can enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, kitesurfing and swimming. For the obligatory aperitif, we recommend "Pointu de la Romaniquette", with its grilled seafood specialities and jazzy ambience. The scent of summer holidays!
Etang des Aulnes
FOR OPEN-AIR FESTIVALS
A vast, tree-filled plain, old Provencal country house, wide alley lined with oleander and pine trees, and a refuge for migratory and some semi-sedentary birds (herons, egrets, ducks, etc.). Welcome to Etang des Aulnes! The Domain became the property of the Bouches-du-Rhône Area Council in 1988, which is now in charge of restoring, managing and protecting this exceptional site.
Etang des Aulnes is a magnificently-preserved site in the heart of Camargue and an ideal spot for a family picnic. Boasting a vast meadow, majestic trees and, of course, a lake, it is an oasis of relaxation.
The lake is also home to a concert hall and artist residency and welcomes a variety of open-air festivals and concerts in summer.
Lac Peiroou in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
FOR FISHING & SHADE
Lac Peiroou is a reservoir forming part of the town of Saint Rémy de Provence, bordered by forests and the Alpilles mountain range. Peiroou is the Provencal name for a cauldron.
When the summer heat is at its height, the lake's shaded banks are a genuine delight, where locals and tourists alike love to relax and admire the passing dragonflies... Bathing is prohibited but it's an ideal spot for a picnic followed - naturellement – by a little siesta. Once you're up and running again, several long-distance footpaths departing from the dam lead to the top of the limestone cliffs. The view is simply divine.
The site is also a fishermen's paradise and trout are released there every week in summer. Fishing is regulated and authorized every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Fridays. You must buy a permit beforehand.
IMPORTANT. Access to the lake is restricted in summer to reduce forest fire hazards. Please check accessibility before heading out in July and August at myprovencebalade.com
Etang du Vaccarès
FOR NATURE & CYCLING
The vast Etang de Vaccarès lake is set in the heart of wild Camargue. The walk round this mythical lake is truly splendid and offers genuinely astonishing sights. Migratory birds come to rest and feed here and it is also home to many pink flamingos. The light reflecting off the lake produces an optical illusion due to its shallow depth and salt content, making it appear iced over...
It is Camargue's biggest lake, nicknamed "La Grand Mar" and bordered by the Petit Rhône and Grand Rhône rivers and Mediterranean Sea. The lake is part of the Camargue Regional Nature Reserve. You can enjoy a walk on the footpaths departing from Cacharel or the "Digue à la Mer" dyke to the town of Saintes-Maries or Salin-de-Giraud saltmarsh.
These round tours are both signposted and take about a day to complete. Otherwise, you can opt for a trek on a beautiful white Camargue horse – an ideal way to explore the lake.
Time to eat outside
Picnics are a great way to escape from routine and spend some quality time with friends, family or your partner. Whether you opt for the seaside, a park or vineyard, they are an ode to simple pleasures and sharing.
Time to row
Fancy grabbing your paddle and swishing off to the translucent waters of En-Vau fjord? Test your biceps with a kayak tour of the myriad of fjords dotted along the coast between Cassis and Marseille.