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Languedoc Beach Report
Home > Explore The Region > Beaches > River & Lake Beaches
The Gorges d'Héric, Languedoc

The top 33 river and lake beaches of Languedoc

 

Languedoc's best swimming isn't in the Mediterranean

 

When people think of the South of France - they usually think of beaches. Sea beaches. But in our opinion, some of the best places to swim in the Languedoc-Roussillon region aren't by the sea - they're along the region's many beautiful rivers and lakes.

 

Places to swim in Languedoc

 

33 of Languedoc's top river and lake beaches - all listed below...

 

The Pros: We prefer swimming in Languedoc's fresh-water spots over sweating it out on a hot and sandy (sea) beach. Rivers and lakes usually offer more in the way of leafy shade, the water is often cleaner and warmer, and the scenery usually prettier. Getting to sea beaches in summer also nearly always means traffic jams.

 

The Cons: That said, if your selected river or lake does offer a 'beach'- it's likely to be stony rather than sandy (so you might want to wear flip-flops or plimpsoles). And the remoteness of many of the best spots means you'll need to bring along your own drinks and food, - and don't count on any nearby loos.

 

The Crème de la Crème: In compiling this report, we were surprised at the sheer number of great places in the region to swim in fresh water. We've cherry-picked the best and most popular, and tried to bring each site to life with photos and descriptions. Most are easily accessible by road (perhaps followed by a short walk), and many do get quite crowded in mid-summer (as do the sea beaches.) Get there early to avoid the crowds and reserve a prime spot.

Click to find out more about any of our top 33 swimming spots

 

"" Lake Montbel

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsLocated just outside the Languedoc border, Montel is not far from the wine-making village of Limoux.

 

Lake Montbel
"" Lake Vesoles

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsLake Vesoles is a small lake near the larger Lac de la Raviège. Both are a short distance drive from the town of St Pons de Thomière. This is mountain country, so the vistas are beautiful.

 

Lake Vesoles
"" Lake Bugarach

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsNot too far from the Lac d'Arques - you'll find the tiny 'lake' of Bugarach. It's just south of the village of Bugarach - and is quite open and pretty, with walks through the woods to the Gorges of Galamus.

 

The Swimming

A full review of the swimming at Lake Bugarach is to come...

 

Lake Bigarach
"" Lake Raviège

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsHalf in the Languedoc department of Hérault, and half in the Tarn, Raviège is more of a mountain lake - surrounded by evergreens and looking a little more like something you might find in Norway than the south of France. It’s very green and beautiful here, but cooler and wetter than areas further towards the coast - so the water is really only ready for swimming in late June. The nearest large town is St Pons to the south, where you’ll find a few restaurants.

 

The Swimming

The water is crystal clear, and very refreshing. Our dot on the map marks the spot of a large beach, a ‘resort’ of sorts where people come to camp or rent gites. You can hire sailboats and small kayaks here too. There is also a camp-site restaurant in the complex.

 

Lake Raviege
"" Lake Naussac

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsJust north east of Mende, the capital of Lozère department, it's a bit of a schlep for most visitors to Languedoc. But if you're visiting the area, it's definitely worth a punt. The spot on our map marks the beach at the village of Naussac, where there is a campsite - and some water slides for kids.

 

Lake Naussac
"" Lake Jouarres

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsA very round man-made lake that is very popular with windsurfers, due to the often-high winds. Close to the town of Homps and the Canal du  Midi. There is a sailing club. Not the most picturesque of lakes, but great if you also sail.

 

The Swimming

Clean, clear water with plenty of beach all around the lake. Watch out for those windsurfers though!

 

Lake Jouarres near Homps
"" Barrage des Olivettes

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsThe 'Olivettes Dam' sits a stone's throw from the small village of Vialhan, just 10 minutes drive from the larger village of Roujan. It's a beautiful spot - with people swimming mostly in the small 'lake' formed below the dam, which is overlooked by an old monastery that now houses a very good restaurant. The 'lake' is really quite small, and has a tiny island in the middle. On one side, there are steep banks which slope down from a large car-parking area. It's a good place to bring a picnic.

 

The Swimming

The water is pretty clean, as a current constantly flows through the lake from the dam. It's a popular place for swimming, with plenty of shade offered along the tree-lined banks. There's no 'beach' as such, and the sides of the lake are a little steep and rocky. But not a problem if you're prepared to dive in! There is also a BBQ area and picnic tables under the trees.

 

The Barrage des Olivettes, near Roujan
"" Lake Ganguise

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsLocated in the very west of Languedoc, the countryside here is more like England, with rolling fields. Head for Belflou - and from there you'll find a small road to the beaches on the lake.

 

Lake Ganguise
"" The River Cèze near Montclus

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsMontclus is one of the most picturesque villages in the Gard department, and sits on the river Cèze. This is a beautiful and very secluded spot where you can watch the kingfishers and herons play undisturbed. Large over-hanging rocks add to the sense of being miles from anywhere but the beach is just a short walk through the trees from the outskirts of Montclus.

 

The Swimming

The river is clear and clean - thanks to its rocky bottom. It's also tree-lined, so there's plenty of shade. You'll find stony beaches all along the river here.

 

The Ceze at Montclus
"""""" Lake Salagou (North, South & Celles)

Location

Lake Salagou is Languedoc's best-known lake. It was created some years ago by flooding a river, and it's said that a village still lies at the bottom. Salagou has a Martian feel - its dark red earth and strange mix of cacti and succulents make it feel otherworldly. Yet very beautiful. We've chosen 3 places on the lake to swim - but you'll find many more if you hunt about in the car.

 

Click to view this location on Google Maps10: NORTH: There is a big camp site here (Get off the A75 at junction 54 and go south through 'Cartels' until you hit the lake at its northern-most point), and a sailing boat/pedalo/canoe concession, where you can rent boats. The water is warm and clear, and there's a big, stony beach too. But most people find their own, private little cove further down to the shore. The views are stunning. There is a good, if slightly pricey Auberge just 10 minutes walk away, and you can buy ice creams and snacks by the beach. Plenty of parking too.

 

Click to view this location on Google Maps11: SOUTH: The south side of Lake Salagou is not far from the town of Clermont-Herault (a busy, if not terribly glamorous market town) which is a good place to retire to after swimming for a meal or drink. There is quite a large sailing club at this point on the lake, so you can rent wind-surfers, small sail boats and 'pedalos'.

 

Click to view this location on Google Maps12: CELLES: Celles is, or was, a tiny village that was evacuated when Salagou was filled - only to find the water didn't quite flood the village. Still empty, it provides a wonderful backdrop for swimming at this part of the lake, with traditional stone houses rising up the hill from the lake. This is a popular place for swimming in the summer. Park just by the village, and then walk through the village itself and along the shore. If you walk far enough, you'll find your own cove. The further you go, the more nude it becomes.

 

The Swimming

Celles - on Lake SalagouLike anywhere on Lake Salagou, the water is clean but can look a little murky due to the red-rust nature of the local earth. You should also wear flip-flops or shoes, as the sand/pebbles underfoot can be quite sharp. There are plenty of trees and bushes all around the lake, so finding shade is quite easy. Salagou is also a great place to go for walks, ride mountain bikes, or even ride horses.

 

Lake Salagou
"" Frigoulet (Cèze)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsA popular family bathing beach at the junction of the D901 and the turn off for Frigoulet (near Saint-André-de-Roquepertuis). Very safe swimming and there's a nice little 'guingette' alongside where you can get a cheap but tasty meal.

 

The Swimming

Clear, clean water and plenty of shade. The local kids are often seen leaping off the bridge into the water but this is not recommended!

 

The Ceze at Frigoulet / St Sndre de Roquepertuis
"" Lake Taurize

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsYou reach this small lake by driving south from the small village of Taurize.

 

The Swimming

The water here is not particularly clear, but it is clean and can get very warm in summer.

 

Lake Taurize
"" Lake Cavayère (Carcassonne Plage)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsIt is in a very attractive spot to swim, designed and built by the local authority as an amenity area with walks, forests and a lake on which there is boating during school holidays, and two main beaches, one sandy and one stony

 

There are lifeguards on duty from a purpose-built station during school holidays, and there is ample car parking and the local police regularly visit, so the place is very safe.

 

The Swimming

The sandy beach is separated with ropes and buoys into shallow and deeper swimming areas.  The water is clean and clear.

 

Lake Cavayère (Carcassonne Plage)
"" Lake d'Arques

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsIt is a very pretty setting, with water lilies in abundance, surrounded by trees and lots of shade if required and an island in the middle. There are also bbq and picnic areas.

 

The Swimming

The lake is relatively shallow, so it warms up quickly in summer. The sides are gently sloping, so access to the water is easy. The water is clean and clear. Not the best place for small children, however, as the water's edge is quite muddy and stoney - and there aren't a lot of places to sit.

 

Lake Arques (Lac d'Arques)
"" Montpeyroux

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsReview to come.

 

Camargue Traditions
"" Pont du Gard (Gardon)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsThe Pont du Gard is probably the best preserved Roman aqueduct in the world. As such, it attracts huge numbers of tourists, especially in summer. Luckily, however, most don’t know that it’s also a great place to swim. With the towering stone arches of the bridge rising above you, it’s quite spectacular (although you’re not allowed to swim directly under the bridge itself due to currents). The beach is quite exposed, without many trees nearby, so bring an umbrella.

 

The Swimming

Just down from the bridge is a large, stony beach that’s quite popular in summer. You can rent canoes nearby. Just down from the ‘pont’, a large number of inflatable buoys have been anchored and attached to each other, creating an island of floating rubber in the middle of the river. It’s a great idea - and very popular with kids of all ages, who clamber all over them.

 

The Gardon river at the Pont du Gard
"" Bize-Minervois (Cesse)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsBize-Minervois is arguably the prettiest village in the renowned Minervois wine growing area. It is situated on the River Cesse where a natural swimming pool has been created within the bed of the river. The village has a few shops and restaurants - and a famous olive mill nearby, where you can buy delicious olive oils and other olive-related products.

 

The Swimming

There is a grassed area and a pebbled ‘beach’ with a life guard on duty between 1.30 pm and 7 pm every day during the summer months. The water is tested by the local authorities and is constantly being refreshed as the river flows downstream. During the summer months, there is a small crêperie, with seating, at the edge of the pool.

 

The river Cesse at Bize-Minervois
"" Lagrasse (Orbier)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsLagrasse is truly gorgeous little village that boasts a quite famous Abbaye. It's in the beautiful Corbières region of Languedoc.

 

The Swimming

The river flows through the centre of the village, and is dammed each summer, to create a wonderful swimming 'pool' over the summer months. There's a lifeguard on duty, equipped with a defibrillator, and notices from the Mairie to conform water purity and nitrate levels.

 

The Orbier at Lagrasse
"" Roquebrun (Orb)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsRoquebrun is officially one of the 'Most Beautiful Villages in France' - and we certainly think it deserves the accolade. A cluster of traditional stone houses rise up a hill above the River Orb, a bridge, weir and old water mill. It's a tiny village - with two restaurants (simple, good food and low prices) and one shop. Roquebrun is also very popular with canoers - and the whole family can rent canoes from here at reasonable prices.

 

The Swimming

The Orb offers clear, clean water (thanks to its stony bed) and at Roquebrun, becomes very shallow thanks to an old weir (shown in photo below). This creates a natural paddling pool - making the site perfect for toddlers. The beach is stony, as is the river bed - so you might want to wear flip flops or old shoes.

 

The river Orb at Roquebrun
"" Cessenon-sur-Orb (Orb)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsCessenon is just down the road from Roquebrun, and is a much larger village with a few restaurants and quite a few shops. The village is very pretty, and climbs a hill above the river here, with a large camp ground on the other bank that is quite busy in summer.

 

The Swimming

Again, the River Orb offers clear, clean water that is a delight to swim in. The bank nearest the village is usually about 6 feet deep (it doesn't look it, but it is!) with a relatively fast current, whereas the opposite bank offers much shallower, slower water. The beach is stony (but not sharp stones) and about 200m long. Not quite as nice a place to swim as say Roquebrun upstream, or Réals downstream.

 

The river Orb at Cessenon
"" Réals (Orb)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsRéals isn't’t a town or village - just a point at which there is a bridge over the River Orb. Upstream from the bridge, the river narrows and flows spectacularly over rapids. It’s here that professional kayakers come to really test their mettle. Just up from the rapids, however, the river is much calmer, passing by a large picnic/barbecue ground where anyone is free to claim and use one of the concrete public BBQs. It’s a nice spot to come for a picnic or to grill your streaks. Just down the road from here, just before the bridge, you’ll find the Auberge de Réals, a very popular restaurant that serves simple, well-cooked food at reasonable prices.

 

The Swimming

Downstream from the bridge, accessible by a short but steep, rocky path, the river opens up and becomes very gentle, flowing slowly past a small, pebbly beach that is very popular with families in the summer. The river is 10 or so feet at its deepest here - but by the beach itself it’s quite shallow. Up by the foot of the bridge itself, teenagers throw themselves off the rocks into the sparkling river below. Great fun.

 

The Orb river at Réals
"" Pont du Diable, St Guilhem-le-Désert (Hérault)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsAbout 5 minutes drive down from the gorgeous (and hugely popular) St Guilhem le Desert, you’ll find the Herault river runs under an old ‘Pont du Diable’ bridge, and on past a large ‘pool’ of sorts with beach on two sides. It’s extremely popular in summer, so get here early to make sure you get a spot under a tree. There aren’t any restaurants nearby - so bring a picnic. It’s a great place to cool off after a trip to St Guilhem or the impressive Grottes de Demoiselles (caves) just up the road. There is plenty of parking just off the road.

 

The Swimming

The river ‘pool’ here is pretty big, and the water is quite clear and very clean. You can even rent a canoe on the opposite bank. Further down from the main 2 beaches, the river carries on over shallow rapids - the perfect place for kids to paddle and play. The rocks give way to deeper water - as the river continues southwards - and here too you’ll find plenty of shady places to park your towels and dive into the river.

 

"" Ribaute (Orbier)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsJust up from Lagrasse on the river Orbier, Ribaute is a tiny village with a pretty stone bridge that crosses the river.

 

The Swimming

The water is clear, cool and clean, and there are plenty of rocks either side of the river to spread out your towel and catch those rays. There is also a small waterfall nearby - perfect for kids to play in.

 

The river Orbier at Ribaute
"" Cirque de Navacelles (Vis)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsWe think the Cirque de Navacelles is really fantastic. It's basically an 'island' carved in a canyon by the Vis river, which attracts many visitors in summer to view its unique shape from the tops of the canyon walls. But go down into the canyon itself, and you'll find a charming hamlet with a couple of simple but good restaurants, and the beautiful river Vis itself.

 

The Swimming

The Vis is incredibly clear, and the water can be very chilly, having just emerged from mountain caverns. The river falls over a spectacular waterfall here - and you'll find kids of all ages (us included!) jumping off the rocks into the foaming water beneath. With the towering sides of canyon all around you, it's pretty memorable.

The river Vis at Cirque de Navacelles
"" Lake Puivert

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsAnother small 'village' lake - just south of the small village of Puivert in the Aude. There's a large sandy beach - with a view of an old tower on the hill opposite. The village boasts a small cafe, should you want a meal, as well as a pretty little church.

 

The Swimming

You can guarantee cold water swimming even on the hottest summer's day. Very popular with locals when it's hot.

 

Lake Puivert
"" Gorges d'Héric (Orb)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsUp in the Black Mountains - about 45 minutes' drive from Beziers, the Gorges d'Heric winds its spectacular way up the mountain, a chain of hundreds of rock pools. In winter, the water roars down here in spectacular fashion (it's a wonderful 90 minute walk to the top - where you'll find hot chocolate at a tiny café). In summer, however, the waterfalls disappear to leave gorgeous rock pools that are perfect for swimming in. Remember that due to the steep incline of the surrounding gorge walls - the sun tends to disappear quickly in the afternoons, even in high summer. So get here early. There is a big car park at the bottom of the gorges (just beyond the village of Mons-la-Trivalle) and a snack shop that sells sweets, ice cream, sandwiches and drinks.

 

The Swimming

From mid-June, the water here is warm enough to swim in, and is always extremely clear and clean, having arrived fresh from the mountains above. With so many rock pools on offer, you're likely to find one of your very own if you walk far enough up the gorge. At which point you can claim it by spreading out your towels on the surrounding rocks, and plunging into the crystal-clear water. Some of the pools are as deep as 8 feet (2.5m), and always incredibly refreshing.

 

The Gorges d'Heric
"" Gorges de Colombières (Orb)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsNestled in the Montaignes Noir, the Gorges de Colombières is the little brother of the Gorges d'Héric - located just 10 minutes to the west. Like Héric, it's a mountain river that runs from rock pool to rock pool - making it a really magical place to swim in summer. With so many rock pools to choose from, you should be able to find your own, even in August. Take some food and towels to sit on.

 

The Swimming

The water is crystal clear and cool. The steepness of the gorge walls either side means it's best to get here mid-day.

 

The Gorges de Colombieres
"" 'Pool' at Maury

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsThis is a filled basin of sorts - created to offer a place to swim in July & August. The 'pool' is re-filled regularly to ensure the water is fresh. Around the 'pool', the village have built picnic areas with benches, and planted trees to create shade.

 

The Swimming

You can only swim here in July and August. There is a life guard. The water is cool and clean.

 

The 'pool' at Maury
"" Vallon-Pont-d'Arc (Ardèche)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsOK, so officially it's in Provence and not Languedoc, but let's not quibble. It's very close, and certainly one of the most stunningly beautiful places to swim in a river in the world. The arch is 60m wide, 45m high, and was carved by the Ardèche river. There's a car park nearby, and the village of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc has several restaurants.

 

The Swimming

The river is cool, clean and clear. There are quite a few canoers plying their way up and down the river. A large pebbly beach makes access to the river here very easy. Very popular in summer, as it's also a huge tourist site.

 

The Ardeche river at Pont d'Arc
"" Collias (Gardon)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsCollias is a very popular place for swimming on the Gardon river, just west of the Pont du Gard (see above).  A bridge crosses the river here, and the village is nearby, should you want a meal or a drink.

 

The Swimming

The water is clear and clean, with plenty of shallows to wade in. However - there are some strong currents, so the river here isn't really suitable for small children. But if you're coming without small children and everyone on your party is a decent swimmer, it's a great place to spend the day swimming and lazing about on the many rocks around the water's edge. You can also rent canoes from here.

 

The river Gardon at Collias
"" Saint-Laurent-le-Minier (Vis)

Location

Click to view this location on Google MapsThe village of Saint-Laurent-le-Minier is situated on the River Vis (like Cirque de Navacelles - see number 26) in a valley in the foothills of the Cevennes, which is a National Park.

 

The Swimming

The Vis is a swift running trout river which, having no towns upstream, and running underground for many miles, is one of the cleanest in France. The pools below its waterfalls are perfect for bathing. They are lined with shingle beaches with good access on many stretches of the river.

 

The river Vis at St-Laurent-le-Minier
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