Friday, 26 October 2012 7:13 AM
Hiring a canal boat to explore a whole new region is a great way to spend a few days or weeks away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. It's never too early to start planning your breaks for the next year or so – take a look at our guide for great destinations and things to do on boating holidays in 2013.
Get away from it all in the UK
There's no need to fly overseas to enjoy a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. The Norfolk Broads is an immensely popular place to go on a boating getaway, thanks to its serene atmosphere, beautiful scenery, historic villages and towns, and diverse wildlife.
The area is home to a series of shallow rivers and lakes that are connected to each other, offering some fantastic routes to follow on a canal boat. There are no locks to tackle here, so this should be a good destination if you're new to boating or simply don't want to spend time dealing with lock after lock on your journey.
Just a few of the things you can do in the Norfolk Broads include sampling real ale at the Norfolk Brewery, exploring the Lowestoft Maritime Museum, enjoying a stick of rock by the sea in Great Yarmouth and wandering around Norwich and its impressive cathedral – so there really is a holiday for everyone!
Enjoy a romantic short break
Boating holidays aren't only for families and groups of friends – they're just as suitable for couples, too. Hiring a boat can offer all the privacy you need while also providing the freedom to stop wherever you want for a long walk, romantic meal or cultural excursion.
Many of the best destinations for boating breaks for two are on the continent. Canal-strewn Bruges in Belgium is perfect for a loved-up holiday in a historic location thanks to its medieval architecture, winding cobbled lanes and excellent restaurants.
Some of the highlights of a romantic getaway to Bruges include visiting one of its dozens of chocolate shops – along with the chocolate museum! – as well as wandering around the picturesque Burg square and admiring the architecture of St Saviour's Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady.
If you have a passion for sports and adventure in general, there are lots of ways to indulge it on a boating holiday. One destination especially ideal for an active break is Sneek in the Netherlands, where you can get stuck into a range of pursuits, including cycling.
However, it's the city's enthusiasm for all things water sports-related that should grab your attention. The annual Sneekweek is the biggest inland water sports event in Europe, while the final of a sailing contest known as the Skutsjesilen Championships is also held here.
As you drift along Sneek's beautiful canals, keep your eyes peeled for the 17th-century Watergate. This is a stunning piece of architecture that many holidaymakers like to use as the backdrop for some of their photos and should not be missed.
Entertain the kids
Boating holidays are a brilliant way to keep the kids occupied. Young ones can't help but be fascinated by the workings of the canal boat itself, while the variety of activities you'll participate in each day will mean boredom is unlikely to set in.
The Camargue in France is perfect for a family boating break. You can expect to enjoy hours and hours of sunshine between April and October, as well as spotless beaches, tons of wildlife (including flamingos!) and activities such as swimming, cycling and horse riding.
Destinations of note in the Camargue include the relaxed fishing town of Marseillan, the fortified medieval town of Aigues Mortes and Gallician, where lots of birds populate the reed bed landscape. Agde is also a must-visit if you have young children – the Aqualand water park is located nearby.
Enjoy fine food and wine
When it comes to sumptuous food and drink, Italy has to be the place to go. Venice is one especially popular boating destination for obvious reasons (its canals!) and is also a fantastic location in which to sample some traditional Italian cuisine.
Look out for restaurants serving up risotto del doge, which is rumoured to have been infamous womaniser Giacomo Casanova's favourite meal. This creamy dish is made with oysters, garlic, white wine and parsley, and is a true Venetian speciality.
Other highlights of a boating break in Venice include taking the opportunity to visit the beaches dotted along the Adriatic coast, as well as the islands in the Northern Lagoon. There are also plenty of palaces, museums and churches to see in the historic centre of the city if you're something of a culture vulture.