We did some research on exploring the gorge with little people in tow (always, always a factor to consider!) and had some serious, heart palpitation inducing flashbacks to driving the Cabot Trail in Canada last year where our kids yelled at us the entire time and we immediately said no to driving the famous road (which would have taken most of the day). But the thing about life and the life we are trying to lead is that no should not be the default response, so we decided to do a little more research and chatted to the tourist office person who spoke wonderful English and we came up with a (keep Sadie from becoming possessed in the car) plan. Spoiler alert: it involved ice cream and lollies- but ! (And I’m just realising this now as I’m typing) no iPad! Or any other car entertainment (other than me of course, ha!).
We’re early risers so we were out of the airbnb, equipped with fresh baguettes still warm from the boulangerie in our commune, a bag full of fresh, delicious snacks and an over exuberant, ‘I think I can, I think I can’ optimism by 8am.
En route, we stopped by Les Salles-sur-Verdon. An interesting place, the newest village in France because in the 70s the entire town was destroyed to allow the construction of the Lac St Croix. CRAZY! Our tourist office lady told us that the new town is not very nice and the locals were still resentful and bitter about this (when we stopped for a loo break and to grab some tomatoes from the market, we felt that maybe, just maybe this could be true- SORRY Les Salles-sur-Verdon!!)
On to the Gorges, we headed straight for the pont du Galetas where we knew we would be able to rent a boat. Already, at 9.30 there were a few kayaks and paddle boats out on the gorge as we crossed over the bridge and took in the spectacular views.
The colors of the lake are a magnificent emerald. It seems a little surreal; its color is so saturated and the rocky cliffs of the gorge make for an astounding and dramatic backdrop.
We rented boats from Etoille right over the bridge at the gorge. There is a sign on the side of the road just beyond the bridge, you can’t miss them as you can see the boats as you drive. We decided on an electrical boat for two hours which set us back a cool 80 Euro (and included life jackets for the girls). You can rent 4-6 person paddle boats for 20 Euro an hour but it is tough to make it to the end of the gorge and back in this time and we were palpably aware that all of the things with kids take longer (especially with crazed three year old drivers who think they own the water way (and the sole right to drive!).
The electrical boats weren’t ready until 10.30 so we took a walk back to the bridge (there’s a little path that was kind of rocky but many were pushing prams and strollers easily) and we took in the spectacular view.
By the time we got back to the boat rental place, there was a solid line and we were glad we had arrived early and didn’t have to wait. We packed our baguettes and cooler bag to make a picnic along the way, even though you’re not supposed to stop along the gorge. Or swim, or jump according to the signs but Europeans don’t follow rules and we’re here for an immersive experience!!
We genuinely didn’t have time to think about lunch on our 2 hour cruise though, we were so happy taking in the landscape of the gorge, swimming (the water is FREEZING!) and watching the young and uninhibited climb the precarious and rocky face of the gorge and dive into the water… Sadie wanted to have a go. We did not let her.
Afterwards we picnicked right by where we had rented the boat and then took a drive around towards the beautiful village of Moustiers Sainte Marie, which gave us some insight into the views we would have had on the half day drive. We would have loved to stop in Moustiers Saint Marie- it looked delightful but there were no parks, the girls were napping happily in the back and ain’t nobody want to mess with that/poke the bear(s).
We’re really glad we got there early and snagged the first fleet of electric boats, it meant not having to kill time, wait in a huge line or grapple with the huge afternoon crowds.
We had the most wonderful day and highly recommend this as a family adventure.
Check out our video below!