Cycling along the Canal du Midi part 1: Sète to Béziers

Cycling along the Canal du Midi - Sète to Béziers

The best way to get to know the famous Canal du Midi is from the water. Or next to the water! You can cycle along the canal all the way from te to Toulouse. In total, the Canal du Midi measures 240 kilometres, and I decided to take the family and try it for ourselves. We completed the trail in four parts, but of course, you can cut it up according to your pace. This is the first part, from Sète to Béziers in 50 kilometres.


When going on a cycling trip, it all is about preparation. The family and I had cycled from Béziers to Sète before, but we were less prepared that time. As we live in the South of France, we have our own bikes. However, the kid’s ones were in storage, so we needed to hire three bikes for the day. You can do so at Paulette Bike in Béziers, close to the train station. The cool thing about this is that you can return them in Sète, so you don’t have to take them back with you on the train.

The second time, it was just the twins and me. To avoid having the stress of catching the train back home, we went from Sète to Béziers. Therefore, I had already bought an online train ticket the day before, which you can easily do at SNCF Connect. I also checked the bikes, bought a smartphone holder (very handy for the route!), filled up our water bottles (bring plenty, especially during the hot months), and packed up lunch and energy food. After applying a generous layer of sunscreen, we were good to go!


Lido du Thau

The most important thing I didn’t plan on beforehand was the actual route. I tried to, but I couldn’t find a proper guide- print or online. However, when cycling from Béziers to Sète, it was pretty clear, as we followed the Canal du Midi all the way to Marseillan. From there, we followed the signs to Sète to take the train back to Béziers. The second time, I typed in Béziers in Google Maps, and it almost went smoothly. Here again, the start wasn’t too complicated. You simply have to go to the long beach strip called the Lido du Thau, separating the Étang de Thau from the Mediterranean Sea.

Once you’re on this strip of land, you just go straight ahead and follow the road for about 16 kilometres. The twins and I were slightly afraid of this part, as it was pretty hard the first time. But we had nothing to fear as the weather was sunny, the wind was at our backs, and we flew over the road. The twins had a go on the little pump track (opposite beach restaurant La Parenthèse, a great stop for food, by the way). And we had a splash in the sea after reaching the end of the strip.

Cycling along the Canal du Midi - Sète to Béziers


Up until here, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. But then I had to find the Canal du Midi… Coming from Marseillan Plage, I took a right instead of a left just before the Canal du Midi ends in the Étang de Thau. Middlest remembered the way and disagreed with me, and I should have listened to him. Instead, we made a little detour before arriving back on track along the Canal du Midi just before Agde. And from then on, we followed the cycling signs to Béziers without getting lost. Even the part where the Hérault River divides the Canal du Midi and we shortly had to follow the river, we kept on track by following the signs to Béziers.



Right after passing Agde, we crossed the Écluse Ronde de Agde. Since 1676, this atypical round lock connects Agde with the Canal du Midi and has three doors instead of two. By this time, we were about halfway, and this part was easier to peddle route-wise. You just follow the canal, sometimes changing sides, but it makes sense where you have to cross a bridge. We could see that we came close to Vias by the little self-drive boats on the canal. You can rent these blue and white ‘bateau sans permis’ without a license at Vias Évasion.

Cycling along the Canal du Midi - Sète to Béziers

Ouvrages du Libron

To get to Portiragnes, the next village after Vias, the twins and I had to cross another clever technical tour de force: the ‘Ouvrages du Libron’. This structure, built at the spot where the Canal du Midi crosses the Libron River, enables navigation on the canal during heavy rainfall. Too much water turns the Libron into an impressive river, and the Ouvrages du Libron ensures the excess water is directed to the sea. The system still works, although these days, it can be activated electronically instead of manually, as it was in the old days.

After passing these ingenious works and going around the little harbour of Port Cassafières, we reached Villeneuve-lès-Béziers. If you would like to have a special lunch or dinner, I’d suggest making a reservation at restaurant L’Écluse just after Villeneuve-lès-Béziers. The kids and I had a sandwich instead, and given our sweaty state, it was better not to enter a fancy restaurant. Finally, after finishing the last kilometres along the canal, we arrived in Béziers. And at the famous Neuf Écluses, we ended the first part of our cycle adventure. Without stops, it should take about three hours. But it took us double the time because of getting lost, taking a detour, having a swim and lunch break, and enjoying the scenery.

Cycling along the Canal du Midi - Sète to Béziers
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