There's so much to do here, including historic monuments and nature reserves, the town of Agde is really worth a visit! The Canal du Midi crosses right through the town from one side to the other, making Agde a key stopover town that has been shaped by the canal's activities.
The town of Agde was not part of the canal project at first. Originally, it was planned that the canal would end in Bages lagoon near Narbonne.
However, the project took another turn in 1664. A team of experts studied the possibility of the Canal du Midi continuing as far as Thau lagoon. This new project therefore led to the creation of a new port in Sète, because Port La Nouvelle would not be able to accommodate the traffic. This meant that the town of Agde would be included in the final route of the Canal Royal du Languedoc (former name of the Canal du Midi).
Close to the round lock is Hôtel Riquet. This building was built in 1751 and designed to represent the canal's seigneury status, an oriental copy of the Château du Canal du Midi at Port Saint-Etienne in Toulouse. This is one of the high-quality buildings found alongside the Canal du Midi.
A chapel was built in 1772 close to Hôtel Riquet. This meant travellers could go to mass in the morning before the Barque de Poste departed for the onward journey.
This unique masterpiece is a fantastic technical and architectural achievement. The round lock means that boats can come and go in three directions:
- along the canal itself towards Béziers.
- to the town of Agde and the maritime port via a 'canalet' (branch) along the lower Hérault river
- to the town of Sète and Thau lagoon via a short section on the upper Hérault river.
The round lock is listed as a Historic Monument. Today it is more of an oval shape after modifications were made in the 1980s, but the lock kept its original name.
The word 'canalet' comes from Occitan dialect. This 'small canal' provides a link between the Hérault river and the Canal du Midi.
In 1759, plans to improve the canal were put forward by Charles Ribard (head of the Agde division) including an impressive monumental entrance to the Canal Royal from the historic town of Agde.
This project was never completed, but at the entrance to the broad view of the canal formed by the 'canalet' in Agde, there are still two pedestals that were designed to bear allegorical statues of the ocean and the sea. These statues were never made.
From 1712, the port of Agde became a key stopover. Riquet's son had docks, a wood shop and a harbourmaster's office built there.
Today, the town of Agde would like to develop this port and benefit from the booming river tourism industry. Therefore, the town's port is undergoing significant renovation work, and planning work for the ZAC de la Méditerranée between the maritime port and the train station is also being considered.
Near the 'canalet', the magnificent Château Laurens dating from the 1900s and wonderfully restored, adds to this remarkable site.
The Canal du Midi crosses the town of Agde from west to east. There is a great number of iconic engineering structures along the canal.
As you follow the course of the canal, you can admire the Pont Saint-Joseph, the port of Agde and easily recognisable lock thanks to its original shape! You can also admire the Pont de Prades, the Pont de Saint-Bauzély, Bagnas lock and spillway, and further along, Les Onglous bridge and jetty into the Thau lagoon. There's so much to see!
There are some great walks and bike rides along the banks of the Canal du Midi in Agde. Either on foot or by bike, explore the charming routes around Agde, from the banks of the Hérault to Grau d’Agde.
Here and everywhere else along the route, a boat trip is the best way to explore the Canal du Midi. There is a wide range of boat trips on the Canal du Midi departing from Agde and then towards the Mediterranean. Just let the waters carry you along!