The Gironde estuary in western France is the largest in France and one of the largest in western Europe and is formed by the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers near the Bay of Biscay. Its widest point, near the mouth, is about 6 miles. It is divided by small islands and mud banks into an eastern and a western channel. At the mouth of the estuary stands a famous lighthouse, the Phare de Cordouan, built in 1585 and enlarged in the 18th century. Ports on the estuary include Blaye with its magnificent citadel, Pauillac for the famous vineyards and Bordeaux, up the Garonne.
75km long, the Gironde flows through around 40 ports located in the ancient marshlands, where the main industries are sailing and fishing. Within the Gironde, there are several islands dotted between the Bec d'Ambès and the Pointe de Grave at the seaward end of the estuary. One of the largest, and covered in 14 hectares of vines, is Margaux. The main modes of transport for crossing the estuary are the "gabare" or barge, a traditional boat which makes the transport of goods possible and the "filadière", a fishing boat with sails which owes its name to its shuttle-like shape. In addition, cruise liners some 280 metres long can also be seen in the "Port of the Moon", the largest port in Bordeaux.
People began travelling on the Gironde as far back as the Bronze Age, with the trading of tin coming from Cornwall and the trading of copper shipped from Spain. This trade allowed the emergence and foundation of the town of Burdigala, which would eventually become the city of Bordeaux, the current administrative centre of the Aquitaine region.
In the 9th century, the Vikings crossed the coveted waters of the estuary and pillaged the merchant ships. However, the maritime traffic increased again when the Kings of England took to the throne in the 12th century. In 1152, King Henry II Plantagenet married Eleanor of Aquitaine and received the Bordeaux lands as a dowry. The estuary became the route for the king of England and the wine trade took off.
There are no cruises currently listed for this port of call.