The Hainaut Lakes -- Among several lakes in Hainaut are the artificial lakes of the Barrages de l'Eau d'Heure, at Boussu-lez-Walcourt in the Botte de Hainaut (Hainaut's Boot) district, south of Charleroi (off N798). The Plate Taille is Belgium's largest lake, covering 350 hectares (865 acres), and the entire area has been developed as a watersports center, with designated zones for windsurfing, jet-skiing, scuba diving, sailing, and water-skiing. For information on the area's ecology, go to the visitor center, the Centre d'Accueil (tel. 071/50-92-92; www.lacsdeleaudheure.be), next to the Plate Taille Dam. It's open daily from 10am to 6pm (closes 7pm July-Aug). Admission is 6€ ($9.60) for adults, 4.50€ ($7.20) for seniors and children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under.

Farther south, near Chimay, are the Etangs de Virelles (Virelles Lakes), a protected nature reserve covering 100 hectares (247 acres) of natural lakes, wetlands, and forest. There are guided walking tours, and observation points for watching bird life. Aquascope, rue du Lac 42, Virelles-lez-Chimay (tel. 060/21-13-63; www.aquascope.be), the lakes' nature park, has an exhibit and audiovisual presentation at its visitor center. It's open mid-March to June and September to mid-November, Tuesday to Sunday (and Mon during school vacations) from 10am to 5pm; July to August, daily hours are from 10am to 7pm; and mid-November to mid-March, it's open weekends, holidays, and school vacations from 10am to 4pm (closed Jan 1 and Dec 24-25 and 31). Admission is 6€ ($9.60) for adults, 4€ ($6.40) visitors with disabilities, 3.50€ ($5.60) for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under; various activities in the reserve have additional charges.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.