It may be a popular sport and a form of transport. But for many, sailing is also one of the greatest joys of travel and a wonderful way to see the world if you're on a gap year. But if you fancy exploring the lakes and seas of the world by boat, where should you go?
After all, some seventy percent of our planet’s surface is water. There are countless options for places to sail, many of them completely fantastic - it's hard to know where to begin!
Luckily I'm here to help. This week I’ve narrowed it down to six of the world's most remarkable sailing destinations, ranging from the Mediterranean Sea to the Southwest Pacific Ocean. No matter whether you’re an expert on the waters, or you’ve never set sail in your life, there’ll be something for you on this list of top sailing destinations.
The Bahamas boasts some of the best cruising to be found anywhere in the world and is home to many islands, all of which are fantastic for a sailing trip. You can enjoy azure seas and secluded villages whilst exploring the popular destination of Abaco Island in the north. Or venture south to the Exumas, where you’ll find a variety of anchorages along the 130mile chain.
Around now (it's March at the time of writing) is a particularly good time to visit, too. It’s still busy enough to ensure you’ll meet plenty of people in a buzzing atmoshere, but it’s not so busy that you’ll be sharing your anchorage with hundreds of other boats. Solitary sailors might prefer to wait until summer, when you’ll practically have the place to yourself. Definitely start by taking a look at bahamas.com for deals and offers for boaters in the country.
Perhaps the most popular cruising area in the Mediterranean, Croatia is home to pristine beaches and a seemingly endless coastline which is perfect to explore by boat. There are a whopping 1,185 islands here, the most popular being the rather posh Hvar where you’ll find plenty of well-to-do yachties. Others include Kornati, Elafiti and Vis, which are more remote and tend to have fewer visitors.
Upon arriving in Croatia, you’ll no doubt want to spend a bit of time wandering round its charming towns and cities. Split and Dubrovnik are two of the most popular, both rich in history with plenty to offer those who are perhaps less familiar with the sea. If you're interested, then Sail Croatia’s 'what cruise is right for you' quiz is an excellent place to begin.
You can kill two birds with one stone here: sail around a volcanic archipelago and swat up on Darwin’s theory of evolution at the same time. For a real once-in-lifetime experience, fly in and embark on a weeklong small ship expedition which will enable you to get up close and personal with the spectacular wildlife. The Galapagos Islands are also fantastic for hiking, kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving.
Exploring this part of the world on your own is not easy, mind you. Getting around independently is tricky and, due to travel restrictions and its remote location, it’s also rather expensive. Which is why I’d recommend taking part in an organised program, like our 10-week gap year program in Ecuador, which includes a two-week stint in San Cristobal - the Galapagos’ easternmost island.
Sailing through Zanzibar in Tanzania is like being transported through the centuries. You'll pass ancient kingdoms, whitewashed Arab houses and the old Stone Town - one of Africa’s most evocative locations - in a traditional dhow. These ancient Arabic sailing boats are comfortable as well as beautiful, making them the perfect vessel for exploring the area and sampling local Tanzanian cuisine.
And with wafts of clove and frangipani in the air, turquoise waters and 27°C temperatures, a sailing trip in this part of the world is sure not to disappoint. Book an excursion with Original Dhow Safaris, who offer cruises aboard a locally-built dhow that was named after Freddy Mercury, one of the island’s most famous exports.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are a sailing fantasyland, with over forty islands, with hundreds of anchorages, consistent winds, and an array of protected bays. It's also a great destination for novice sailors, as it’s one of the easiest places in the world to sail.
Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada are the major isles of the archipelago, with Tortola being the best-located and most well-equipped, and therefore the perfect start point for a sailing adventure. Sunsail are one of the main sailing tour operators in the area, and their post called 'New to Sailing?' is a useful resource to find out what options are available to you here.
With 15,000 kilometres of stunning coastline, New Zealand has pretty much everything any sailor could want. Regardless of your level of experience, sailing is an amazing way to see this country, which is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes (they didn't film Lord of the Rings here for nothing). It also has one of the highest per-capita rates of boat ownership in the world - hardly surprising given its near-perfect waters.
The Bay of Islands has to be one of the country’s most worthwhile attractions, filled with clear waters and dozens of coves. The best part? Despite the fact it’s such a popular sailing destination, these islands remain undeveloped, as all the townships are on the mainland. Have a look at the Bay of Islands Travel Guide for a list of sailing charters here.
Where Will You Visit?
There you have it, plenty to think about if you fancy some sailing as part of your gap year travel plans.
Have I missed out your favourite sailing destination? Let me know by posting in the comments box below.
on 24 / 03 / 2015