There’s nothing quite like getting out to sea and sailing the mighty waters and if you’ve ever experienced it, there’s a good chance you’re hooked. For some, sailing around the world is a dream but for others, a blithe reality. Whether it’s your first time sailing or you’re an accomplished ocean master, the spray of the sea and the feel of the salty wind in your hair never gets old. Moorings and anchorages are easy to find alongside dynamic coastal destinations, from classic sailing points such as the British Virgin Islands to exotic stops like Zanzibar.
7. Galápagos Islands | Ecuador
Sailing in the Galapagos Islands is like cruising through one of the world’s most magical places filled with so many different species it’s literally a wild kingdom. Sailing around the volcanic peninsula, the name Galapagos conjures images of some of the world’s most important wildlife but it’s also a lesser known yet equally thrilling sailing destination. A live-aboard boat is one of the best ways to experience sailing throughout the area–take a week-long cruise aboard a yacht (but don’t worry, there’s usually a motor just incase the wind’s not sufficient). The days can be wiled away diving or snorkeling or just relaxing offshore or head to land and cavort–while treading carefully ofcourse–among the vast numbers of giant tortoises, playful sea lions, emerald iguanas, and bounty of bird species in this ecological Eden. Get there on any of the daily flights leaving Quito, Ecuador’s capital, via Guayaquil.
6. Bay of Islands | New Zealand
Over the last decade, there have been an abundance of cruising boats around the Bay Islands in Honduras–spectacular scenery and world-class worthy diving and snorkeling are easy guesses for why this small island region has been named one of the largest per-population estimated rates of boat ownership around the globe. From 25km to 50 km off the northern mainland coast, Honduras’s three main islands–Guanaja, Roatan, and Utila–are home to barrier reefs that are the world’s second largest, churning with fish, sea turtles, sponges, whale sharks, coral, and rays. Dozens of coves make for an interesting nautical adventure, where clear waters beckon into the cool, refreshing turquoise depths. Most of the other islands, numbering around 150, are free of the advancing development found on the three favourites, making it a choice area for exploring. Anchor offshore and spend weeks discovering some of nature’s finest, uninhabited islands.
5. French Riviera
The glitz, the glamour…the sailing! Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Monaco, Nice–this revered coastline is brimming with myths and legends and scandals of the rich and famous. This is where ultra-luxurious yachts host some of the most enduring, hedonistic lifestyles in the world but not to fret, there’s still room for the average sailor swapping the sometimes-pretentious coast for offshore pursuits. You don’t need a monumental yacht–you can hire a classic sail boat and crew for a trip around the Cote D’Azur–or if you’re a greenhorn, take an independent journey around the calm waters. One of the best places to avoid the crowds is to sail to Port Cros and I_le de Porquerolle, a beautiful, pristine paradise several nautical miles from the Cote-D’Azur’s stratospheric indulgences. These unspoilt islands are the best place to be unseen, showcasing the pretty, rocky inlets, rugged shorelines, and some of the riviera’s finest stretches of sand.
4. British Virgin Islands
The name British Virgin Islands swiftly brings to mind nature’s most unsullied landscapes and one of the best-known destinations for getting your sails wet, whether as an experienced captain or complete novice. Stretched out in front, like in a sailor’s most vivid dream, is the Sir Frances Drake Channel, the main focus of the nautical crowd. The trade winds are so beautifully consistent, the sun shines almost every day, cerulean water is all about, and most surrounding islands are so close they’re navigated by eye alone. The total navigating area in the British Virgin Islands is a broad 51 x 24 kilometers, a perfect amount of space for an easygoing journey. With hundreds of anchorages across more than 40 islands, this is one easy place to sail. With hundreds upon hundreds of protected bays ideal for mooring for a day–or days on end–and such tame currents there’s virtually never a cause for concern, the BVIs are seafarer’s Shangri-la.
Croatia has headed in one direction only when it comes to the travel world, and that is up-way up. Called the “new Tuscany,” and reminiscent of both the Riviera and the Greek Islands, Croatia has gained substantial attention from the sailing world. The in-crowd is here, taking full advantage of the incredible conditions and lower costs of sailing in the Adriatic. Less trend-setting and more timeless, Croatia’s 1777km coastline and no less than 1184 islands practically begs to be discovered and there’s really no better way to achieve that then by sailing. It puts you in the perfect position for all the best places. Dubrovnik, Kornati, Split, Zadar, Skradin, and countless other coastal cities keep sailors tied up for weeks, even months. Traditional fishing villages, clandestine coves, and remote islands like Elafiti make the decision between land and water difficult but the clear choice is both. Gateway cities like famed and stunning Dubrovnik are history-filled, landmark dotted travel havens–be sure to set your feet on dry land, even if just for a while.
2. Nile River | Egypt
One of the most relaxing and euphoric experiences in Egypt is sailing up the Nile River on a traditional Felucca boat, a wood vessel used in calmer waters of the Nile and rigged with one, and sometimes two, canvas lateen sails. Crewed by two or three people and taking up to ten passengers, a Felucca is still a great way to slow-travel outside of the popular and most frequented ferries and motorboats. Feluccas are more than just budget-friendly, but that’s one of the great things about them. You can hardly believe how inexpensive a journey up the Nile can be–a fraction of the cost of sailing on a dahabiyya, extravagant houseboats that have become the Nile’s version of a Rolls Royce. Following a millennia of transportation over one of the world’s oldest trade routes, a sailing journey will take you deep into nautical history and tradition. Start in Aswan and take the well-sailed route to Edfu, stopping at landmarks and smaller islands en route.
Arty, edgy, and historically rich, Zanzibar is a proper archipelago off Tanzania’s east coast in the Indian Ocean. It’s a destination ideal for stepping off Tanzania’s beaten path–in fact, get right off any path and onto the waters surrounding Zanzibar and the area’s wild, raw backdrop will take your breath away. It’s not hard to feel as if you’ve slipped back a century or two, as the flat-topped, low-rise buildings in Stone Town’s (a World Heritage accredited town) come into view off the ocean, laid out along the coast while the Muslim call to prayer reproduces itself endlessly across the water. Old town, with it’s twisting, narrow streets and fabulously adorned doors evoke memories of a Persia lost, ancient kingdom, sultans, and caliphs. If you’re not up for manning a boat yourself, hire a dhow, an ancient traditional Arabic vessel, to whisk you off into the distance where snorkeling and diving are first-rate and the beaches are stunning.