What better way to explore scenic coastal towns and soak up that blissful island getaway atmosphere than by boat? Whether you’re keen to admire colourful wildlife on a snorkelling trip or prefer to stay on deck in the sunshine, prosecco in hand, holidaying by boat opens up a world of opportunities not always afforded to us when we travel overground.
From historic cities to sun-soaked archipelagos, there are plenty of places to go in search of your perfect break on the water. The added joy of a boating holiday is that you can hop from location to location the most laid-back way possible, luxuriating in your very own yacht or motorboat. No matter if you’re preparing to have your own vessel serviced and ready for summer or will be hiring on arrival at your first stop, these stunning destinations are ideal for exploration.
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Croatia’s Dalmatian coast boasts more than 1,000 islands in varying shapes and sizes, ranging from the untouched and remote to bustling stop-offs that house gourmet restaurants, stylish cocktail bars and ample shopping opportunities.
Hvar is one of the best known Croatian islands, home to the Gothic palaces of Hvar Town and great sightseeing spots like the Franciscan Monastery and Cathedral of St Stephen. The views from Hvar’s ancient Fortica are almost unparalleled, and moorage fees to jump ashore here come as low as €5 per metre of your boat’s length.
On the northern coast of Hvar you’ll find Stari Grad, where the harbour makes an ideal location for early morning paddle boarding, and from here there are smooth sailing conditions to the incredible Blue Lagoon on the island of Krknjaši. Driving from Hvar to Krknjaši can be long and arduous, but sailing past other Dalmatian islands on gentle waters is a pleasure.
Krknjaši is almost deserted, and it may be for that reason that the lagoon’s azure waters feel such a world away from the hustle and bustle of nearby island towns. Ideal for swimming, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, spending some time in this serene spot means you might just experience the most spellbinding sunrise you’ve seen yet.
The Whitsunday Islands, Australia
If listening out for the sound of dugongs swimming around your hull and whales singing sounds like a pretty good way to fall asleep, sailing the Whitsundays may be the choice for you. More than 150 protected anchorages are here to enjoy, sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef.
You won’t find any busy roads and lanes crowded with shops here – the only way to access the Whitsundays is by water, and if you’re a fan of holidays afloat this region is unmissable. Diving the Great Barrier Reef is on many a bucket list, with more than 1,500 species of fish to spot and bright corals as far as the eye can see. From your own yacht, slipping under the waves couldn’t be easier.
If you aren’t a confident sailor but want to set sail to these tranquil waters all the same, then don’t worry. A number of companies now offer the option of hiring a skipper along with your boat, so you can spend your time perfecting your holiday photography while someone else keeps your boat on course. And if you want to really indulge, there are also plenty of fully crewed options available – meaning large groups can put their feet up with extra help from hostesses, chefs and deckhands.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Some of the finest cuisine in Europe, delectable wines and mile after mile of gorgeous coastal views – just a few reasons why the Amalfi coast is such a popular holiday spot. Sail here and you can wake up in a new location every day, avoiding the narrow, winding roads that lace the hillsides and instead enjoying the freedom and space of open waters.
What better way to get those truly postcard-perfect views than from the deck of your boat, sailing along the coastline? While the vistas you’ll enjoy on land are certainly a spectacle, cruising from Capri to Positano offers panoramas on another level. Villas stacked atop each other wiggle their way along the hillsides, with brightly coloured architecture and lush greenery as far as the eye can see.
By boat, you can explore the caves and coves of this UNESCO World Heritage Site at whim, with ample opportunity to swim in the emerald ocean waters or simply soak up the sun along the route. Jump ashore to sample truly authentic Limoncello liqueur, or an easy-going glass of the local Ravello Bianco wine.
Lau Islands, Fiji
The Fijian islands each have their own unique culture and identity, with untouched island groups like the Lau islands and busier, developed areas like Ovalau. Without a boat of your own it can be a struggle to explore easily and in full, but for those who love to sail there are few destinations more suited to a visit.
Taveuni, known as the Garden Island of Fiji, is home to waterfalls, lush rainforests and a range of rare exotic birds. After mooring here, far from the beaten track, you can easily sail past the volcanic peaks of Kadavu, or opt for a shorter sailing past Rabi Island to the calm and colourful Natewa Bay.
White sands, sapphire seas and either quiet solitude or vibrant bars and dining spots – the choice is yours. There are more than 300 islands to wind your way around, with coral reefs and clear lagoons making for ideal snorkelling and scuba diving conditions. Fiji is often referred to as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ thanks to the hundreds of varieties of corals and sea sponges you can see here, not to mention more than 1000 species of tropical fish.
This part of the world provides unparalleled marine biodiversity, and a boating holiday is the perfect way to get up close with giant Manta Rays and even docile Hammerhead sharks. Year-round diving weather and great visibility make these islands as much a dream for budding wildlife photographers as they are for water sports enthusiasts, and a truly unmissable getaway.