Sailing just might be the original form of adventure travel, sending intrepid explorers off to the far corners of the globe with little more than the wind at their back and the open ocean in front of them. Today, sailing the ocean isn’t quite so dangerous, although it does remain quite adventurous. There is nothing quite like sitting on the bow of a ship with the wind blowing through your hair and the sound of the surf crashing against the hull.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of great places for adventurous travelers to experience this feeling for themselves. To help them do that, we’ve selected the best sailing destinations in the world for those who would never consider a cruise but are still looking for a waterborne adventure of a lifetime.
San Juan Islands, Washington
Skip from island to island in the San Juan Archipelago off the coast of Washington State. Classic wooden vessels offer breathtaking views of unspoiled wilderness and gourmet meals that reflect the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. During the day, you can explore the protected waters surrounding the islands on guided sailing tours.
The Greek Isles
The Mediterranean is filled with great opportunities for sailors, but few options compare with island hopping off the coast of Greece. Places like Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros make for the perfect escape for those seeking a dash of culture and history to go along with their adventure. Sea kayaking is a great way to explore these islands, and day-excursions to wander the villages and landscapes are a must-do as well. As you would expect, the food is exquisite and the locals are welcoming, making this sailing destination one that will stay with you long after you’ve gone back home.
Catalina Island, California
Start your sailing adventure in Los Angeles and make your way to Catalina Island for the day. From the bays to the harbors to the wide-open sea, there are plenty of different types of terrains for sailors of all experience levels. Depending on where you begin – from the harbor of Los Angeles to Huntington Harbor to Dana Point – the trip can take anywhere between five to eight hours each way. But since California sailing is feasible year-round, you’ll have all the time in the world.
The Adriatic Coast, Croatia
In a country filled with opportunities for adventure, Croatia’s Adriatic Coast just might be the most breathtakingly beautiful destination of them all. With more than 1100 miles of coastline, not to mention an equal number of islands to explore, Croatia has seemingly endless miles of beaches and crystal clear waters to snorkel and dive. And when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the vibrant Croatian cities, try sailing into some of the remote fishing villages that can be found in the numerous hidden lagoons that line the shore.
Hudson River Valley, NY
From New York City, through the mountains, all the way to upstate Troy, the Hudson River is a favorite sailing spot for many. The sights range from the upper west side of the city to the rocky Palisades and historical battle sights, all among the unpredictable waters. It’s a great family trip, with charming stops along the way that are sure to make memories for all members. Sailing season begins in late April and lasts through October.
The Bay of Islands, New Zealand
New Zealand has long had a rich sailing culture, which in part is due to its amazing coastlines which offer epic scenery and plenty of places to explore. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Bay of Islands, a place that has launched countless sailing adventures. The Bay is the perfect spot to go sea kayaking or fishing, but it is especially well known for its diverse wildlife. While there, you’ll have the opportunity to spot penguins, whales, and dolphins. You can even go ashore on one of the 144 islands to hike in a place that is virtually untouched by man.
The British Virgin Islands
The Caribbean has long been a mecca for sailors looking to navigate between its numerous islands, each with its own culture, history, and attractions. But the British Virgin Islands just might offer the best sailing in the entire region, giving visitors a chance to combine luxury and adventure into one epic excursion. Some of the very best beaches in the entire Caribbean can be found in the BVI, many of which are in hidden coves strung out across the various islands. These secluded spaces are a great place to drop anchor, providing great opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, or just lounging in the sand. And when you’re ready to go ashore, you’ll find beautiful resorts, delectable restaurants, and some surprisingly great hiking trails to wander too.
Key West, FL
If you’ve never learned to sail (and have no interest in doing so), a tour upon a giant schooner might be up your alley. Book a sailing tour throughout Key West for an excursion through water, wildlife, and sunsets – or be your own captain and sail the Keys without a guide. Whether you’re looking to rent a boat or you’d rather pay for the full experience, Key West is filled with year-round sailing opportunities for all levels of adventurers.