Bay of Islands, New Zealand

There is nothing quite like sitting on the bow of ship with the wind blowing through your hair and the sound of the surf crashing against the hull. 

Clear waters, warm winds and the thrill of adventure at sea: 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.

Check out the best destinations for those looking for the ultimate sailing trip:

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands have long been a popular adventure travel destination, offering exceptional opportunities to view wildlife that simply can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. Visitors can spot giant tortoises, sea lions, blue footed boobies, and the archipelago’s famous aquatic iguanas. Snorkeling and diving in the Galapagos are favorite pastimes, as are kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, making this a great destination for those who like to stay active on their vacations. 

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Scattered like emeralds on aquamarine velvet, the Whitsunday Islands are one of Australia‘s loveliest destinations, an unmatched playground for boaters, divers, campers, fishers and resort-loungers. Sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef, these warm, rarely ruffled waters are particularly perfect for sailing, as exploited by the 100-plus yachts that gather here each August for Airlie Beach Race Week. Traditional home of the Ngaro people, these 74 islands also shelter some of the oldest archaeological sites on Australia’s east coast. Five of them have resorts, but most are uninhabited, and several offer back-to-nature beach camping and bushwalking.

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Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is acknowledged as the finest beach in the Whitsundays (some say the world), while mainland hub Airlie Beach, the major gateway to the islands, offers a wealth of tours and activities, plenty of eating and sleeping choices, and a hard-partying backpacker scene.

Greek Islands

Greek Islands

The Greek islands ignite the imagination and satisfy the soul with a history laced in mythical tales and told through ancient, sun-bleached ruins. 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 accommodating, making this sailing destination one that will stay with you long after you’ve returned home. Island hopping is also a culinary adventure and a tour of regional cuisine.

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are territories of Her Majesty’s land, but aside from scattered offerings of fish and chips, there’s little that’s overtly British. Most travelers come to hoist a jib and dawdle among the 50-plus isles. With steady trade winds, calm currents, protected bays and pirate-ship bars, this is one of the world’s sailing hot spots.

The islands have a quirky edge, and despite all the fancy boats and celebrity visitors, they remain relatively undeveloped.

Lycian Coast, Turkey

Lycian Coast, Turkey

For a sailing adventure that combines time both on sea and on land, travel to Turkey and take on the Lycian Coast.

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Rugged cliffs of pine forests plunge into the turquoise sea, between them are small bays of sand and shingle accessible only by boat. In ancient times the Lycians, mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, settled here and the ruins of their cities and majestic rock tombs can easily be seen. The arrival of the coastal road, though, has led to the opening up of once-isolated fishing villages, while resorts are still on a small scale, they are becoming more developed. However, the cobbled narrow backstreets, the memorable call to prayer from the mosques and the friendly locals combine to make for a relaxing holiday and an adventure.

Croatia, Adriatic Coast

Croatia, Adriatic Coast

This Adriatic gem features historic towns, picturesque harbors and smart marinas, isolated anchorages and deserted islands in one neat package in the northern Mediterranean.

Stretching from Pula down to medieval Dubrovnik, Croatia‘s coastline offers a wealth of sailing opportunities with reliable afternoon winds and more than 1,100 islands to explore.

The remote Kornati National Park is an unspoiled oasis; the Dalmatian coast south of Split contains the islands of Brac, Hvar, Vis and Korcula, the birthplace of explorer Marco Polo. There’s everything from quiet coves and gentle towns to buzzy cosmopolitan Hvar and Dubrovnik-light Korcula.

Beyond the forested island of Mljet lies the jewel in Croatia’s crown: Romantic Dubrovnik, a UNESCO heritage site, with its charming Old Town. It’s also must visit for sailing fans of “Game of Thrones,” much of which was filmed here.

Aeolian Islands, Italy

Aeolian Islands

Clustered in the blue-green Mediterranean Sea, just an hour’s boat ride north of Sicily, the Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie) are one of Europe’s most visually stunning and historically intriguing archipelagos. 

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Jutting out of emerald seas, each has its own personality, from the active cone and black sands of Stromboli and the hot springs of Vulcano, to vibrant Lipari and chic Panarea, to verdant Salina and car-free Alicudi. Lastly, Filicudi was nicknamed “Bone Island” because of the pirates who died there after long sieges.

From historic Tropea on the Italian mainland, sailors can access the beautiful beaches and swimming spots, quiet anchorages and sleepy waterfront towns in which to savor authentic Sicilian cooking.

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

The Bay of Islands is a subtropical micro-region known for its stunning beauty & history. For those that love beaches and water activities, it’s paradise.

Lingering shots of its turquoise waters and 150 undeveloped islands feature heavily in the country’s tourist promotions. Most of the action here is out on the water, whether that be yachting, big-game fishing, kayaking, diving or cruising around in the company of whales and dolphins.

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