There’s nothing more freeing than taking to the water. Venturing out into oceans, fjords and bays, with the sun beating high above you and crystal waves moving gently all around.
If that sounds appealing to you, then these six sailing destinations across Europe are bound to tempt you to take your next aquatic escape – and each boat-friendly locale is conveniently close to some of our loveliest properties, too…
Looking for the best sailing destinations in Southeast Europe? Croatia is sure to deliver. With amazing bays and ports up and down its stunning coast, its water-based excursions are hard to beat… wherever in the country you make your base.
In northern Croatia you’ll find Kvarner Gulf – a scintillating bay home to independent restaurants, bars and clubs that sit snugly against the coast – where you can sail among dolphins against a colourful horizon. Head down south, and you’ll be spoilt for choice for other prime sailing destinations. There’s the island Brač, where you’ll discover one of the country’s most famous beaches, Zlatni Rat – also known as the “Golden Horn”. The blue cave in Biševo is well worth your attention, too, while the Pakleni islands – a stunning archipelago full of tropical treasures – provide plenty of places for you to explore on the water.
Where to stay
If Kvarner Bay is where you want to be, check out Villa Astra. This renovated property, designed by an esteemed Venetian architect, is beautiful, boutique and bespoke: the ideal trio. Down south, one of our newest additions to Historic Hotels of Europe, Puteus Palace, offers a luxury five-star heritage hotel experience you’re bound to appreciate even more after fulfilling and thrilling – but tiring – days on the waves.
The city of Bergen is one of Norway’s leading cruise ports, and what’s more, sits close to a gorgeous fjord – giving you plenty of scope for sailing adventures. With handy resources and boating companies based around the city to help you start sailing, it’s easy for you to get to the water – and encouraged, too, as it’s known for being one of the best ways to sightsee. In particular, Bergen’s popular sailboat cruises combine the beauty of the fjords with Nordic history: complete with a captain that shares stories about Bergen’s unique past while you float by, and admire, the city’s shores. A special experience for all sailing aficionados.
Where to stay
Hotel Park is just a short walk away from Bergen’s various waters, along with a handy boat equipment shop where you can stock up on whatever you need for embarking to your sailing destinations. The building itself, which dates back to the 1890s, has a lovely, historic feel too – decorated with tasteful rare antiques and traditionally-furnished rooms that sets it apart from the other hotels in the area.
Ireland has long-been revered for its glittering coastlines and sandy bays… but when you’re throwing sailing into the mix, there are a few spots that really stand out. Kenmare Bay – a gorgeous blue expanse of water surrounded by lush wildlife – has many “water adventures” on offer via companies such as Star Outdoors, including cruise ships, kayaking, canoeing, pedal boating and sailing. Elsewhere, the glacial fjord – Carlingford Lough – promises sailing adventures aplenty in the midst of the more untapped Irish countryside, while in Donegal, Lough Swilly is a must-visit… particularly as it sits on the Wild Atlantic Way. Between its famously varied coastline and array of blissful beaches, there are more than enough sailing destinations here to whet the watery appetites of every type of sailor.
Where to stay
Right on the bank of beautiful Kenmare Bay is Park Hotel Kenmare, which won our Best Spa Award in 2013. Relax and rejuvenate after an intense day on the water, or sit back with a glass of wine and admire the incredible views that encircle the hotel. Elsewhere – if you’re heading to Carlingford Lough – Ghan House is a fantastic choice. Only five minutes away from the lough and a short drive away from other incredible sights, such as Trim Castle and The Giant’s Causeway, this eighteenth-century Georgian house is a brilliant, central location to many of Ireland’s best spots. Finally, the four-star hotel Rathmullan House – for those venturing to Lough Swilly and the Wild Atlantic Way – offers 32 beautifully-upkept rooms, an award-winning restaurant and spa: wonderful amenities that’ll encourage you to mix up your days on the water with luxurious days at the property. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
When it comes to seafaring holidays, Greece has everything. Between its various exotic islands and fantastic places to explore out on the waves, sailors are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing their sailing destinations.
One of the obvious places to consider is Rhodes. A famously beloved Greek island, this tourist hotspot is also a fantastic place to kickstart any number of water-based adventures. Right in the heart of the Dodecanese, and close to fascinating locations including the volcanic island of Nisyros, the fishing villages of Tilos and much more, you could spend weeks on the water here and still not manage to see it all.
Historic Crete also has similar sailing fruits on offer, and from here, you can enjoy a variety of boat tours from Heraklion, Chania, Elounda and more: giving you plenty of flexibility for where you’d like your aquatic adventures to lead.
Alternatively – for a less touristy trip – you might want to consider the Deep Mani area of the country, which boasts hidden coves and glistening, private bays that have managed to remain something of a secret to holidaymakers. Enjoying breathtaking sailing excursions to the Diros caves – which look like something from another world – or explore the even more remote parts of the rocky peninsula by going further south, where traditional villages and quiet, secluded beaches await…
Where to stay
Situated on a charming cobblestone street in the medieval heart of Rhodes, you’ll find Allegory Boutique Hotel. Equal parts inviting and noble, its guests enjoy a range of contemporary amenities in a cultural setting that simply oozes history: a favourite combination of ours.
Elsewhere, in Crete, the lovely Avli Lounge Apartments definitely deserve your attention. This cluster of Venetian houses contains seven luxurious, bespoke suites that are bound to give you some interior design inspiration, along with fantastic touches throughout the hotel such as Cretan art, fountains and a sprawling wine cellar.
Finally – for your secretive excursions in Mani – Kyrimai is the place to go. With its warm and traditional furnishings and delicious on-site restaurant, as well as a string of accolades to its name – including The Best Historic Hotel of Europe by the Water award – you know you’re guaranteed an incredible stay when you book.
Poland might not immediately spring to mind when you think of sailing destinations across Europe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering… quite the opposite. Though the country is more known for its culture-filled cities and fascinating history, its countryside also bears many fruits: particularly the West Pomeranian Sailing Route. This watery trail encompasses a network of harbours and marines between Szczecin and the West Pomeranian Baltic coast, with an impressive twenty locations on the way – allowing you to dive into the country’s more rural side from many sapphire shores. What’s more, you can try out many different water activities on this route, from windsurfing to kite-flying and kayaking.
Where to stay
A fairytale forest deserves a fairytale palace to match – and that’s exactly what you’ll find in the exquisite Manowce Palace. Flanked by woods and close to one of the West Pomeranian Sailing Route’s many starting points, this one-of-a-kind hotel will help you enjoy the Polish countryside in an unmatched fashion. It’s a great choice if you’re travelling in a group, too – available for full hire, this hotel can cater to weddings, meetings and events of nearly every ilk. Time to plan that next big trip…
This list simply wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the UK’s only coastal National Park. Pembrokeshire Coast is a wonderful location with some magnificent sailing destinations to match. Navigate the tranquil waters of St. Bride’s Bay and admire the whimsical Welsh wildlife, or – if you’d like to brush up on your boating skills first – head to one of the many sailing schools up and down the shore, where you can become an even more adept sailor. Alternatively, there are also plenty of ports which offer pre-planned boat trips, so you can sit back and relax as a skilled navigator transports you around the bay. One thing’s for sure – whether you’re pioneering or a passenger – you’re bound to love sailing on these azure waters.
Where to stay
Two words: Roch Castle. Built in 1195, this uniquely-situated, five-star historic property sits on top of a hill offering panoramic views of the Pembrokeshire countryside. Complete with traditional rooms, an incredible heritage and world class service, we wouldn’t blame you for booking a second stay before your first trip here has even ended (and third, and fourth…).