While popular sailing destinations like the Med and the Caribbean provide incredible sailing experiences, it’s the more off-the-popular-map places where the real magic lies. If you are looking for something a little different for your next sailing holiday, these destinations offer a break from the usual routes. Which one will you add to your travel list?
Nestled in the North Atlantic, the Faroe Islands showcase dramatic landscapes of steep cliffs and deep fjords, and with its Viking heritage, the Faroe Islands has a rich maritime history and a bucket-list destination for sailors and land-lubbers alike. There is lots to do on the Faroe Islands. Explore Gjógv’s sea-filled gorge, hike to Gasadalur’s Múlafossur waterfall, and marvel at Drangarnir’s iconic sea stack. Take a boat trip to Vestmanna’s bird cliffs, discover Tórshavn’s historic charm, and savour traditional Faroese cuisine.
The waters of the North Atlantic can get quite hairy, so the best time for sailing is during the summer months from May to September when conditions tend to be a bit calmer. There are several scenic anchorages around the Faroe Islands, including Tórshavn and Klaksvík, blending modern amenities with rich maritime history. If you’d like some peace and quiet, head over to the peaceful anchorages of the remote fjords around Nólsoy and Hestur.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, explore the Faroe Islands’ rugged coastlines, circumnavigate Streymoy, or visit the puffins on Mykines for an incredible sailing experience.
Nestled off Norway’s northwest coast, the Lofoten Archipelago boasts majestic mountains and charming fishing villages like Reine, Henningsvær, and Nusfjord. Hike up Reinebringen, kayak the rugged coastline and experience the magic of the midnight sun in summer or the Northern Lights in winter. The Lofoten Archipelago is popular during both summer and winter months. In summer you can hike, climb and explore the mountains on foot while in winter popular ski and sail trips take you to remote bays and untouched slopes.
The Lofoten islands are home to many beautiful anchorages, including Reine, Henningsvær, and Svolvær. Enjoy tranquillity in Trollfjord’s bays, navigate iconic routes, explore Vestfjorden, or circumnavigate the main islands for a diverse Lofoten Archipelago sailing adventure.
Nestled in West Papua, Raja Ampat is an Indonesian archipelago surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and is a dream sailing destination. Known as the ‘Amazon of the Sea’, Raja Ampat is a dive and snorkelling paradise with some of the most diverse marine life like hawksbill turtles, wobbegong sharks and the mysterious stingless jellyfish that swim among beautiful coral reefs. Sail through the unique karst landscapes of Misool, then step ashore and hike through lush rainforests, see breathtaking waterfalls and if you’re lucky, spot rare animals like Red Birds of Paradise.
A good time to visit is during the dry season, between October and April when the weather is pleasant and the sea is calm and perfect to explore the archipelago’s many secluded bays and coves.
If you’re looking for somewhere really remote, then head to the tropical paradise of Tonga. This archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean is known for stunning coral reefs and warm waters. Snorkel among vibrant marine life, or relax on the pristine white sand beaches of the Vava’u Islands. Tonga has a rich cultural history with sites like the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, and many of the local people preserve the traditional simple way of life. The Polynesian people have been sailing for centuries and sailing around the islands is a treat, with popular scenic anchorages like the Port of Refuge in Neiafu.
While Tonga has mostly great sailing conditions all year round, the best time to visit is in the summer months from May to October, during the dry season, when conditions are ideal for sailing and outdoor activities. Enjoy secluded anchorages, turquoise lagoons, and vibrant coral reefs in the warm South Pacific waters, creating a delightful sailing experience.
Tasmania, or Tazzie, as the locals call it, is an Australian island state surrounded by the Southern Ocean, screams adventure, with wild rugged coastlines, dense forests, pristine beaches and breathtaking cliffs to explore, not to mention loads of culture. Sail along the Bay of Fires and its unique orange-hued rocks, see the breathtaking cliffs of Cape Raoul or take a trip to shore for a hike along the Three Capes Track for some amazing Tasman Sea views.
For a spot of history, sail into historic Port Arthur and catch a glimpse of Australia’s colonial past, and if you happen to be around between May and October, you can even spot a whale or two in the waters near Port Arthur. Other popular anchorages include Wineglass Bay, Launceston and of course, Hobart, the finishing point of the famous Sydney Hobart yacht race.
There are lots to do and see on and around the sea all year round, but late spring to early autumn, from October to April, offers ideal sailing conditions with milder temperatures and active wildlife. The Tasman Sea can get a bit wild and challenging during winter and is definitely not for novice sailors or the faint-at-heart.
Have you heard of the Kornati Islands? Neither have most travellers. The Kornati Islands, also known as the Stomorski Islands, is an archipelago just north of the popular islands of Hvar, Brač, or Korčula and draws locals and those in the know looking to escape the crowds to its secluded shores. The Kornati Islands are part of the Kornati National Park, which consists of around 140 islands known for their rugged landscapes, rocky shores, and crystal-clear waters. The national park offers visitors stunning scenery, secluded coves, and excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities.
The best time to head to the Kornatis is between May and September when warm temperatures, clear skies, and calm seas create ideal conditions for sailing and exploring the stunning landscapes of the archipelago.
Known as the “Jewel of the Mediterranean” due to their stunning natural beauty, volcanic landscapes, and charming villages, the Aeolian Islands off the northern coast of Sicily is a truly bucket list-worthy sailing destination that almost no one is talking about. Sail to Stromboli for mesmerising volcano eruptions, relax on the pristine beaches of Lipari and explore Vulcano’s Therasia archaeological site, or drop anchor in Filicudi for a secluded experience. Head over to the quaint village of Panarea with its crystal-clear waters, then trek to Salina for panoramic views for a spectacular island-hopping adventure.
The high season from June to September brings ideal sailing conditions in the Med with mild weather and calm seas, while May or October offers similar conditions, but with fewer crowds.
Sailing in Greenland is an adventure like no other. Contrary to what the name suggests, Greenland is an icy Arctic paradise. Navigate Disko Bay’s iceberg-filled waters and explore Ilulissat’s UNESCO-listed ice fjord. Put on your hiking boots and head to land for a hike along the Arctic Circle Trail for mesmerising landscapes, interesting Arctic wildlife, and visits to traditional Inuit villages. Ilulissat, Nuuk, and Tasiilaq serve as the main ports for anchoring, while sheltered fjords like Prins Christian Sund offer spectacular anchorages.
The best, and probably only (due to the impenetrable winter pack ice), time to sail around Greenland is from June to September when the ice melts and the midnight sun remains high in the sky, for some extended expeditions.
Explore the vibrant French overseas territory of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, known for its diverse cultural mix, rich history and spectacular natural beauty. Sail to Îles des Saintes to discover Fort Napoléon and dive in the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve. Enjoy Grande-Anse Beach with its golden sand and turquoise waters, then hike lush rainforests in Basse-Terre to the Soufrière volcano and Carbet Falls. While on land be sure to visit the vibrant markets of Pointe-à-Pitre, offering local crafts and cuisine.
The best time to sail in Guadeloupe is from December to May, avoiding the hurricane season and ensuring stable weather conditions. Besides the ports of Pointe-à-Pitre and Saint-François, Deshaies and the Pigeon Islands are well worth dropping anchor in due to their incredible natural beauty.
Scotland’s Orkney Islands definitely deserves its spot on our list of lesser-known sailing destinations. The Orkneys are home to scores of historical sites, rugged cliffs, and incredible wildlife. Make the crossing from Scotland over the Pentland Firth and Uncover mysteries at Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar, sail to Hoy for the Old Man of Hoy, and discover wartime history at the Italian Chapel.
May to September are the best times to visit the Orkney Islands with longer days to explore and calmer seas and tidal conditions around the Pentland Firth, which can get very challenging during winter.
From snorkelling in crystal clear tropical waters in Tonga to braving the icy Arctic Ocean around Greenland or river sailing in the Baltic, there’s a lesser-known sailing destination calling your name, waiting to be explored.