There are few things more relaxing than spending time on the water.

Annabelle Thorpe, editor at 101 Holidays dips her toe in the water and tells us where to go.

Whether you’re drifting along a canal in a traditional narrowboat or zipping between Greek islands on a luxury yacht, there’s a unique sense of having stepped – quite literally – away from the everyday. Put aside all thoughts of mega-ships and mass-market cruising – being on the water should be about freedom, independence and seeing the world from a different perspective. Whether you want to be the captain of your own ship, or lie back and let someone else do all the hard work, there’s a holiday to suit.

Sailing Holidays

If you love the idea of a sailing holiday but can’t actually, well, sail, then a week or two in the capable hands of Sail Dalmatia could be the answer.

Their collection of 90 vessels includes traditional gulets, luxury yachts and catamarans, all of which come with a skipper and cook as minimum – the ideal way to explore some of the 1,244 islands that dot the Croatian coastline. If you want to be more hands on, join a flotilla holiday in the Greek islands. Sailing as part of a flotilla allows the freedom of crewing your own boat with the reassurance of being part of a group, with experienced crew on a nearby boat if help is needed.

River Crusing

Of course, holidays on the water don’t have to mean setting out on the ocean waves; inland waterways – rivers and canals – provide a wonderfully slow-paced way to explore. Probably the first place people think of in the UK for a river holiday is the Norfolk Broads; this network of 150 miles of waterways still has plenty of tranquil corners to discover (and some great waterside pubs). Further afield, much of Europe is latticed with small rivers. A self-crewed river boat holiday is a lovely way to spend quality time together; exploring the landscapes around France, Germany, Portugal or Holland.

For some pampering, join or charter a luxury hotel barge and drift through rural France, Belgium or the Netherlands with gourmet dining and fine wines included.

Cultural Trips

Much of Europe’s history is tied in with its coast and waterways, and a holiday afloat can be a great way to really get under the skin of a country. Join a cultural cruise to Greece or Turkey, where days are spent exploring ancient sites and historic places of interest, with evenings spent on board, enjoying local food and waking up each morning somewhere new.

For a truly unforgettable voyage of discovery, head to Egypt and join a cruise down the Nile. Cruises travel from Luxor to Aswan, with plenty of time to explore the country’s unique ancient sites, including the Valley of the Kings.

Adventures Afloat

If you’re looking for something more challenging than simply drifting around for a few days, joining an expedition ship to Antarctica offers a water-based journey like no other.

Ships can be surprisingly comfortable, and only 100 people are allowed on land excursions into Antarctica at one time, meaning the power of the incredible natural landscapes is never overwhelmed. Or head to the other end of the planet with a cruise through the extraordinary landscape of Alaska’s Inside Passage; in the summer months, smaller ships are able to gain access to magically unspoilt fjords and glaciers.

Closer to home, the islands and mountains of Scotland’s West Coast are ideal for a sailing adventure; share or charter a small crewed boat – ideal for discovering the stunning beaches and wildlife at your own pace.

Cruising with a Difference

If you like the idea of cruising, but aren’t quite sure it’s for you, a ‘Taster Cruise’ is a great first option – usually between three to five days at sea, sailing from a UK port. Or choose a working ship; Hurtigruten’s fleet is part cruise ships, part ferries and car transporters for local people. There’s no evening entertainment, or multiple choice of dining rooms, but it is an authentic and comfortable way to see Norway’s breath-taking fjords.

For something completely different, choose a ‘Tall Ship’; four and five-masted boats that feel more like a private yacht than a cruise ship, and come with onboard swimming pools, library and ensuite cabins – the ultimate way to sail in style.

August 2019