For the sailing obsessed, a holiday on the water is ideal, but if you've never been before, there’s also no better way to introduce beginners to the sport than in warmer climes with expert tuition (see Get your family boating in 6 steps). Sailing is also an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family, from child to pensioner, couples, whole families or individual travelers. It's a social sport and a great way to explore a new country. Here are just a few ideas…
1. Beach base
Neilson specialises in sailing and skiing holidays and the company has a wide range of beach-based centres. One of the company’s unique offerings is a stay and sail package that consists of a week at a beach base, learning some of the basics, before a week long flotilla – offering both sailing holiday options in a fortnight’s holiday.
At Neilson’s beach bases, there’s plenty to occupy all the family apart from the excellent sailing tuition, with a range of activities from mountain biking to tennis, and kid’s clubs for pretty much all ages.
2. Dinghy sailing in Minorca
Minorca Sailing is a real mecca for dinghy sailors as it has such a great range of boats – larger than any other centre. Although it offers windsurfing as well (and even stand up paddleboards for windless days) this centre has made dinghy sailing its speciality and doesn’t pretend to offer anything else – although all the accommodation is well catered for when it comes to swimming pools, and you can hire bikes locally, the beach is virtually non-existent. But if you are serious about learning to sail or improving your sailing there’s not much that can beat it – particularly due to its format that includes plenty of built in flexibility. The day is split into four sessions. It all starts with a morning briefing before the first session where you can sign up to a course (all tuition is included) or group depending on your interest, age and ability, or of course you can freesail any boat of your choice. There’s a break for lunch, then in the afternoon you can either join in the racing, enjoy continued instruction or free-sail.
Then comes the unique part of Minorca’s structure – two hour-long one-on-one sessions where you can book a boat and an instructor or just free-sail to suit your needs. This means, for example, that you can have youngsters in teaching classes while, perhaps, you have a bash at learning to windsurf, then in the evening you can book to take one of your children or your partner out in a two-man boat, take a dream boat out with an instructor as helm or crew, or spend the time learning how to sail an extreme boat like the Musto Skiff with an instructor on a Rib to coach you… the possibilities are endless.
The staff at Minorca are excellent and well motivated – many of them use the experience to learn new boats and disciplines themselves and this is actively encouraged. Many return for multiple seasons and the result is excellent tuition.
3. Greek flotilla
The Greek islands offer a great destination for a family flotilla or bareboat holiday. Flotillas are a good way to dip your toe into charter sailing holidays - if you’re more experienced you can go your own way a bit more, or stick with the other boats to find your way and enjoy the company.
4. Bareboat in the British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands might have been designed for sailing, and they provide a safe arena for even less experienced sailors to explore. The Moorings specialises in luxury charter holidays and offers a range of charter boats – for a large family a multihull can be a great option offering a stable platform and plenty of accommodation.
5. Luxury in Antigua
Nonsuch Bay in Antigua offers five star luxury accommodation with all the fun of dinghy and small keelboat sailing in the beautiful warmth of the Caribbean. The sailing team is small but professional and there are kayaks as well as the dinghies and RS Elite keelboats for exploring the beautiful and safe waters of the bay. The accommodation is in self-catered apartments, but the on-site restaurant offers fabulous high quality food with delicious breakfasts, luxurious lunches and decadent dinners overlooking the bay.
6. Croatian cruising
Croatia’s ‘Dalmation coast’ is among the best cruising waters in the world. There are a wide range of companies offering holidays in the area – from regatta-based sailing weeks, to flotilla, bareboat or skippered bareboat options.
7. High winds and multihulls
Wildwind in Vassiliki offers a great high wind venue for dinghy sailing, with a regular breeze kicking in at lunchtime. Its real speciality is multihulls, which are ideally suited to the conditions. There’s a range of dinghies as well, and the lighter wind mornings are perfect for beginners, while you can go windsurfing next door if that’s your preferred sport of choice. As well as a strong coaching team, many of the instructors are musically inclined and once a week there’s a great evening of music put on by the instructors and any guests who have musical ability. There’s also the option to enjoy special weeks of yoga and other holistic, healthy living-based weeks if you’re a non-sailing partner or family member.
8. Whitsundays paradise
The Whitsundays in Australia is a sailing mecca, and Sunsail among other companies offers bareboat charters in the area. With white sands and plenty of islands to explore, for sailors it’s perhaps the ideal honeymoon destination.
9. Yachting in the Norfolk Broads
Don’t want to go abroad? The Norfolk Broads have been a popular holiday destination for decades, and offer safe waters for some delightful cruising – be it by sail or more often power through companies like Le Boat. The Broads have a very different character to the rest of the country’s canal network, although you can enjoy the same feeling of safety that come from being close to the land.
10. Canal crawling
Britain’s canal network offers a fabulous way to explore the country, without the stress of driving a car. Whether you prefer a traditional narrow boat or a modern craft, the boats are ideally suited to living aboard and navigating the canals and lock gates adds a special and fun dimension to the holiday for the whole family. Try Canal Holidays for ideas.