10 Incredible Destinations You Can Only Truly Experience By Sea
Hubbard Glacier, Alaska
The mouth of the mighty Hubbard Glacier extends for almost 14 kilometres across Alaska’s Yakutat Bay: the towering slabs it calves from its 100m ice cliffs are more than 400 years old and weigh thousands of tonnes. Yet there’s more to this spectacular Arctic landscape than the power of water: orcas, seals and humpback whales feed, while bald eagles soar through brilliant skies.
Fiordland, New Zealand
UNESCO-listed Fiordland boasts spectacular landscapes, rugged parks and pristine seas replete with marine life. Arriving by sea, it’s easy to see how successive glaciations have sculpted this dramatic coast, carving deep fjords and raising towering terraces. Dolphins play in the cool waters here, while the ferns that deck the dense forest have changed little since it was part of the Gondwana supercontinent 80 million years ago.
Arriving by sea into the curving embrace of the high caldera, it’s impossible to miss how the Minoan eruption shattered the ancient island of Thera – likely devastating the civilisations of Crete and creating the myth of the sunken city of Atlantis. At sunset, as white chapels and village houses glow in the dying light and lamps begin to sparkle, this classic Greek island is particularly magical.
Moorea, French Polynesia
There’s no better way to arrive in French Polynesia than the way the first settlers did more than a thousand years ago: by boat. Cruising through gin-clear waters between lush peaks and white sand beaches reveals the Polynesia that captured Marlon Brando’s heart more than 50 years ago. Tranquil Moorea, enfolded in a startling azure lagoon, decked in palm-thatched bungalows, truly is the South Pacific time forgot.
The Baltic Sea threads cooling tendrils deep into the heart of Stockholm and there’s no better way to appreciate one of Europe’s great port cities than by sailing into its harbour through the tiny, wooded islands of the Stockholm archipelago. As many as 30,000 islands, islets and outcrops throng the approach, some with simple summer houses that have changed little over the centuries: it’s even easy to imagine Viking craft heading home.
Cape Horn, Chile
Rounding the brutal headland of Cape Horn, on Hornos Island in Patagonia’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago, used to be a rite of passage for mariners – for centuries Cape Horn was famous as a graveyard for ships. While the windswept grey seas are safe for modern vessels today, the rugged landscapes and glaciers of the Patagonia wilderness maintain their magnificent majesty.
Kangaroo Island, Australia
With more than 500km of coastline and 1500 sq km of nature reserve, Australia’s third largest island delivers an unforgettable perspective by cruise that roads simply cannot match. Soaring cliffs tower over ice-white beaches; koalas hug eucalypts; sea lions snooze below the sand dunes while pelicans lift themselves, laborious, from the ocean, pushing against the wavecaps with both feet.
Svalbard Islands, Norway
In autumn and winter, the Northern Lights swirl and flicker above the myriad islands of Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that’s a dark, dramatic world of rock and ice. While it’s possible to arrive by plane, cruising gives you a sense of the sheer remoteness of the islands, where whales still spout in the dark waters and reindeer forage in the tundra.
The Panama Canal
Perhaps as many as 25,000 people died to create this engineering wonder, which carves through 77km of the American isthmus and links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. By ship, the journey takes around 10 hours, including slow and careful passage through a series of locks that raise the vessel 26m above the sea and down again. It’s the perfect preparation for the vivid transition between the Caribbean and Pacific seascapes.
Venice earned its fame and wealth as a seafaring state, and in medieval times its empire included Crete and Cyprus. There’s no better way to arrive in the city of canals than by sea, as church towers, bridges and crumbling palazzos emerge into the dawn light, soft stucco glows in the rising sun and only a few locals stroll the quiet streets.
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