Perfect sailing destinations for beginners

Perfect sailing destinations for beginners

Have you obtained your skipper's licence and wondering where to start clocking up your first nautical miles? The most popular places to gain sailing experience are well within reach.

After completing the skipper course, passing the exams and practical skills, you hold in your hand a certificate of competence to become a boat captain. That's a huge step. Now all you have to do is choose a suitable destination, pick a boat and enjoy a sailing trip with your family, friends or even as part of a company team-building event. As much as offshore sailing can be an adrenaline-packed sport, beginners should always go for destinations with milder weather conditions. So, check out our advice on where you should set sail on your first voyage.

Calm waters, light winds and favourable sailing conditions

If you're a newly-qualified captain, you'll definitely want to start getting experience and racking up your nautical miles in milder conditions. This will give you the opportunity to get in some leisurely practice in boat handling, anchoring and mooring, as well as how to predict the weather, gauge the effect of currents, wind changes in specific destinations and other sailing skills.

Yachting and sailing in the Mediterranean have unique characteristics. Depending on the time of year and day, and in relation to the surrounding terrain or open sea conditions, you'll encounter almost every scenario that a skipper and their crew can face on a boat.  However, if you have only had your skipper's licence for a short time, it is worth venturing into locations that are inherently favourable to novice sailors. This is the perfect way to gain the experience you need to become an experienced seafarer in the future, unfazed by the treacherous Croatian Bora, the temperamental Mediterranean Jugo (Sirocco) or sailing at night.

Happy family on a sailboat - Father, mother and daughter taking a selfie photo

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What are the best destinations for your first independent sailing trips?

The most popular destinations in the Mediterranean for learning to sail and your first steps as a new captain are:

Panoramic view of the beautiful island of Lefkada. Greece

View of the island of Lefkada, Greece

This is just a brief rundown of the most popular destinations for beginners, where for most of the year (especially in peak summer season) you'll be welcomed by calm waters, light winds and close proximity to marinas with all the essential facilities. However, these are also places where you may encounter stormier weather better suited to experienced sailors if the Bora, Mistral, Meltemi (in Greece or Turkey) or other winds start to pick up. For beginners, however, this is a great opportunity to practise weather forecasting and brush up on the basics of sailing meteorology. Let's take a closer look at these destinations.

The 5 top sailing destinations for beginners

1. The magic of the Balearic Islands

The coastal waters of the Balearic Islands, i.e. Mallorca, Menorca or Ibiza, are the perfect destination for beginner sailors. In the peak summer season, the weather here is beautiful and the sea and wind are favourable. In our article, The Balearic Islands: discover Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza from the deck of a boat, you'll find all the info you need to know before sailing — from sailing infrastructure and weather to tips on the must-see spots on each island.

View of the streets of the fishing village of Binibeca Vell, Menorca, Spain.

View of the streets of the fishing village of Binibeca Vell, Menorca

From the deck of a yacht, you can explore pristine beaches, swim in the turquoise waters and spend the evening in one of the picturesque towns. And if you're craving dry land, you can discover the beauty of the local nature and culture in the national parks or the local sights, gastronomy and folklore. There's a very good reason that the Balearic Islands are one of the 7 best destinations for a romantic getaway.

2. Boating holidays in Croatia

Croatia has long been one of the most preferred sailing destinations for beginners and experienced sailors alike. It's up to you and your experience level whether you choose to sail along the Croatian coastline with its bustling marinas located in towns steeped in history, anchor off the pristine and deserted beaches of one of Croatia's many islands, or take a longer crossing to test your captaincy skills.

View of the town of Korcula, island of Korcula, Dalmatia, Croatia

View of the town of Korčula on the island of the same name

There are a veritable wealth of interesting places to choose from in Croatia, and it's up to you whether you want to enjoy a leisurely yachting holiday, explore the local history, architecture, culture and gastronomy, or battle the elements of the sea. There's really something for everyone. Try out one of our 3 itineraries in our guide — Where to sail in Croatia: find the best sailing route for you.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Wondering what kind of weather conditions you might encounter in the Mediterranean? Check out our rundown of the most common winds in the Adriatic

3. Sail to the rhythm of vibrant Italy

Italy's coastal waters offer everything a sailor could wish for on a boating holiday — a spectacular coastline, numerous islands, wind conditions for both beginners and advanced sailors, delicious cuisine and the rich history of one of Europe's most ancient cultures. An idyllic atmosphere, reminiscent in some ways to more exotic destinations, can be found in Tuscany and around the island of Elba.

View of the Bay of Naples from Posillipo Hill with Vesuvius far in the background.

View of the Bay of Naples from Posillipo Hill with Vesuvius volcano in the background

If you'd like to get to know the true and vibrant Italy, set course further south, either to the stunning Bay of Naples (see Sailing in Italy: explore the Bay of Naples with all your senses for ideas and a recommended route), the Sorrento Peninsula and the magical town of Amalfi. As well as great sailing, you'll enjoy the local culture, sights, nature and, above all, the perfect pizza and other gems of Italian gastronomy. Italy and its coastline are a sailor's paradise. Be sure to also take a look at the 15 most beautiful places to sail in Italy.

Moderately advanced skippers can try sailing along the southern coast of Sardinia.

4. Leisurely sailing in Greece

Sailing off the coast of Greece can be summed up simply — clear seas, steady winds and beautiful surroundings rich in history. Although yachting in Greece generally tends to be for more experienced sailors, there are plenty of calmer waters where beginners can sail without issue. If you have a brand new skipper's licence in your pocket and would like to head to Greece, there are three main areas to choose from where you won't be caught off guard by the dreaded Meltemi winds. These are the previously-mentioned islands in the Ionian Sea, particularly around Lefkada and Zakynthos in the south, or sailing between Corfu and the mainland in northwest Greece.

Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion at sunset, Greece

Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion

If you want to combine relaxing and enjoyable sailing with sightseeing in Greece, head to the Saronic Gulf near Athens — here you can admire the south-eastern coastline with ancient monuments, such as the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, the ancient theatre in Epidaurus harbour or the city of Corinth. You can also visit the islands of Hydra or Spetses...

YACHTING.COM TIP: Are you thinking of a sailing holiday in Greece, but don't know exactly where to go? Check out our tips — Smooth sailing in Greece: 3 easy routes to choose from. For a bit of added inspiration, take a look at — Top 7 sailing destinations in Greece in 2023.

5. Oriental yachting in Turkey

If you love history, architecture and art or just enjoy exploring historic buildings, Turkey is amazing. Located on the border of Europe and Asia, this country offers an eclectic blend of Eastern and Western influences. Monuments here date back to the Roman Empire as well as the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

In the most popular stretch between Bodrum and Antalya, there are short distances between ports and plenty of quiet bays for swimming. There are no strong winds, sudden temperature changes or treacherous sea currents. The starting point for the Turkish Riviera area is the town of Gocek in the Gulf of Fethiye, where you will find several excellent marinas. The whole area is known for its pleasant Mediterranean climate, mountainous landscape and amazing ancient monuments. The coastline is lined with many small bays and coves with rocky edges that invite you to explore. In addition, the sea in the Turkish Riviera is warmer than the sea in Greece or Croatia. In the summer, you can often bathe in temperatures as high as 29° Celsius.  Weather, sailing infrastructure and customs, the range of boats on offer, the possibility of crossing to Greece, and tips on places not to miss - all this can be found in the article Sailing in Turkey from A to Z: A detailed guide before setting sail.

Hadrian's Gate is a famous monument in the old town of Kaleici in the popular resort of Antalya, Turkey.

In the most popular stretch between Bodrum and Antalya, there are short distances between marinas and plenty of quiet bays for swimming. Plus, there are no strong winds, sudden temperature changes or treacherous ocean currents. The launch point for the Turkish Riviera is the town of Gocek in the Gulf of Fethiye, where you'll discover several excellent marinas and the whole region is known for its pleasant Mediterranean climate, mountainous landscape and magnificent ancient monuments. You'll find the coastline is lined with a multitude of small bays and coves with rocky edges that invite exploration.

In comparison to the waters around Greece or Croatia, the sea in the Turkish Riviera is warm — in summer, you can often bathe in temperatures as high as 29° Celsius. Everything you need to know about weather conditions, sailing infrastructure and practices, the range of boats on offer, the possibilities of crossing over to Greece, and tips on unmissable places can be found in our comprehensive guide to yachting in Turkey.

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FAQs: Tips on sailing destinations for beginners