Four of the best boating holidays

From a gentle rafting trip in Oregon to a canoeing and meditation retreat in Devon. Chris Carter reports.

Exploring Dalmatia by yacht

The Kornati archipelago, off Croatia’s northern Dalmatian coast, is a “strange bleached world of scattered islets and reefs… considered Europe’s last wilderness”, says Timothy O’Grady in Condé Nast Traveller. “I set out to glide around them on the Satori, a 136ft schooner that can be chartered for a few days or longer.” 

The 147 islands are pale beige, “covered sparingly with low-lying shrubs, wild herbs and pines”. You “slalom among them through tranquil lagoons and narrow channels”. Some of the more notable among the islets include Levrnaka, with its sandy beach and fine seafood, and Mana, for its dramatic cliff-top ruins created for a 1959 film. “The sea shimmered, the islands were dark discs in the glare. You can almost persuade yourself that no one has ever set foot here before.” 

From around £89,400 a week for up to ten, satoriyacht.com.

“Surely there’s no better way to explore the Croatian coast than on a tour that mixes bike rides and boating,” says Sean Newsom in The Times. Further down the coast of Dalmatia, you can flit between the islands of Hvar, Vis, Korcula, Brac and Solta on a 40-metre motorcruiser complete with cabins, restaurant and bathing platform. Then, each time you moor in a harbour town, you’ll be off exploring by bike. Whether you choose to rely solely on pedal power or opt for an e-bike (not a bad idea in hot weather), “you can expect a week of ever-changing landscapes and mesmerising sea views”. 

Seven nights’ half-board from £1,294 per person, freedomtreks.co.uk.

Floating and boating on the John Day

Whitewater rafting

© Alamy

The wind whips up a wall of mist that’s furiously spinning toward our fleet, says Tim Neville in the Financial Times. “I’m on the oars of a 14ft-long expedition-style runner raft with a metal frame designed to carry the weight of three passengers and hundreds of pounds of food and equipment. Within seconds the maelstrom engulfs us and the boat feels no mightier than a pool toy.” But that is the price of admission on this stretch of the River John Day, which winds its way through the western US state of Oregon. 

In general, however, the river is a forgiving place for a new oarsman and makes for a “proper place for a ‘float and boat’ rafting trip, with the focus on relaxation and watching the landscape mosey by”. 

Three-day rafting trips on the John Day from $695, oregonrafting.com.

Meditative paddling on the River Dart

Canoeing

Canoeing © 

“The setting sun is bathing the River Dart [in Devon] in gold and pink as our small flotilla of canoes journeys upstream,” says Rachel Dixon in The Guardian. This first morning of a canoeing and mindfulness retreat, organised by the charitable Sharpham Trust, involves a paddle up the river to Totnes in stable two-person Canadian canoes. That is followed on the second day with a down-river paddle towards Dartmouth, “stopping to ‘forest bathe’ in a wood, and to swim in a calm, shallow spot”. 

The canoeing is a form of meditation in itself, but most of the “still meditation” takes place in the Capability Brown-designed gardens of the Sharpham estate, with its 18th-century Palladian villa. 

Three-night canoeing retreats from £395, sharphamtrust.org.

A canal cruise in the sky

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct © 

Summer was made for messing about on the water, says Jane Knight in The Mail on Sunday. So why not hire a narrow boat and “float across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in north Wales”, dubbed the “Stream in the Sky”, with its 18 metal and masonry arches? The 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal were given Unesco World Heritage status for being a “pioneering masterpiece of engineering” by early 19th-century engineer Thomas Telford. 

Three nights costs from around £1,399, drifters.co.uk.

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