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10 alternatives to popular destinations for adventures away from the crowds

Seeking adventure, exploration and the opportunity to visit somewhere off the beaten track in 2024? Want to avoid stifling southern European heatwaves, crowded beaches and the fight to take a selfie from the optimal spot?

With so many fantastic destinations accessible via British waters, ferry operators are proving that you don’t need to go too far afield and you can explore new holiday destinations where you can still enjoy your favourite activities. By avoiding popular destinations, additional air travel costs for luggage, transfers and extras, you can get a lot more for your money and even save on your next trip.

10 alternatives to the UK’s favourite holidays

If you like Center Parcs, you’ll love Sunparks

Credit: Plopsa parks

With two sites in Belgium, a trip to Sunparks holiday villages will give you a new experience and save some pounds. Facilities include a spa and wellness centre, an indoor kids’ playground, family-friendly cycle routes and tropical swimming zone, Aquafun. Continue the family fun at theme park Plopsaland de Panne, which has rides for little ones and big kids. Tickets start from €18 for children between 85cm and 99cm and from €48.50 for adults – discounts are available when booking online.

Sail to Belgium via the Channel or through the Netherlands with DFDS, Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries or Stena Line.

If you like island hopping in Greece, you’ll love discovering the Channel Islands

Credit: Visit Jersey

Swap the high temperatures and expense of visiting Greece to explore the five islands of Guernsey. Travel between each island is easy, each location has a unique personality and, with the most hours of sunshine in the British Isles, the climate is pleasant, perfect for a fantastic island-hopping adventure.

Sail to Guernsey, the biggest island in the Bailiwick, with Condor Ferries to start your trip with fantastic fresh food and local cider. Alderney is home to historical sites and a haven for birdwatchers. To disconnect from the world, stop in Sark, considered the jewel of the Channel Islands, this island has no cars and was named the world’s first Dark Sky Island. Herm boasts white sandy beaches and views of the French coastline as well as frequent visits from dolphins, whereas Lihou offers unspoilt beauty, as it is only accessible at certain times of the month via a tidal causeway.

If you like beach holidays, you’ll love sunbathing on the Isles of Scilly

Blessed with white sands and crystal blue waters, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this Cornish archipelago for a tropical paradise. The surrounding shores are teeming with marine life and dotted with shipwrecks, making the area great for diving. For a real Robinson Crusoe-like escape from reality, discover one of the uninhabited islands. Thanks to a history of trade and smuggling, treasures still wash up on the beaches so turn a stroll on the sands into a beachcombing mission.

Sail to St Mary’s with Isles of Scilly Travel.

If you like a physical challenge, you’ll love the Vélomaritime

This 1,500km cycle route spans from Roscoff in Brittany to Dunkirk on the Belgian border, making it easy to cycle straight onto from the ferry whether you land in Brittany, Normandy, Calais or Dunkirk. The route takes in the Pink Granite Coast, the mystical gravity-defying Abbey at Mont-Saint-Michel and the D-Day landing sites. The itinerary can be adapted to suit beginners and young families or more advanced cyclists looking to combine their favourite pastime with great French food and a little culture.

Travel to France with Brittany Ferries, Condor Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries or P&O Ferries.

If you love following your favourite team, you’ll love catching an ice hockey game in Belfast

Credit: Stena Line Belfast Giants

Sports fans will leap at the chance to catch a Stena Line Belfast Giants ice hockey match in the city’s Titanic Quarter. A game will also appeal to romance readers, as Booktok has popularised hockey player male leads and fuelled sales for bestselling novels such as Icebreaker. The sport has captured Northern Irish hearts thanks to its political neutrality and provides the drama and excitement sports lovers crave.  Sail into Belfast from Liverpool with Stena Line or travel on the Cairnryan to Larne route with P&O Ferries.

If you like stargazing, you’ll love the Isle of Man

Tranquil, rural and limited light pollution, the Isle of Man has 26 official Dark Sky sites. Astronomical sights such as the Orion Nebula, the Milky Way Galaxy and the Great Andromeda Galaxy can all be seen by the naked eye, with more to discover through a telescope. For celestial bliss, choose accommodation that is part of the Stargazers Welcome Scheme, which provides equipment including binoculars, a torch and maps. Sail to the island with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.  

If you like hiking in the Lake District, you’ll love the Wicklow Mountains

The largest of Ireland’s national parks, Wicklow Mountains is also one of the most beautiful. South of Dublin, there is plenty to do from hiking, cycling and rock climbing to exploring historic monastic ruins. Neighbouring campsites provide great value accommodation close to the peaks and travelling by ferry means you can easily take your caravan or camping equipment across. Sail with Irish Ferries or Stena Line.

If you like city breaks, you’ll love sipping cocktails in London’s luxury hotels

Credit: Sebastian Coman Photography, Unsplash

2024 sees several new hotels opening in the capital including the Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, The Emory and Park Hyatt London River Thames. However, budget-conscious visitors can still indulge alongside the city’s high society. Rather than splashing out on a luxury stay, a cocktail in a swanky bar or an out-of-this-world afternoon tea is a purse-friendly way to taste the finer things in life.

Avoid the crowds of the underground and the expense of taxis and tour the city by water on Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. You can even grab a glass of bubbles on board! Get a River Roamer ticket to hop on and off along the river and take in some of the city’s oldest sights and free museums before doing a spot of window shopping.

If you like gin tasting, you’ll love this distillery tour in the Hebrides

Some of the best brands behind Scotland’s most famous export – whisky – are based in the Hebrides. The islands’ sparkling clean water, diverse landscapes and peat bogs influence the flavour profile of each spirit giving visitors a distinct experience at each distillery. Islay’s Three Distillery Walk is a pleasant pathway from Port Ellen to Ardbeg, Lagavulin and the world-renowned Laphroaig distilleries where sampling is a must. Not a whisky fan? There is also a burgeoning gin industry and, on neighbouring Jura, the Deer Island Distillery produces rum.

Sail to Scotland’s west coast islands with Caledonian MacBrayne.

If you like pre-historic sights, track dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight

Studies have shown that children who love dinosaurs have higher intelligence, so foster kids’ curiosity with a trip to the Isle of Wight, which has some of Britain’s best fossil hunting sites. To find dinosaur bones, head to the south of the island, which date back to the cretaceous period. Whereas Newtown and Bembridge in the north hold ancient mammal fossils including mammoths. Visit Compton Beach, where at low tide you can follow dinosaur footprints. Sail to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel or Wightlink or take a take a trip on Hovertravel, the world’s only commercial hovercraft route, which flies across the Solent in less than 10 minutes!

We have also launched an online quiz to help match you to your perfect alternative destination. Take part and enter the prize draw for a free ferry crossing.

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