During the pandemic we rediscovered our love of the great outdoors. Some of us dusted off our hiking boots, some bought a bike, some a paddleboard and some brought a new four-legged friend home to join the family. Whether you are anxious to get out and spend some time doing the activities you enjoy or want to try something new we’ve got some great ideas for where you can have an active and rejuvenating holiday. And by taking the ferry you can bring everyone, including your pet, and your sports equipment with you, so there’s no need to spend time searching for a pet hotel or equipment hire, you can just pack and go*.
Best for paddleboarding
If you have conquered your local lake or reservoir by paddleboard and are seeking something more challenging, explore uninhabited islands off Tresco and Bryher in the pristine archipelago of the Isles of Scilly, just off the coast of Cornwall. Sail on the Scillonian III with Isles of Scilly Travel.
On the Isle of Man, the picturesque bay of Port Erin offers sheltered waters bordered by cliffs and is a great place to paddle while the sun is setting over the Irish Sea. Travel with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Over in Normandy the white cliffs and natural arches of Etretat provide a stunning backdrop for a paddle along the Alabaster Coast. Sail with Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries.
Best for cycling
Swap busy weekend roads of the UK for more of a relaxing cycle. The Velomaritime, tracing the north coast of France, is a renowned 1,500 km cycle route stretching from Dunkirk to Roscoff. It follows iconic landmarks such as Mont St Michel and Brittany’s Pink Granite Coast, and passes many of France’s best gastronomic regions. Sail with Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries.
Well-known for its flat landscape and traffic-free cycle routes, the Netherlands is a great place for leisure cyclists. Westduinpark near The Hague is one of the beautiful nature reserves in the area with a sweeping landscape and even freely-roaming highland cows. Sail with DFDS, P&O Ferries and Stena Line.
Selected as the final stage in this year’s ‘Tour of Britain’, cyclists can tackle the challenging route from Ryde to the Needles on the Isle of Wight themselves. Take advantage of free carriage for bikes on Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink.
A legendary challenge in the world of cycling, the ‘Five ferries cycle route’ is a 72 mile circular route starting from the Isle of Arran and taking in some of West Scotland’s finest scenery. Discover ‘Scotland in miniture’ on the Isle of Arran, the Kintyre and Cowal peninsulas and the peaceful Isle of Bute while hopping between islands with Caledonian MacBrayne.
Really only known to locals, the Thames Path along the River Thames in London offers long stretches of traffic-free cycling. For a great day out cycle along some of London’s most historic neighbourhoods from London Bridge to Royal Greenwich, through Rotherhithe and the original mooring spot of the Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower ship, to the Brunel Museum and past the Cutty Sark into Greenwich. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers takes up to 14 bikes on board and serves 24 piers along the Thames.
Best for walking with the dog
If your dog is as much a part of your holiday plans as your suitcase, ferry travel opens up a wide range of pet-friendly destinations. On the ferry your furry friends can use on board pet facilities, including pet lounges, the option to travel in their owners vehicle, on board kennels and even pet cabins on longer sailings. Find out about UK ferry companies’ pet policies.
The cliff path between Freshwater Bay and Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while some areas are restricted for dogs, you can walk your pooch between Brook Chine and Hanover Point or on the dog-friendly beach below Fort Redoubt all year-round. Sail with Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink.
Easily accessible by ferry, sail with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company to Douglas, which was granted city status for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Head towards the scenic bridged gorge and waterfall of Glen Maye for an invigorating walk with your four-legged furry friend.
A visit to the Isles of Scilly is a special experience for every member of the family – your dog is no exception! Pelistry and Bar Point on St Mary’s are open to dogs year-round as are the off islands – Tresco, Bryher, St Martins and St Agnes. With miles of picturesque coastline and a number of dog-friendly pubs, restaurants and tea rooms, visitors can enjoy the dog walk of a lifetime. Sail with Isles of Scilly Travel.
Staycationing in London? You and pooch can explore a number of riverside parks, including Greenwich, St James’s and Battersea parks, easily accessed by Uber Boat by Thames Clippers.
Best for hiking
For breath-taking scenery and more challenging hiking we recommend the mountainous terrain of the Inner Hebrides, Ireland and Northern Spain. In the Hebrides combine your hike with the thrill of minke whale-watching, best seen from April to October from CalMac Ferries‘ Ocean Conservationist Experience & ORCA Mini Cruise Experiences. These incredible creatures can also be glimpsed when exploring hiking routes in Carsaig on the south coast of the Isle of Mull.
The snow-capped Picos de Europa in Cantabria, Spain are visible when you sail into Santander. The high alpine region offers varying levels of hiking, from a few hours to long distance GR routes. Try the Ruta de Cares, a relatively easy hike along the Cares Gorge, with dramatic precipices. Sail with Brittany Ferries.
Urban walkers can explore the streets of Dublin, before heading for to the green route of Howth’s Cliffs with views of the Mourne Mountains, Bailey Lighthouse and the Wicklow Mountains. Sail with Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries, Stena Line and Isle of Man Steam Packet Company
Best for surfing
If you enjoyed learning to surf in Cornwall last summer, go further afield via ferry and test your skills on the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean from the sandy beaches of the Channel Islands and France. Suitable for all levels, try Jersey’s long beaches of St Ouen’s Bay and uncrowded beaches of Bidart on the French Atlantique Coast. Sail with Condor Ferries to Jersey and Brittany Ferries to Bilbao, Spain for Bidart.
Beginners and well-practised surfers will love the beaches of Ireland’s County Sligo, while more advanced surfers will be challenged by the Uig peninsula on the Isle of Lewis. Sail to Ireland with Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, P&O Ferries, Stena Line. Sail to the Isle of Lewis with CalMac Ferries.
Best for kayaking and coasteering
Being near or on water improves our wellbeing and lifts our spirits, so why not travel by ferry and try kayaking or coasteering. Guernsey’s south coast near Petit Bot is ideal for families and adrenaline junkies. With the chance to vary activities for first-timers and daredevils, there’s something for everyone from rock-hopping, shore scrambling to wave-riding, and even cliff-jumping. Sail with Condor Ferries.
Those keen to strengthen their rowing muscles can discover the beauty of south-west Ireland’s Killarney Lakes with a guided kayaking tour from Ross Castle and soak up the stunning mountain and lake views. Sail with Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, P&O Ferries and Stena Line.
The Ardennes is the adventure centre of Belgium, and kayaking in the Ourthe, Semois and Lesse rivers offers spectacular views of the steep cliffs, green forests and castles along the way. For the more advanced kayaker, head to Houyet down river to Anseremme, taking in Walzin Castle as you go. Sail with DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries.
Scotland’s Isle of Rum has roughly 30 miles of coastline to explore by canoe and kayak – and paddling out gives you a different perspective on the sea life and birdlife. Land on secluded beaches for a rest, or pack for an expedition and head for one of the bothies overnight. Canoes and kayaks travel free on Calmac Ferries.
Best for golf:
The best way for golfers to explore the uncrowded golf courses of Northern France is via ferry with flexible booking and plenty of car boot space for golf clubs. Arriving overnight into Brittany’s port of St Malo or on the short-sea crossings into Dunkirk and Calais brings you close to the challenging fairways of the local golf courses. Offering visitor golfers great value, the cost of green fees at local French courses compare favourably to British golf clubs. Try Golf de St Malo, Golf des Ormes and close to Dunkirk, Golf Du Bois De Ruminghem. Sail with Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries.
With some of the best golf-courses in the world, Ireland is definitely a destination for golfing enthusiasts. Arrive in Belfast and drive down to Newcastle to the Royal County Down Golf club with pristine greens and vistas over the sea to the mountains. Sail with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, P&O Ferries and Stena Line.
Best for mountain sports:
Not just popular during the winter holiday season, mountain resorts offer activities all year round. Whether you are transporting skis and snowboards or climbing and hiking gear, ferries offer great value crossings to favourite destinations including Courchevel, Chamonix and Morzine. If you enjoy the thrill of mountain winter-sports, why not try the excitement of adrenaline sports in the summer, from white water sports, wild swimming and paragliding to mountaineering and mountain-biking. Sail with Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries.
*If you are taking your pet to Northern Ireland or into the European Union you will need to visit the vet at least one month in advance to get an Animal Health Certificate. More information about pet travel can be found here: Will I still be able to take my pet on holiday with me after Brexit?