Slow travel on sea – 5 continents, 10 routes, 22 reasons

January 03, 2019 by Loes Kieboom

During my travels I’m trying to avoid flying where I can – not only because of the bad environmental footprint, also not only because of the costs, but mainly because I enjoy traveling slowly. I simply think I might miss something in between my destinations when you are moving ten kilometers above it. I prefer to cut down the places which I might see within a country instead of rushing from airport to airport.

As a water and ocean lover in general and as a scuba diver I’m spending a lot of time on boats anyway, but I would choose the ocean route when possible anyway.

Let me convince you to do so as well with examples from five continents with ten routes and for at least twenty two reasons.


Sydney ocean ferries

1. Go on sightseeing tour with the Sydney ferry

To be honest, I find the public transport in Sydney nothing to get exited about. For such a large city I would have expected a stronger network of buses, trains and metros. But the possibility to hop on a Sydney ocean ferry with the Opal card – which is used for all trains, buses and metros in and the surrounding areas of Sydney – compensates it all.

Why to book an expensive boat tour when you can just cruise along the coastline of Sydney by a relative cheap fee of the public transport system? Hop on a boat on Circular Quay and cruise under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and pass the famous Opera house on water.

2. Use the Sydney ferry as public transport

Sydney is large, when you are traveling on a budget you might not stay in the central area of town. Check out if you have a ferry dock close to your place to stay. Who wants to sit in a dark metro when you can enjoy the ocean wind while discovering new parts of the city on deck of the ferries instead?


Greece – Crete to Santorini

3. Traveling by boat is cheaper

Compare the prices of the different possibilities to arrive at your travel destination. In high season it might cost a fortune to arrive to the popular island of Santorini in Greece by plane, but with the fastest ferry from Crete it is just a bit more than 3 hours and 40 USD to arrive at Thira in Santorini. Why not combining and do island hopping by ferry?

4. Arrive as a cruise passenger

Santorini is known a destination which is almost overvistited by cruise passengers. The rush hours on the island are much controlled by the amount of cruise passengers who are arriving at the cliffs of Thira. But to be honest it is also the most beautiful way to arrive on Santorini. You will only get a real feeling of the height of the cliffs when arriving at the very bottom of these.

Central America

By sailboat from Honduras to Belize

5. Travel with style

Ok, you’re on a budget, want to safe money by using public transport, squeeze into the smallest bus, driving along dirt roads for hours. But hey, now and then you need to treat yourself and take the opportunity of spending your money on a sailboat trip, for example from Utila, Honduras to Placencia, Belize. Choose wisely, but travel with style now and then.

6. Enjoy the most beautiful sunsets

What could be a better spot to watch a sun setting into the ocean as from the top of a sailboat? Seriously, what?

7. Chillax

Time is relative on a sailboat, everything is going a bit slower. Lie down and watch the waves, watch the stars and relax!

8. Learn how to navigate

When traveling by sailboat you will definitely be able to learn the navigation of the boat. It’s up to you how much you help. The couple of hours behind the steering wheel on the dark ocean water were definitely the most amazing moments of my life.


Ferries between the Canary Islands

9. Islandhopping by car ferry from El Hierro to Tenerife

If you want to explore more of one of the Canary Islands and rent a car to come around it’s an nice option to use the car ferries between the islands. Especially on the smaller islands like El Hierro the bus routes and timings are limited, but it’s definitely worth to explore every single corner of this magical island with the impressive volcanic shapes.

10. Traveling by ferry is faster than by plane

Check your routes, what is your next destination? Is the airport or the harbor closer to your destination? Hop out of the boat and walk to your place instead of wasting time with traveling from and to the airport.


South Korea from Jeju Island to Mokpo

11. Enjoy the wind and the waves

A boat surrounded by water only is the closest you can get to the energy of the ocean (besides from swimming and diving of course), you will be carried by the nature of the ocean, the wind and the waves. Take your time to absorb the power of nature and adjust the movement.

12. Enjoy the landscapes

And on the other hand ferries will always take the route closest to the coastline. For me slower travel by sea is like watching a documentary with a neverchanging setting. Grab your camera and wait for the best sea views.

13. Move around during your travel

Ok, to be honest not all ocean ferries are made to move around, some might just force you to go to your seat and stay seated there for your whole trip. The ferry from Jeju Island to Mokpo in South Korea is a quite big car ferry which allows you to grab a beer at a little shop, sleep in the cabins or hang around at the open deck of the ferry. While usually in other countries the deck seats are occupied fast, in South Korea the travelers seem to prefer to stay in the cabins, so you might have a lot of space on deck to do whatever you want.

14. Cruise under large bridges

Sometimes the best way to enjoy the architecture of a giant bridge is to sail under it, the bridge of Mokpo is a good example of it. All without spending an extra cent for a boat tour.

15. Watch the arrival of the ferry in large ports

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy watching the arrival of large car ferries into the harbor. The large ropes, the coordination and these huge machines … makes your inner child coming out.

South Korea Busan to Hakata Japan

16. Do border crossings

Why not using the boat to cross the borders? No better way to reach another country by water. The migration is usually much faster then on any airport or land way.

Island Hopping at the Philippines

17. The best way to say slowly goodbye

Some islands you just feel in love with, sitting at the deck on a boat is the best way to slowly say ‘goodbye’ or ‘see you soon’. In the best case you are even able to wave your host while shipping by.

18. Watch sealife

Well not all animals stay under the blue of the ocean all the time. They need to breath now and then. Scan the ocean and watch flying fish, turtles, rays, whales and dolphins. Even for the locals will celebrate every dolphins jump into our world. Cheer together with the other passengers and celebrate the beauty of nature.

Indonesia – from the Togian Islands to Gorontalo

19. Sleep under the stars

The ferry on Sulawesi from the Togian Islands to Gorontalo goes overnight and comes with inside cabins, which are crowded. Talking about crowded on an Asian way, so it will get cosy. Get your stuff at the deck of the ferry instead, spend your time with watching the stars.

20. Watch the sunrise in your bed

Another plus for sleeping on deck of a night ferry is that you will not even be forced to move to watch the incredible sunset before arriving at your final destination.

Thailand – Trang to Koh Mook

21. Do as the locals do

There are a lot of ferries carrying loads of tourists around the islands in the Andaman sea, which are fast but expensive. The local, simple boats are usually much cheaper and allow to come in contact with the locals and watch their daily life.

Cambodia – Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem

22. Reach untouched paradises

Last but not least, as long as you are not a millionaire and  own a private helicopter to come around, this will be the way to arrive at almost untouched Islands. 2013 Koh Rong Sanloem was still without running electricity and water, not to speak about non existing mobile signals. When the generators for the power were turned off around 10 pm the universe is saying hello to you. With a fantastic night sky, but also with the biolumicence of the ocean, which both are to be enjoyed best without light pollution. There are still some very basic and rural islands to explore, it’s just a boat drive away.

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