Holidays by sea: 12 of the best ferry destinations, from Bruges to Bilbao

Sick of luggage limitations and minimal leg room? Swap the confines of a stuffy aircraft cabin and discover the benefits of travelling by sea with a fab ferry holiday.

If you’re planning a getaway this summer but don’t fancy queues, cancelled flights and all-round airport stress, why not test the waters aboard a car ferry?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a ferry first-timer or seasoned tripper – there’s a destination for everyone…

1. The Channel Islands

Ideal for families, the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey offer fun attractions, yummy seafood and a unique Anglo-French culture. Arrive in style aboard Condor Ferries’ new ship, complete with spacious lounges, bars and bistro, and enjoy the warmest weather in the British Isles on Jersey’s idyllic St Brelade’s Bay.

Find out more at Condor Ferries.

2. Boulogne

Dover to Calais is one of the most popular P&O routes, and with good reason because it offers a gateway to the stunning Opal Coast towards Boulogne and beyond. Discover the string of coves and visit the Nausicaa sea life centre before heading off to Baie de Somme for a fascinating trip to the Marquenterre Nature Reserve.

Find out more at P&O Ferries.

3. Amsterdam


Known for its winding canal system, world-class art galleries, shops and heritage spots, Amsterdam is brimming with character. With 400km of cycle paths, cycling is key, but only after you’ve arrived via a direct ferry route from DFDS Seaways.

Find out more at DFDS Seaways.

4. Isle of Wight

Choose between Wightlink Ferries or Red Funnel for a well-worth-it trip to the picturesque Isle of Wight. Just 50 minutes away from Portsmouth or Lymington, it won’t take long for the holiday spirit to kick in and once you’re there, take your pick from the island’s prized zoo, Dinosaur Isle and more.

Find out more at Wightlink Ferries or Red Funnel.

5. Dunkirk

A trip to Dunkirk via DFDS Seaways will lead you to 10 miles of white sandy beaches, 1,700 acres of protected parkland and boundless hotels, restaurants and intriguing museums. For thrillseekers, the coast of Flanders is known for its sand-yachting, kite surfing, cycling and hiking.

Find out more at DFDS Seaways.

6. Orkney and Shetland

Ideal for those holidaying with children, Orkney is hailed ‘a land full of wonder and mystery’, while Shetland is known for its tranquil surroundings. When travelling with Northlink Ferries, there are up to three sailings a day from Scrabster to Stromness in Orkney, or a nightly sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick in Shetland.

Find out more at Northlink Ferries.

[Read more: Why you should travel by ferry for your next holiday]

7. Dublin


Discover medieval buildings, riverside nightlife, a bustling city centre and plenty of Guinness in vibrant Dublin. Accessible from Liverpool with P&O Ferries, it’s a prime destination for a long weekend with family or friends.

Find out more at P&O Ferries.

8. Brittany

Despite the name, Brittany Ferries carries passengers to the Normandy ports of Le Havre, Cherbourg and Caen and well as to the Breton destinations of St Malo and Roscoff. As soon as you step on board you can slip into the French way of life with delicious cuisine, chic shopping and beaucoup du vin.

Find out more at Brittany Ferries.

9. Isle of Man

Dubbed the isle with ‘something for everyone’, the Isle of Man combines rugged coastline, sandy beaches and medieval castles, all of which can be reached on Steam Packet Company’s vessels. Wildlife enthusiasts should also look out for seals.

Find out more at Steam Packet.

10. Northern Spain

Aboard luxury cruise ferries direct to Santander and Bilbao, Brittany Ferries’ passengers can indulge in on-board entertainment including cinemas, restaurants and leisure facilities. And that’s before you even arrive in the elegant, northern Spanish cities.

Find out more at Brittany Ferries.

11. Rotterdam

Sail straight from Hull to the Hook of Holland with Stena Line and take a 30-minute car drive to Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ major port city. Once there, bask in the city’s seafaring history and marvel at its futuristic architecture and local initiatives such as inner-city canal surfing.

Find out more at Stena Line.

12. Bruges

If you’re after a relaxing weekend in medieval Belgium, hop on a P&O ferry to Zeebrugge and make the short journey to charming Bruges. Known for its historic cobbled streets, canals, unique buildings, sought-after beers and stashes of delicious chocolate, it’s well worth a visit. Don’t miss a horse-drawn carriage and boat ride.

Find out more at P&O Ferries.

Have you enjoyed a ferry holiday? Tell us where you went in the Comments section below.

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