Thailand is fast becoming a top destination for sailing enthusiasts from around the world, thanks to the close proximity of many natural marine treasures. We explore a selection of sublime destinations within easy reach of Phuket or Koh Samui
Royal Phuket Marina has established itself as a gateway to beautiful Phang Nga Bay
Thanks to its shimmering azure seas, healthy trade winds and a spectacular coastline, Thailand is already well-established as one of Southeast Asia’s premier sailing hubs. Whether you’re based on the east or west side of the mainland there’s plenty to explore, from the blissful, unearthly scenery of Phang Nga Bay, to the archipelago of Thailand’s Ang Thong Marine Park. Phuket in particular is recognised as one of the region’s most sought-after yachting hubs, thanks in large part to its selection of top-notch marinas. In fact, the splendour of Thailand’s coastal scenery and excellent sailing conditions have lead to the establishment of several international sailing events in Thailand, including the Kings Cup Regatta and the Samui Regatta.
For the reasons mentioned above, Thailand has become a popular activity with tourists exploring the delights of the Kingdom. If you choose to charter a yacht from Koh Samui and Phuket, a countless number of sublime sailing destinations are within easy reach.
We’ve rounded up a selection of our favourites.
Phang Nga Bay is well known as the setting for The Man with the Golden Gun
The stretch of Andaman Sea that is encircled by the Thai provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi is best known as Phang Nga Bay, one of Thailand’s finest maritime jewels. The area is home to over 100 islands, and the spectacular seascape is characterised by the craggy limestone karsts that project vertically from the water. This region offers a gentle cruising ground for beginners who are just learning the ropes, with the island of Koh Hong offering the most convenient anchorage point in the area. Alternatively, if you don’t want to tackle the sailing yourself, many boat trips around the bay are available from Phuket. Koh Panyee, a Muslim settlement built on stilts over the sea, is one of the top spots to visit.
The tranquil waters off the coast of Krabi offer a serene cruising ground
Situated to the south east of Phuket, Krabi is widely celebrated for its world-class sailing scene. Its beaches are often recognised as some of the most beautiful on the planet, and towering mountains topped my emerald forest form a sublime backdrop. The southern tip of Railay Beach, Laem Nang, is one of the most popular stop-offs for sailors in the area. The bay is enveloped by a spectacular formation of rocks at either end, and anchorage is in 4-5 metres of soft sand at the centre.
The glorious Phi Phi Islands are another popular day-trip sailing destination for those based in Phuket, and are positioned about one and a half hours away. Made famous as the setting for The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley provide an array of fabulous photo opportunities. Concealed lagoons, unknown caves and glossy stretches of ice white sand form the highlights of these magnificent islands, which are approximately 18 miles south of Krabi.
Head for the horizon
The Similan Islands have become a favourite destination with sailors and divers
If you want to dedicate a little more time to your sailing trip, the magnificent Similan Islands are approximately one night’s sail away, or 65 nautical miles. The Similans are celebrated as one of Thailand’s supreme diving hubs, so this is an excellent destination for visitors who are keen to explore the Kingdom’s underwater treasures as well. Unlike the craggy limestone coastlines that characterise much of the Andaman’s land masses, the Similans are formed of colossal granite boulders, creating a sharp contrast. Crystal clear waters and sublime cruising conditions have made the Similans a favourite with yachting enthusiasts based in Phuket. Plus, the vivid corals and array of tropical fish are well worth checking out.
Head 100km north of the Similans and you will reach the Surin Islands, which are situated some 60km off the west coast of the mainland’s Phang Nga province. The Surins are a stunning archipelago formed of five islands: Koh Surin Nuea, Koh Surin Tai, Koh Ri, Koh Khai and Koh Klang. Thanks to the lack of development here, the Surins are popular with sailors who want to get away from the Andaman’s busier sailing hubs. Diving, snorkelling and sport fishing are the most popular activities in the area.
The Ang Thong Marine Park is home to countless unspoilt tropical islands
If you’re based in Koh Samui for your vacation, the island forms an excellent launching pad to explore the maritime gems of the Gulf of Thailand. Situated just to the northwest of Samui, the dramatic seascape of the Ang Thong Marine Park is an easy day trip. Spread across an area of 100km2, the protected zone is home to 42 pristine tropical islands, where lush velvety jungle is enveloped by brilliant white sand beaches.
Superb yacht anchorages are numerous. Visitors that do choose to venture ashore should keep their eyes peeled, as these unspoilt islands are celebrated for the eclectic array of wildlife that call them home. Creatures to look out for include monkeys, white eagles, otters, hogs and oriental pied hornbills. A number of activities are available, including hiking, snorkelling and scuba diving.
Island hopping fun
Koh Tao translates to ‘Turtle Island’
A short cruise north of Koh Samui will bring you to two of the Gulf of Siam’s most popular holiday destinations – Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Koh Phangan is less than an hour’s cruise from the northern coast of Koh Samui, making it the ideal stop-off point for those travelling the full 45km north to Koh Tao, or ‘Turtle Island’ in English. Like the other glorious isles that make up this spectacular watery wonderland off the east coast of Thailand, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan boast rich emerald interiors fringed by sublime sandy beaches. Each of the islands is home to plenty of shops and restaurants, depending on where you decided to drop anchor. Snorkelling off the coast off these islands offers an exquisite glimpse into an underwater Kingdom teeming with tropical fish, colourful corals and even the occasional sea turtle.
Moor up and relax
Phuket’s Yacht Haven Marina is home to a number of exquisite eateries, many of which enjoy superb views across the ocean
Phuket attracts a range of seagoing visitors, right from serious yachters to sailing novices. As such, the islands are home to several plush, well-equipped marinas. The Ao Po Marina comprises a total of 200 berths, and is ideally-situated for those who want to make the most of Phang Nga’s idyllic cruising grounds. Waterfront luxury can be discovered at the Royal Phuket Marina, which has claimed the reputation as the principal gateway to Phang Nga Bay. This marina is a destination in itself, and is home to luxury residences, restaurants, bars and stylish boutiques. Phuket’s Boat Lagoon Marina is not too far away, and is only 20km from Phuket International Airport – making it a convenient destination for visitors who have only just arrived on the island. The Yacht Haven Marina also benefits from its proximity to the airport, and is home to 150 berths for yachts measuring up to 60m in length.
Thanks to Thailand’s strong reputation as an international yachting hub, a number of world-class sailing events take place across the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand:
- Perhaps Thailand’s most famous sailing event, Phuket’s King’s Cup Regatta attracts competitors from across the world. Held every December, this first-class event has played a huge part in the growth of Phuket’s sailing scene
- Launched in 2002, the Samui Regatta attracts sailors and spectators from across the region, and beyond. In addition to the sailing contest itself, a number of parties and dinners attract plenty of upscale guests
- If you simply can’t get enough of Thailand’s yachting events, Phuket Race Week takes place in Cape Panwa every July