7 stunning shipwrecks worth visiting

Posted on 21 October 2019

While millions of people flock to the coast to sun themselves on the beach or to splash in the waves, a few special seaside destinations are also home to surprisingly photogenic shipwrecks with a unique and fascinating history. From smuggling expeditions gone wrong to sunken relics explored by only the most advanced divers, each one comes with its own compelling story about the clash between human ambition and the awe-inspiring power of the ocean.

With large numbers of global travellers saying that outstanding scenery (81%*) and iconic landmarks (69%*) are important when picking a destination for their next trip, these striking locales deliver on both. Whether you want to grab your scuba gear and explore beneath the surface or simply snap some surreal photos from the shore, we get you up close and personal with the intriguing stories behind these curious and beautiful shipwrecks.

1. Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Home to thousands of decaying shipwrecked vessels, the aptly named Skeleton Coast is a unique strip of shoreline in northern Namibia. The strong winds, frequent ocean fog and the area’s famously rough waters are some of the reasons that these ships now lie stranded in the shallows or barren and rusting on the sandy shores. One of the most well-known shipwrecks in the area, the Eduard Bohlen ship, only accessible by a guided 4×4 tour, was wrecked on the Skeleton Coast in 1909 because of the fog and is a great place of interest for shipwreck enthusiasts from around the world.

Shipwreck Lodge Image from Natural Selection

Where to stay: Just a 45 km 4×4 drive from Möwe Bay, Shipwreck Lodge is a remote accommodation on the Skeleton Coast, with shipwreck-style cabins spread along the sand dunes. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, these uniquely designed structures look like broken pieces of ships, use solar power and manage to blend perfectly with the natural environment. The property organises day excursions to the Suiderkus, another famous shipwreck and a great destination for photographers looking for that perfect mysterious shot.

2. Gytheio, Greece

You don’t need scuba gear to visit this shipwreck, so it’s perfect for adventurers of all ages. Located right on the sandy beach at Valtaki, the Dimitrios shipwreck is easily accessed by a scenic drive along the coast from Gythio, beloved by locals for its gorgeous location. The rusty ship has been stranded in the shallow waters since 1981, when it is rumoured that the port authorities seized it for alleged cigarette smuggling.

Today, visitors can walk or swim right up to the shipwreck as the surrounding waters are both crystal clear and quite shallow. The beach is also ideal for families, with a nearby restaurant and plenty of parking available.

Also read: Site of South Africa’s most significant shipwreck uncovered

Where to stay: Niriides Resort is a traditional Greek getaway, only steps away from the sandy beach of Selinitsa, overlooking the sparkling blue waters of the Aegean. The apartments are just a short drive from the centre of Gythio, the largest town in Mani, where you can find a multitude of local taverns serving fresh fish.

The archaeological site of Mystras is a 45-minute drive in the direction of Sparta and definitely worth a visit. The captivating former Byzantine capital is filled with the medieval ruins of palaces, monasteries and churches.

3. Inis Oirr (Inisheer), Ireland

The MV Plassey steam trawler was shipwrecked on Inis Oirr coast in 1960 after a battle against the strong waves of the Atlantic ocean and fierce winds blowing toward land. The Plassey was carrying a cargo of whiskey, stained glass and wool when the storm pushed it onto Finnis Rock.

Luckily the entire crew was rescued thanks to the assistance of the friendly locals and the ship was eventually washed off the rock several weeks later.

Where to stay: Sailing’s Self Contained Rooms with Kitchen offers bright, modern accommodation in Inisheer. The iconic Plassey shipwreck on the east coast of Inisheer is a very short drive away, as is the colourful village of Doolin. Doolin is also a great base to explore the majestic Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most popular destinations, known for its spectacular coastal vistas.

4. Roatán, Honduras

Roatán sits on the second largest barrier reef in the world and is highly endorsed by Booking.com travellers for diving and snorkelling. It’s also home to the Odyssey Wreck, one of the Caribbean’s largest submerged shipwrecks. As with many shipwrecks in Roatán, this wreckage was intentionally sunk in 2002 for scuba divers to explore.

As the Odyssey requires advanced diving credentials, it is highly recommended that you have a shipwreck diving certification before attempting the dive. Another popular shipwreck in Roatán for those with scuba training is the El Aguila. While carrying a large cargo of concrete, this 75m-long ship sunk near Utila. The ship was later broken into three pieces and brought to Roatán by Anthony’s Key Resort in 1997 and sunk again in 30m of water for divers to enjoy.

Where to stay: Anthony’s Key Resort, in Roatán, offers scuba diving courses and can arrange a wreck dive at The Odyssey (a short boat ride from the resort) or El Aguila (just offshore). Travellers who feel slightly less adventurous can relax by the outdoor pool among the palm trees or enjoy a soothing massage.

5. Lanai, Hawaii, USA

Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island is a great destination for travellers looking for a secluded escape. Home to dozens of shipwrecks along its shores, the 9.5 km Kaiolohia (Shipwreck) Beach is about a 45-minute drive from Lanai City. The beach is not ideal for swimming, as there are strong currents in the area and the ocean bottom is too rocky.

At the same time, visitors still flock there to admire one of the most popular shipwrecks on the island, the imposing YOGN-42, a WWII fuel tanker resting just 200m off the northern coast of the island. To reach Shipwreck Beach, you take a dirt road and then do a short, scenic hike. If you want to explore more of the pristine beaches and natural wonders of Lanai, a 4WD vehicle is the way to go.

Where to stay: Located in the heart of Lanai City, Hotel Lanai is a historic property surrounded by tall pine trees. Built in 1923, this is the island’s oldest hotel and perfectly blends modern design with a traditional Polynesian aesthetic.

6. Tobermory, Ontario, Canada

Sunk in shallow waters in 1885 after hitting a rock near Cove Island, the Sweepstakes shipwreck is a 36m schooner which you can view from above by taking one of the glass-bottom boat tours out of Tobermory. Just under the surface of Big Tub harbour, this well-preserved 19th-century boat is a popular attraction in the Fathom Five National Marine Park.

Travellers that don’t mind getting wet can also dive or snorkel around the shipwreck. Flowerpot Island, with its distinctive rock formations, ancient caves and hiking trails, is just 6.5 km off the coast of Tobermory and is only accessible by boat.

Where to stay: Harbour 90 Adult Only B&B is located in the lakeside town of Tobermory and has a beautiful terrace overlooking the water. The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park, a scenic cave with a stunning pool of blue water, is just a 20-minute drive from the property. If you want to visit the popular Grotto during the summer months, reserve a parking space in advance as it can get very busy.

7. SS Maheno, Australia

Originally built in 1905 to be used as an ocean liner, the SS Mahero served as a hospital ship during World War I. At the end of the war, the ship returned to carry passengers again, until the moment that it was hit by a cyclone and washed on the shore of Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.

Today the shell of the wreckage is a popular tourist attraction and one of the island’s most visited places. The Unesco-listed Fraser island is home to beautiful beaches, lush forests and unique wildlife, including dingos (Australia’s wild dogs). The best way to explore the island’s natural attractions is to rent a 4WD vehicle, as the island’s roads are are sandy.

Where to stay: Offering a garden with beach views, The Beachcamp Eco Retreat is a unique glamping accommodation in Second Valley Eurong on Fraser Island, accessible only by 4WD vehicle. Right next to the amazing 120km beach on K’gari, this environmentally responsible property runs its water and electricity on solar power.

Source: Booking.com, *research by Booking.com, images: Unsplash

Also read: Groundbreaking discoveries made on shipwreck off Malta

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