The Göcek Islands: A Little Piece of Paradise in Turkey
The Göcek Islands region is an archipelago off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, near Fethiye. The region is bounded by mainland on three sides, and two large islands (Domuz and Tersane) on the fourth. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful cruising area in Turkey. The water is clear and calm, the scenery is spectacular, and each bay is unique - so visitors remain in awe throughout their journey.
Pine, olive, fig, and carob trees thrive in the red soil of the region, which can also support frankincense and oleander.
People from all walks of life visit the region each year – and the local government does it's best to keep the area looking wonderful and welcoming. There are garbage bins in strategic locations throughout the region, which are emptied daily by designated "garbage boats". And free "pump out" boats are just a phone call away, so cruisers never need to discharge their "dirty water" tanks into the sea.
Several land-based businesses also serve boaters in the Göcek Islands. Migros, a major Turkish grocery chain operates a floating supermarket which cruisers can access by dinghy. (Once inside, you'd never guess that you're not on land!) Carrefour, another popular market chain, operates a much smaller version of floating market which pulls alongside moored boats who need to replenish essentials during their vacation. "Independent retailers" visit the bays and coves in their little motor boats, selling ice cream, Turkish pancakes, home-made bread, and handicrafts. And wherever you are in the Göcek Islands, you can always find someone offering high-speed water sports – water skiing, ringo, etc. – and parasailing.
The Göcek Islands region has been classified as an area of special protection since 1988, which limits development and construction – so we hope the area will retain its natural beauty and charm for years to come!
Map of the Göcek Islands
Click to enlarge.
The Most Popular Islands and Bays in the Göcek Islands (alphabetical)
Coordinates: 36.75384, 28.93581
Not actually one of the islands or bays, Göcek is the main town in the region and is located on the mainland. Once a small settlement focused on chromium mining, the town has blossomed into a major hub for yachting and tourism. In addition to all the normal services found in resort towns along the coast of Turkey, Göcek is home to every imaginable service required by yacht-loving visitors – from provisioning to pump-outs, scuba instruction to sail-makers, and everything in between.
Catering to a more affluent visitor than some other coastal resorts in Turkey, Göcek is home to upscale restaurants, designer boutiques, and several private marinas. It's not uncommon to spot super yachts (with their colour-coordinated helicopters!) in the harbour, or bump into the rich and famous while wandering though the quaint, shop-lined streets in town. Yes, even movie stars enjoy dondurma (Turkish for ice cream) on a hot day!
Aquarium Bay (Akvaryum Koyu)
Coordinates: 36.66622, 28.91289
Nestled between Tersane and Domuz Islands, there's a spectacular turquoise bay known by locals as Aquarium Bay. The foundation of an ancient lighthouse lies about 5 feet beneath the crystal clear water in the middle of the bay. It is a popular stop-over for daily boats, so is best enjoyed either first thing in the morning, or later in the day.
Bedri Rahmi Bay (Taşyaka Koyu)
Coordinates: 36.68979, 28.86980
Technically, this bay is called Taşyaka Koyu, but received its common nickname due to a painting by notable Turkish poet and artist Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu which sits on its north shore. Bedri Rahmi and his friend Azra Erhat - who created the mosaic directly below the fish painting - are credited with popularizing Blue Cruises in the region.
At first glance, the painting appears to be a fish, but rumour has it that another six animals are hidden in plain view. We think we've found a few of them. What animals can you see?
The ancient Carian town of Krya (or Crya) was once located on the slopes overlooking Bedri Rahmi Bay. Building ruins, a stone wall, and tombs of various types can still be spotted amongst the trees and bright pink oleander bushes.
Bedri Rahmi Bay is a popular anchorage for a variety of reasons. In addition to its beautifully clear water and wonderful views, there are two restaurants in the bay, plus boats can fill their fresh water tanks with spring water at the small cement jetty near the painting of the fish.
Coordinates: 36.70855, 28.89937
Boynuz Bükü is long and narrow, with a muddy bottom, making it a popular and secure anchorage, especially during storms. There is a small restaurant in the bay, so it is frequently difficult for larger boats to find a spot to moor.
Devil Island (Şeytanlı Adası)
Coordinates: 36.69616, 28.93960
Just to the south of the Flat Islands and east of Zeytin Island is a small triangular islet named Devil Island. Legend says that the area is so pretty, it's the place the Devil decided to call home. However, we think the island received it's name for the treacherous rocks which lie just below the water's surface. Over the years, they've probably destroyed a boat hull or two!
Flat Islands (Yassica Ada)
Coordinates: 36.70208, 28.93340
This collection of five islands is unique in the region because the islands are fairly flat and low – rising less than 10 meters out of the sea. They are connected by sand spits just under the water's surface. The flattest of the islands features a small, salt-water pond at one end, which is popular with families with young children who are just learning to swim.
The Flat Islands are one of the most popular areas in the Göcek Islands for daily boat trips, so the islands can be very congested during the day. However, it is a lovely spot for overnight stays during calm weather – providing the perfect location for watching the sunset over the nearby hills.
Göbün Bay (Göbun Koyu)
Coordinates: 36.64454, 28.89450
This narrow bay with sheer rock walls features a restaurant that is powered entirely by solar electric. There are historic ruins and tombs, and access to hiking trails for those cruising the region in sailboats and small yachts. Unfortunately, due to its narrow width, it is not accessible to larger boats.
Göcek Island (Göcek Adası)
Coordinates: 36.73032, 28.94336
Göcek Island is the island located closest to the town of Göcek, and is credited with protecting the town's harbour from wind. It features a small beach club / beach bar on its northeast facing bay, where visitors can spend time enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the pine-covered island. A frequent shuttle service operates from Göcek harbour about 15 minutes away to take guests back and forth as required.
When we have a "day off" between cruises, this is the place you'll usually find us anchored. It's close to the harbour for picking up / dropping off guests, but has a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
Hamam Bay (Hamam Koyu)
Coordinates: 36.65070, 28.84777
This bay goes by many names, including Hamam Bay (for the ruins of an ancient hamam located in the south west corner), Wall Bay (for the ruins of a Roman-era stone wall located in the north west corner) and Monastir Bay (for the partially-submerged ruins of a Byzantine-era monastery, also in the north west part of the bay).
The hamam (bath house) ruins are one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Göcek Islands. Local legend says the ancient hamam, a gift for Cleopatra on her marriage to Marc Antony, was located over a thermal water spring, and that fine grained sand was imported to the area to create her own private beach. Nowadays, the site is on the route of every daily boat trip from Göcek harbour. As a result, it can get really congested at mid-day as visitors explore the ruins and dive from the ancient stone walls.
For visitors looking for a little more excitement, someone has tied sturdy ropes to some of the trees overhanging the bay near the hamam ruins. It's not uncommon to see groups gather – cheering on those showing perfect – or even less than perfect – form as they swing Tarzan-like into the sea.
A small marina and bar / restaurant now occupy the bay's north west shore. The restaurant was once a rustic facility, serving cheap, luke-warm beer, and offering shower facilities and sleeping huts to hikers and backpackers traversing Turkey's Carian Trail. Several years ago, the facility received a major upgrade, including a small, private marina. Since then, the beers have gotten colder, but the prices have increased dramatically.
Coordinates: 36.69509, 28.87551
The pretty bay of Kille Bükü can be accessed by boat or a small dirt road. While not as popular as some of the other spots in this article, the bay is idyllic and one of our favourites for "first swim of the cruise" stopovers. There are ruins of an ancient church high on the hill overlooking Killebuku, and local families often picnic and / or camp out on the small pebbled beach.
Merdivenli Bay (Merdivenli Koyu)
Coordinates: 36.64462, 28.88896
With its steep canyon walls, Merdivenli (which is Turkish for "ladder" or "steps") received its name because it is home to a large natural cave with steps carved into the rock just off the beach.
A 10 minute hike from the beach will take to you to the small farming settlement of Merdivenli Koy. There is a small mosque in the community. On Friday afternoons, when many Muslim men attend mosque for their weekly prayers, the small beach at Merdivenli Koyu is packed with dinghys – looking very similar to a church parking lot on a Sunday morning.
Olive Island (Zeytin Adası)
Coordinates: 36.70037, 28.92180
Zeytin Island is privately owned by the Zorlu Group, so is inaccessible to the general public. It was named Zeytin, which means "olive" in Turkish, because of an Ottoman-era olive press discovered on the island. Because of the island's private ownership, boaters may only anchor along certain sections of the shore and trespassing onto the island is prohibited.
Pig Island (Domuz Adası)
Coordinates: 36.65956, 28.89154
Domuz Adası, which is Turkish for "pig island", was named for the wild boars that once lived on the island. (The boars are long gone, but the name remains!) The island is one of the few inhabited islands in the Göcek Islands region, featuring property owned by the Simavi family. (Sedat Simavi was a Turkish journalist and business man, and founder of Turkey's Hürriyet newspaper.)
Because of the island's private ownership, anchorages around Domuz Island are limited.
Coordinates: 36.67058, 28.86142
Sarsala Bay is one of the largest bays in the Göcek Islands region, making it extremely popular with big yachts. The bay is unique because it is accessible by car, so very popular with all holiday-makers, not just those on boats. Many crew take advantage of this road access, collecting their passengers at Sarsala Bay (instead of Göcek harbour) because it is so close to Dalaman airport.
The broad pebble beach facing Sarsala is operated by the Belediye (municipality), and includes a small restaurant, toilets and shower facilities.
Seagull Bay (Martılı Koyu)
Coordinates: 36.64435, 28.87481
Named for the gigantic mosaic art installation on the shore (flat white stones laid out in the shape of a seagull diving into the sea), Martılı Bay is a perfect landing spot for hikers. Semi-well marked trails head in virtually every direction from the pebbled shore, allowing visitors to explore the ruins of ancient cities or walk to most of the other bays in the region.
There is a wooden dock and a run-down tea house operated by a friendly fellow named Ahmet, who claims he helped a Turkish backpacker create the bay's famed mosaic.
A small stream running through the area means donkeys and goats are frequent visitors to the hills around the bay, but the brackish water is not suitable for human consumption. (We love donkeys, so often cruise to Martılı Bay to treat our favourites to carrots, apples, and left-over salad greens.) The only downside to visiting is that it is frequently windy in the bay, so not always suitable for staying overnight.
Shipyard Island (Tersane Adası)
Coordinates: 36.67196, 28.89747
Nowadays, the island is virtually uninhabited – except for cows and goats and a few people who tend to them - but Tersane Island was once a substantial Greek settlement called Telandria. Fruit orchards surround the ruins of about 140 old stone houses, churches, and tombs – which the residents were forced to abandon during the 1923 population exchange.
The island received its current name (tersane translates to "shipyard") because of the ancient boatyard located near the beach on the island's naturally protected northwest harbour. During World War I, the dockyard was used by the Ottoman navy for ship-building and repairs, but is now home to a small restaurant catering to people on small sailboats and motor yachts who moor in the bay.
Larger boats and gulets tend to anchor in the island's other north-facing bay (Summer Harbour), where sea turtles are a common sight. Summer Harbour is a popular stop for daily boat trips from both Fethiye and Göcek, so can get a bit chaotic during the day. However it is a peaceful destination the rest of the time, and a great anchorage for anyone who enjoys hiking, rock climbing, or exploring historic ruins.
Another notable feature of Summer Harbour is the distinct absence of bees. Perhaps it's the proliferation of wild herbs or the lack of pine trees, but bees don't disturb us when we are anchored at Tersane Island as they do at other anchorages along the coast.
Coordinates: 36.67380, 28.85858
This bay is spring-fed, so the water feels a little colder than many others in the Göcek Islands region. Parts of the bay feature sheer rock walls with many good handholds, making it an exceptionally good anchorage for those with an interest in rock climbing.
The Spectacular Göcek Islands in Pictures
Click on any image to enlarge.