I've been doing a lot of parties with my linkshell near a couple of the gates. We don't hug them or anything, but they are nice to have so you can set your homepoint there in case anyone dies.
And you can definitely party like in FFXI, except it won't be much of a fishing style party, but if you ever had a roaming party where the mages didn't need to rest, it's like that. Can be a little tricky to find mobs at your level that give good sp for everyone in a large group, but we often have 9+ and have gotten great sp all around, as in 200-500 a mob with fairly fast to fast kills, or 100-300 with extremely fast kills.
When we were a bit newer, we had tried leve parties, but in retrospect they sucked horribly, and lots of people, especially mages, got little sp from them. Couple that with all the running around you do without fighting and they are just annoying. Pretty much everyone past 20 in my linkshell just solo's leves for gil/faction credits now. Some even skip them completely as they are a time sink. If you don't craft, they are good for when you only have very short time to play, but if you are looking at a 3 hour gaming session, a general party is a lot better imo.
Anyways, once you get the hang of partying, it's a lot of fun, and there are plenty of places to explore when hunting for mobs.