Superstition, then colonization
Let's say that the continents are far apart and that the ocean between them is constantly stormy. Not impossible to traverse, yet difficult and risky.
Only a handful of expeditions over the centuries have dared to try to explore the ocean, but none have ever returned, for one reason or another. This has led to a reputation and superstition of the ocean being cursed, the ship falling off the edge of the world, the ocean god striking down anyone who dares to enter his domain, and so on. These widespread stories, combined with the well-known, obvious dangers that the storms present, have contributed to the lack of interest or courage one would need to launch that many expeditions.
Shortly before the game's story begins, a particularly reckless adventurer actually did manage to not only cross the ocean, but also return alive. Rumors have slowly begun spreading, but haven't become common knowledge yet. This lack of knowledge, combined with the more well-known stories about the horrors that await, means that nobody you come across is willing, or daring, to help you sail or fly that way. It is however only a matter of time before the news spread and expeditions will become more commonplace.
This can be tied into the story and various NPC conversations over the course of the game. Some NPCs, especially in port towns, may tell the player about the various stories they've heard about the ocean. Likewise, the player may occasionally come across sailors telling (heavily exaggerated) rumors about a new world being discovered. Some other sailors dismiss it out of hand since the ocean is "obviously" impossible to traverse. All this acts as foreshadowing of the continent later being available.
The expansion unlocks a new storyline where a rich merchant, having heard the news, sees the opportunities for trade and colonization that a new world poses and launches several expeditions with the intent to explore and settle on the new continent. The merchant offers huge rewards, making people more willing to take the risk. The player joins one of these crews and makes it across the ocean. After creating an initial settlement and doing some preliminary exploration, one of the ships, with the player aboard, sail back to report. From this point on, ships start to frequently travel back and forth between the continents, allowing the player to fast-travel between them.
So, why is it suddenly possible to travel between the continents? Well, while the storm does pose some danger, it's actually more of a red herring. When exploring the new continent, the player may encounter an old, ruined settlement near a ship wreck, indicating that a prior expedition did indeed make it to the continent, yet were unable to return. Various other reasons, such as dangerous beasts living in some coastal areas, prior expeditions not wanting to leave, hostile indigenous people and similar can also serve as explicit or implied explanations about what happened to some of the other expeditions. Perhaps there is even an island where you find a skeleton and an old log book that explains how a crew preferred mutiny over chancing the storm again and stranded their captain there. There may even have been an instance or two of a ship actually sinking in the storm, simply through bad luck.