Italy, southern France and the Caribbean are hard to beat, but the yachting community is travelling further afield these days. Seeking out old favourites and lesser known destinations, Gavroche pinpoints the places to be seen
From quaint European harbours to glossy new marinas packed with designer boutiques or glistening Caribbean harbours, there is no shortage of magnificent yachting destinations. The most challenging question may well be where to go next. “The Mediterranean remains the place to see – or perhaps more appropriately, ‘the place to be seen’, says Lea Tintaud, Charter Fleet Manager at Edmiston. “It has the infrastructure, the restaurants, nightlife, scenery and facilities that people have come to expect. “There’s also a continued increase in the number of yachts venturing further afield, with many wanting to explore more exotic destinations.” Croatia, Greece and Turkey are all popular these days. “It seems extraordinary that a destination such as Croatia has remained relatively undiscovered, but now it’s on every yacht’s must-see list,” says Lea. “The Caribbean’s not as popular as it was, but that’s difficult to see if you’re anchored off St Barts for New Year!”
1. Marina Grande, Capri
This exclusive haven has always attracted a glamorous crowd. In the 1950s, the likes of Clark Gable, Sofia Loren and Jackie Kennedy would congregate on the island, while more recently, celebrities such as George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford have flocked there.
Even so, with its pastel houses and brightly coloured fishing boats, Capri still retains more than a dash of old-world charm.
There are 10 superyacht berths, all just a short stroll from numerous designer boutiques stocking Italian labels such as Pucci, Ferragamo and Versace, plus delicatessens selling Neapolitan delicacies. The most expensive marina in the world, it costs an average of EUR2,900 to moor a superyacht.
When to go: The Rolex Capri Sailing Week, May
2. Marina di Portofino
One of the prettiest harbours of all, idyllic Portofino was once a small fishing village and is often only accessible by sea – the single road leading to it is closed for most of the year.
Regular visitors include Steven Spielberg and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko – owner of 119 metre Philippe Starck-designed superyacht A.
“You can sit in the restaurants and watch the little pointu boats [traditional sailing boats] hustle for space amongst the large superyachts,” says Tintaud.
With only 14 berths for yachts, including six for superyachts, it can be hard to get a space.
When to go: Portofino Rolex Trophy, May
3. Porto Cervo, Sardinia
Porto Cervo was founded by the Aga Khan who used it as a private retreat for his friends and family. These days, Silvio Burlusconi owns a villa here, and come high summer, the marina is packed with superyachts.
“Mooring up outside Café du Port amongst the other large yachts is fantastic,” says Tintaud. “The little village on the island is also very beautiful with quaint houses and luxury boutiques. I also love the small wooden bridges connecting the different villages.”
During summer months, the place heaves with the Italian jet-set and the likes of Kate Moss, Denzel Washington and George Clooney.
When to go: Deluxe Fair, June; Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, September
4. Vieux Port de Cannes, Cote D’Azur
Anyone wanting to soak up the glamour of Cannes Film Festival should book at least a year in advance to guarantee a coveted spot here on the French Riviera.
“The marina in itself is pretty common although the sight of the Palais du Festival is very impressive,” says Tintaud. “It’s perfect for those who want to go luxury shopping and clubbing!”
The place is brimming with history and visitors can stroll in the streets lined with plane trees or visit the morning flower market.
When to go: Cannes Film Festival, May; Cannes Yachting Festival, September
5. Port Hercules, Monaco
Nestling in the heart of this exclusive principality, at the foot of the Rock of Monaco, Port Hercules is hard to beat when it comes to glitz and glamour. It has the most millionaires per square capita in the world and even featured in the James Bond movie GoldenEye. That said, some prefer Monaco’s smaller Port de Fontvieille.
“But Port Hercule is still a great location to be in and a necessity for stopping in Monaco!” says Tintaud.
When to go: Monte Carlo Rally, January; Monaco Grand Prix, May; Monaco Yacht Show, September.
6. Port de la Plaisance de Bonifacio, Corsica
This spectacular port wins hearts. “To me, this is the most beautiful port entrance of the world,” says Lea.” The impressive rocks are layered like cake and the old fortress town is out of this world. You can find along the promenade small markets and boutiques for picking up some lovely souvenirs and the restaurants are always buzzing in the summer.”
When to go: Anytime over the summer.
7. Porto Montenegro, Croatia
Since opening in 2009, on the site of a formal naval base, Porto Montenegro has grown to be one of the hottest destinations for the elite yachting crowd – particularly as it caters for today’s larger superyachts. There are plenty of boutiques, restaurants and sporting facilities, as well as cultural events at Porto Montenegro Yacht Club.
“A great new marina and perfectly situated for those making their way further down the Dalmation Coast,” says Tintaud.
When to go: September and October for peaceful late summer days.
8. Marina Hvar, Croatia
Said by some to be the most beautiful place in Croatia, the island of Hvar is famed for its lavender fields, olive groves and vineyards. Meanwhile, the picturesque main town boasts cobbled streets, pretty shuttered windows and sophisticated night life.
“The marina offers the best scene in the evening, but most prefer to anchor off one of the thousand islands and inlets,” explains Tintaud. “Hvar and Porto Montenegro have some way to go to catch up with Monaco, but people certainly have it in their sights.”
When to go: June/July to see the lavender fields; August for parties.
9. Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi
While Middle Eastern marinas may lack in old-fashioned charm, they do boast the most fabulous facilities. Handily situated beside Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 race track, on the man-made island, Yas Marina has been compared to Cannes. Despite being a Muslim country, locals are said to be tolerant of the lavish parties thrown at the marina during the Grand Prix.
“Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi have grown very popular,” says Libby Gordon from The Yacht Harbour Association. “They’re not as pretty as some of the European marinas, but people love the shopping and hotels.”
When to go: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, November
10. YCCS Marina Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
An ideal base for cruising the Caribbean, this corner of paradise not only has a state-of-the-art marina, but also benefits from being close to Bitter End Yacht Club and Relais and Chateau hideaway Biras Creek Resort.
As well as the endless possibilities for scuba diving, fishing and snorkelling, it is also the Caribbean base of Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.
The marina, which opened in 2012, was developed using sustainable design practices and accommodates 38 yachts up to 88 metres long.
When to go: all year round, especially March for the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta.
Others to consider:
Port de Saint-Tropez, France: the iconic Riveria town hosts the International Polo Cup in July and Giraglia Rolex Cup in June
Ibiza Magna: amongst the mega yachts seen here are those owned by Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and Roman Abramovich.
Limassol, Crete: this elegant development has been compared to Marina Grande in Capri and the Dubai Marina.
Bodrum Palmarina, Turkey: peerless facilities and its location on the Turkish Riviera have attracted the world’s biggest movers and shakers to Palmarina.
Port of Gustavia, St Barts: A popular spot over Christmas and lavish firework display at New Year.
Events this month: Southampton Boat Show (southamptonboatshow.com), 12-21 September; Cannes Yachting Festival (cannesyachtingfestival.com), 9-15 September