Drop anchor in these first class marinas
Contributed by: Jo Morgan
There are some superyacht marinas where the mere act of arriving will stay in your mind forever. As you cruise into one of the world’s great ports on a midsummer’s afternoon, crowds gather on the dock to see who might be on board. All around you, the most impressive megayachts ever built are docked—some with helicopters perched on top, others with infinity pools flowing off their aft deck. As evening falls, women in glittering gowns step off the passerelle onto the quay, the warm breeze flowing over bare shoulders as they venture out into a destination of almost mythical luxury: a place synonymous with glamour. A place whose very name announces to the world that you have ‘arrived’.
These yachting destinations are the sparkling watery playgrounds of the super-rich, and the marinas are their glamorous centre. Out at anchor, the unlucky ones sit: unable to get a berth in paradise. As your charter yacht inches its way into its narrow berth and the crew begins to throw the lines to someone in the waiting crowd, you look around and realise that there can simply be no better way to arrive in a beautiful place than on the deck of a superyacht.
It’s hard not to get a thrill from such a thing.
Why are these particular marinas so special?
The most exclusive ports are not necessarily the ports with the best facilities, or the capacity for the largest yachts—in fact, some might argue (and quite reasonably) that the newer, less famous marinas often thoroughly outclass the more established ones when it comes to these things. However, the truth is that the marina itself—the more practical details of yachting life— has very little to do with what causes the superyacht fleet to flock to certain destinations each summer, all competing to secure a coveted berth in peak season. What drives the yachting fleet to choose these ports—year in and year out—is a rare confluence of factors that cannot necessarily be engineered.
Status. A history of decadence. A stunning setting. Exclusivity. A celebrity clientele. Boutique shopping. Prestigious events.
But above all, these ports must have that sense of the glamour of summers past still hanging in the air, as if all the dazzling parties, fine meals and indulgence have somehow soaked into the air, the light— into the very atmosphere of the place. This sense of glamour is so strong that you can even feel its memory in the low season, when the yachts are long gone but the feeling of magic somehow lingers. Of the many hundreds of superyacht ports around the world, only a select few fulfil these criteria.
The Most Glamorous Superyacht Ports on the Planet
Porto Cervo, Sardinia
Purpose-built by the Agha Khan in the 1960s as an exclusive retreat for the wealthy, this tiny hamlet of stucco and terracotta on the glittering Costa Smerelda is one of the most glamorous places imaginable to dock your yacht in summer.
Competition is fierce to secure a berth in July and August, when the resort teems with oligarchs, celebrities and supermodels who shop, dine and party with happy abandon (and much spraying of champagne). Favourite haunts of the superyacht set include the prestigious Porto Cervo Yacht Club and the Billionaire Club, while Nikki Beach and Phi Beach are the ultimate in beach club indulgence and summertime shenanigans.
Marina Grande, Capri
This small and fabulously exclusive marina is the perfect example of our earlier point about it not really being about the facilities or capacity of the marina, as Marina Grande only caters for up to 300 yachts with a maximum length of 60 metres and has relatively few amenities.
But you won’t care a jot about any of that as you float slowly into this marina under the the mighty cliffs of Capri, with brightly-painted fishing boats tied up in front cafés that line the port. Once docked, take the funicular up the steep mountain to the whitewashed village of Capri, where you can wander through the cobbled lanes full of boutiques and galleries before retiring for lunch on a cliff-top terrace with a jaw-dropping view of the Mediterranean.
Port Hercules, Monaco
Of all the ports in the world, Monaco may well have the greatest sense of glamorous occasion about it. You enter Port Hercules through a gap in the mountains that line this vertiginous stretch of the Riviera, and dock in the shadow of skyscrapers.
Up on The Rock, the royal palace sits behind its imposing gates, and Monte Carlo rises steeply up the hill, the famous Grand Prix road track winding past grand hotels, an abundance of Michelin starred restaurants, and casinos straight out of a James Bond film. This is the world epicentre of supercars, supermodels, and superyachts, and the nightlife and shopping are suitably stratospheric (in both style and price.)
Port Pierre Canto, Cannes
There can be no mistaking the buzz and glitz of Cannes, truly one of the great cities of the Mediterranean. Famous for its prestigious Film Festival and the strip of opulent Art Deco hotels along the Croisette, Cannes has an electric atmosphere all summer. Superyachts converge here in great numbers to enjoy the endless delights of Cannes: world-class boutique shopping, the glamorous beach clubs, the epic nightlife, the world-class gastronomy, the high-rolling casinos, and the mesmerising natural beauty of the Cannes Islands.
There’s an ancient Provencal heart to this sparkly town that you’ll discover as you wander through the cobbled streets of the Old Town, before heading back to your yacht docked right by the iconic Palais des Festivals.
Port de St Tropez
To sail into Saint Tropez in the late afternoon is a moment of pure joy. The afternoon light paints the pastel-coloured facades all shades of pink and gold, and the pavement cafes are crowded with well-dressed people sipping cocktails and eating canapés.
Once a quiet fishing village, Saint Tropez has been a byword for glamour since Brigitte Bardot cavorted on nearby Pampelonne Beach in a skimpy bikini in Then God Created Woman: the film that would catapult both her and the town of Saint Tropez to global stardom. As you stroll through the pretty Provencal streets, shop in the many boutiques, and party in some of the world’s most iconic nightclubs, it’s hard not to feel like a bit of the celebrity glamour has rubbed off on you too.
There are just 14 superyacht berths in Portofino, yet it is so astoundingly beautiful that yacht guests practically fall over each other to secure a berth here. Nestled away in a tiny harbour on the Ligurian coastline, tiny Portofino takes your breath away. The port is lined with a profusion of brightly coloured facades, with restaurants and gelaterias tucked under awnings and spilling their pavement tables out into the Mediterranean sunshine. Italian villas perch high above the deep, emerald-green water, and fragrant forests of pine and oak hide ancient monasteries and quiet paths through the rolling hills.
There’s not much to quiet Portofino, but there really doesn’t need to be, as nobody can resist its glamorous charm and spectacular setting.
We said earlier that the factors that make a yachting port popular cannot necessarily be engineered, but this relatively new marina has perfected the art of attracting superyachts. It’s certainly not hard to see why Porto Montenegro has become the new darling destination of the superyacht set. The approach to the marina in Kotor is breathtaking, as your yacht powers slowly up a deep, crystal clear fjord surrounded by forested mountains, walled fortress cities and Venetian palaces before docking at Porto Montenegro— a superb marina and resort complex favoured by the super-elite.
Famous for its stunning infinity pool, waterfront restaurants and uber-glamorous vibe, Porto Montenegro was the close runner-up in the International Superyacht Marina of the Year award in 2016, and the tax-free fuel only adds to Montenegro’s appeal for superyachts.
Yacht Haven Grande, St Thomas
Voted the International Superyacht Marina of the Year in 2016, Yacht Haven Grande is located in a fabulously picturesque bay surrounded by the rolling hills and tropical beaches of St Thomas. This outstandingly equipped marina can accommodate yachts up to 200 metres and has a thriving high-end shopping and restaurant scene, with a lush pool, tennis courts and fitness centre for yacht guests.
There’s a sense of excitement and energy in the air that makes arriving in St Thomas a thrilling experience, and Yacht Haven Grande remains peerless when it comes to Caribbean marinas.
Port de Gustavia, St Barths
Each year around New Years, many hundreds of superyachts wait in the bay just outside Gustavia Harbour, hoping and waiting for the call to tell them that a spot has opened up for them inside the port. For the vast majority, that call never comes, and guests must content themselves with sitting at anchor under a shower of fireworks as the New Year breaks and the sound of revelry carries on the night air from Port de Gustavia— one of the most glamorous marinas on the planet.
Such is the appeal of St Barths in the high season, but no matter when you come to St Barths, there’s an atmosphere of decadence and celebrity, of long lunches in chic French restaurants, and happy days spent lying on soft white sands and diving into the sparkling sea.
To find out more about how you can arrive in one of these ultra-luxury marinas on the deck of a superyacht, have a chat to the friendly team at OceanScape Yachts.