Few modes of travel can rival the romance and adventure of cruising in a luxury yacht. Whether privately owned or chartered for a special occasion or vacation, these pleasure crafts give you a sense of freedom that only a sea voyage can provide. The best luxury yachts are designed to maximize space; they incorporate such desirable amenities as swimming pools, personal watercraft, satellite-enabled communication, private chefs, outdoor entertainment decks, cinemas—even helicopter landing pads. But embarking on a richly accoutered private yacht is just the beginning of the adventure when the destination is one of the world’s best yachting locales.
Monaco is home to one of the world’s most stunning coastlines, and as the site of the world-renowned Monaco Yacht Show, it has an impressive array of Super Yachts in Port Hercules harbour each fall.
Synonymous with chic designer shopping and the ultimate in glamorous nightlife, the principality of Monaco is also famous for its Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix each spring and the Monaco Yacht Show each fall. Monaco’s port swells with impressive superyachts during such high-profile events whose passengers enjoy a front-row view of all the action. By day, a walk through inviting, winding streets leads to intimate cafes, wine bars, boutiques, and other hidden gems frequented by locals. By night, Monaco’s entertainment ranges from the relaxed intimacy of Le Bar Americain to the DJ spins-til-dawn of Le Living.
St.-Tropez and the French Riviera
One of the most glamorous yachting destinations in Europe, the French Riviera is a breathtaking landscape of chic seaside villages, white-sand beaches, protected coves, and verdant hillsides dotted with luxury villas. The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, offers it all, with a dozen distinctive resort communities, each with its ambience, from the cosmopolitan glitz of Cannes to the unspoiled beauty of Port-Cros.
Ample sunshine draws visitors to Nice’s white-sand beaches, and special events such as the Cannes Film Festival attract a who’s who of the international glitterati. West along the coastline past the jet-set destination Saint-Tropez (home of Brigitte Bardot), the island of Porquerolles awaits, with a peaceful escape from the bustle of the mainland.
The serene waters of the Aegean Sea and thousands of small, picturesque islands make Greece’s ruggedly beautiful coastline a top destination for discerning sailors. Surrounded by its wine-dark seas and dotted with thousands of islands, Greece, the cradle of western civilization, has been a mariner’s paradise for millennia.
From the natural beauty of its uninhabited isles to the beaches and cosmopolitan nightlife that have made islands such as Mykonos a global destination, there’s plenty to explore in this corner of southern Europe. From the tavernas of Athens to the beach bars of Corfu to Crete, the largest island in Greece, sailors can stop off for a night on the tiles, an archaeological exploration, or a spectacular sunset from the upper deck while cruising to Santorini.
Sardinia and Corsica
Sardinia’s Emerald Coast is a playground for the international jet set, and its dramatic, unspoiled coastline and luxury marinas draw yachters from all over. The Costa Smeralda has fascinated and allured ever since Prince Aga Khan IV sailed past on his yacht in the summer of 1959 and made it his mission to create a paradise along the Emerald Coast.
The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, Pevero golf club, and pristine beaches are still a beacon for royalty and movie stars. The marine grottoes of Cala Gonone and the intriguing rock formations of Capo Testa, shaped by centuries of sea winds, are favourite attractions. While the quaint towns of Carloforte and Castelsardo provide a rich palette of local colour, the exclusive Yacht Club Costa Smeralda offers dining, a clubhouse, and spa services. After a day on the turquoise seas, sailors can drop anchor and take a launch to explore the tiny islands of the Maddalena archipelago or the beautiful white sandy beaches and rocky cliffs along the Gallura coast. Tranquil sunset viewing turns to fine dining and sizzling nightlife in the exclusive restaurants, clubs, and discos of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo. Sardinia and Corsica make a perfect pairing for a Mediterranean cruise. Sardinia’s glamorous Costa Smeralda(Emerald Coast) is on par with St.-Tropez in terms of glamour, and private yacht charter guests can explore the nearby coves and bays or visit the surrounding islands, where there are many hidden spots to swim.
Stop at Cala Luna, a half crescent of white sand with dazzlingly clear waters, and Tavolara Island, a massive limestone island with 1,500-foot cliffs across the strait from Costa Smeralda. Many of the best crystalline coves are only accessible by boat in Corsica, and travellers should be sure to sail to the Lavezzi Islands and Scandola Nature Reserve.
Spain’s Balearic Islands
These four Spanish Balearics offer something for everyone. Mallorca, the largest island, leads the pack in luxury travel. Visit Palma’s Old Town, with its magical labyrinth of cobbled streets and stone palaces, as well as the island’s wild interior home to excellent hiking trails and tiny, charming villages. The vibrant Ibiza has long attracted an eclectic mix of visitors, with different corners of the island drawing celebrities, partygoers, families and artists.
Don’t miss beach-hopping to Ibiza’s far reaches by boat, along with a day trip to the neighbouring islands of Formentera and Tagomago. End at the tiny isle of Menorca for a relaxing, off-the-grid retreat in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve boasting large swaths of untouched, natural scenery.
Easily accessible from the Dalmatian Coast—and best explored via private yacht or sailboat—the Croatian Islands comprise charming, quiet towns that provide respite from the bustling cities of Dubrovnik and Split. Two must-visit destinations are Hvar and Korcula, with waterfront restaurants, medieval architecture and Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals. Another popular stop is Brac, home to a handful of hermitage monasteries.
Rovinj features a hilltop cathedral and narrow streets filled with art galleries, wine bars and chic boutiques, and visitors to the Brijuni Islands can tour the private safari park of former Yugoslav statesman Josip Broz Tito. Chartered boats also allow travellers to access uninhabited islets and secluded beaches free of tourists.
The turquoise waters of the Caribbean offer an abundance of options for those travelling by yacht. The British Virgin Islands, comprised of four large islands and 50-something smaller cays, feature romantic green peaks, unspoiled beaches and some of the region’s best snorkelling and dive sites. With a private boat, travellers can also island-hop across clusters of neighbouring islands—start in St. Lucia and head down to the Grenadines, which include Mustique and Canouan— to experience the Caribbean to its fullest.
Palm Beach, Florida
Palm Beach’s sailing opportunities range from cruising along the Intracoastal Waterway to navigating the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Sailing has always been an intrinsic part of Palm Beach and its seaside heritage. Established in 1890, the Palm Beach Yacht Club and Marina is the city’s oldest business.
Cruising in Palm Beach can mean a leisurely and scenic sail down the Intracoastal Waterway between the city and its natural barrier islands or a more adventurous trip out on the open waters of the Atlantic. But it’s not all plain sailing. On land, the legendary Palm Beach lifestyle awaits Members-only clubs (Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach Bath and Tennis Club); world-class sports at Palm Beach Polo, Golf and Country Club in Wellington, and the Honda Classic golf tournament in nearby Palm Beach Gardens; and, shopping on Worth Avenue, a retail mecca that rivals Fifth Avenue in New York and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
The US Virgin Islands
The capital of the US Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas, has a naturally deep harbor, making it the ideal port of call before exploring the neighboring islands of St. John, St. Croix, and the British Virgin Islands. The naturally deep harbor, steady winds, and calm waters of St. Thomas make the island an ideal port of call while cruising the Caribbean on a luxury yacht. Upon arrival in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, the beauty of the island’s hilly topography is immediately apparent.
The upscale shopping and fine dining scene make for a memorable stay. The idyllic neighboring islands of St. John and St. Croix are a haven for diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, and other water sports. Just east of St. John are the British Virgin Islands. Comprising four main islands and hundreds of tiny palm-lined cays, sandbars, and rocky outcroppings, the BVI is one of the most popular bareboat charter cruising destinations in the world.
St. George’s Parish, Bermuda
Bermuda’s Great Sound is a draw for weekend boaters and professional sailors alike. The island has hosted world-class sailing competitions throughout the years, including last year’s America’s Cup. The islands calm turquoise waters, and protected coves are also ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Bermuda has been the crossroads of the North Atlantic voyage since the town of St. George was settled by shipwrecked sailors in 1609. Between March and November each year, racing yachts from around the globe arrive in the harbours of St. George’s and Hamilton parishes to compete in regattas organized by Bermuda’s many sailing clubs.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the island’s temperate climate is a year-round draw for leisure travellers, who come to cruise through the island’s Great Sound and soak up the sun and local culture. In addition to sailing, the warm waters are ideal for scuba diving, whether to explore marine wildlife habitats or historic shipwrecks that dot the reefs around Bermuda’s perimeter.