Is there anything that rivals the romance, adventure, and freedom of cruising the seas in a luxury yacht? The best luxury yacht designs maximize space; the superyacht dials that up to 11, with such amenities as swimming pools, personal watercraft, satellite communication, private chefs, outdoor entertainment decks, cinemas—even helipads. But a voyage on a richly accoutered yacht just begins the adventure when the destination is a luxury home in a world-class yachting locale. Welcome home, sailor, home from the sea.
Perhaps the most glamorous seaside destination in Europe, the French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, draws the sailor and sunseeker alike. Picture-postcard villages and chic beach resorts line the coast from the cosmopolitan glitz of Saint-Tropez and Cannes to the unspoiled beauty of Port-Cros. The winter resort city of Nice, with its ample sunshine, white sand beaches, and special events such as the Cannes Film Festival attract a who’s who of international glitterati. West along the coastline, past the jet-set destination of Saint-Tropez, the island of Porquerolles awaits, with a peaceful escape from the bustle of the mainland.
Surrounded by its “wine-dark” seas and thousands of islands, ancient Greece prospered with a maritime culture that became the cradle of western civilization. There is plenty left to explore, from the natural beauty of its uninhabited isles to the beaches and cosmopolitan nightlife that have made islands such as Mykonos into global destinations. Yachters can stop for an archaeological exploration or a night on the tiles in the tavernas of Athens to the nightclub scene of Mykonos, Corfu, and Crete, the largest island in Greece.
The naturally deep harbor, steady winds, and calm waters of St. Thomas make the island an ideal port of call while cruising the Caribbean. 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.
Spanning 200 nautical miles, the Florida Keys arc southwest from Virginia Key in the Atlantic Ocean (just south of Miami Beach) to Loggerhead Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote seven-island archipelago in the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles off Key West. The islands are easy to navigate. Cruising in the Keys can mean a leisurely and scenic sail through the shallow interconnected basins of Florida Bay or a more adventurous trip out on the open waters of the Atlantic. But it’s not all plain sailing. Mariners can drop anchor in a coral cove to swim, snorkel, or fish, or dock at a seafood restaurant for conch fritters and Rum Runner cocktails. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects nearly 4,000 square miles of waters surrounding the islands, including North America’s only coral barrier reef and more than 6,000 species of marine life, as well as shipwrecks and other archeological sites.
To explore the keys by land, follow Overseas Highway (US 1), a 113-mile-long stretch from Key Largo to Key West. The “Highway that Goes to Sea” crosses 42 bridges in all, including Seven Mile Bridge. Along the way are unique communities, including Islamorada, the “Sportfishing Capital of the World; the romantic Little Palm Island; and Big Pine Key, home to the tiny Key Deer. All roads lead to Key West—continental America’s southernmost city: a place described as “close to perfect and far from normal,” where flip flops are the official shoe and every day the sunset is celebrated.
Sardinia’s Emerald Coast is a playground for the jet set, and its dramatic, unspoiled coastline and luxury marinas draw yacht folk from all over. The marine grottoes of Cala Gonone and the rock formations of Capo Testa, shaped by centuries of sea winds, are favorite attractions. While the quaint towns of Carloforte and Castelsardo provide local color, the exclusive Yacht Club Costa Smeralda offers dining, a clubhouse, and spa services. Sailors can 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.
Bermuda has been the crossroads of the North Atlantic voyage since the town of St. George’s was settled by shipwrecked sailors in 1609. Between March and November each year, racing yachts from around the globe arrive in the harbors 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 travelers, who come to cruise the island’s Great Sound and soak up the sun and local culture. The warm waters are ideal for scuba diving, whether it’s to explore marine wildlife habitats or historic shipwrecks that dot the reefs around Bermuda’s perimeter.
This picture-postcard island of Martha’s Vineyard is a 100-square-mile island just seven miles south of Cape Cod. Its coastline ranges from wild, windswept beaches and towering seaside cliffs along the Atlantic to marshland ponds and sandy inlets protected by Vineyard Sound. “The Vineyard” was a center of the whaling industry from the early 18th to mid-19th century, as famously portrayed in Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. In the 1970s, it became famous for another big fish, Jaws. Steven Spielberg’s iconic 1975 thriller was filmed almost entirely on the island, starring as the fictional Amity. The famous opening sequence was shot at South Beach, Edgartown. Today, the town is the center of sailing and island life. From spring to fall, sailboats and superyachts jostle to find a berth into its safe harbor. More than 100 vessels take part in The Vineyard Cup, one of New England’s premier regattas, featuring thrilling yacht races and tony onshore events over three days in the second week of July.
Dubai, home to the world’s tallest building—the Burj Khalifa—is a convergence of dazzling skyscrapers, red-sand deserts, palm-shaped islands, and lavish beach resorts. In Dubai, recreation reigns supreme. Golf, Formula One, horse racing, camel riding, and indoor skiing are among the diverse sporting options on offer here. Shopping has been raised to an art form, whether hunting for a bargain in a souk or a duty-free Ferrari in a supersized shopping mall. Its location on the Arabian Gulf and the new 1,100-berth Dubai Marina make it a major hub for superyachts.
Greater Victoria is the boating capital of British Columbia. This picturesque region at the southern tip of Vancouver Island is about 50 nautical miles west of Vancouver, and 23 nautical miles north of Port Angeles, Washington, on the US mainland. The region draws sailors to its beautiful, sheltered bays, craggy inlets, and safe anchorages, beyond which are temperate rainforests and the archipelagos of the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands. There’s plenty of marine wildlife along the coast and at sea: bald eagles, sea otters, harbor seals, and killer whales.
The 700 islands of the Bahamas begin at Bimini, just 45 miles off the coast of Miami and stretch 500 miles southwest to the islands of Great Inagua and Little Inagua, neighboring the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Bahamas were made famous by Ian Fleming (the islands featured in the James Bond spy thrillers Casino Royale, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, Never Say Never Again, and License to Kill). But they’ve been a haven for sailors since the 18th century. They’re a paradise below the water, too, for sport fishing and scuba-diving. Palm-lined beaches, nature preserves, world-class golf courses, and colorful Colonial-style villas welcome seafarers ashore.