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10 of the World’s Best Yachting Locations

From the French Riviera to the Virgin Islands, Luxury Defined explores 10 top yachting destinations around the globe

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

This idyllic contemporary villa on the island of Corfu is built into a hillside overlooking the Gulf of Gouvia. The four-bedroom home extends to more than 5,300 square feet across three levels. The main-floor reception areas have a fluid, open-plan layout. Picture windows and sliding glass doors frame the views of Dassia and Corfu Town and open to an infinity pool and three acres of serene gardens planted with olive and cypress trees. The upper-level owner’s suite has a fireplace, walk-in closet, and two verandas to take in the views of the old fortress of Corfu and Mount Pantokrator.
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. 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.

In the heart of the U.S. Virgin Islands, between St. Thomas and St. John, the exclusive private islands of Little Saint James and Great Saint James encompass 230 subdividable acres in a serene Caribbean landscape. Great Saint James, the larger of the two islands, is just 5 minutes across the bay from St. Thomas. Little Saint James includes a main compound, four guest villas, three secluded beaches, private dock, two swimming pools, a gym, tiki hut, helipad, a gas station, high-capacity water filtration, as well as ancillary structures and infrastructure.
As a sailing destination, the Florida Keys are unmatched in the contiguous United States. Comprising approximately 800 islands, or keys, they stretch 200 nautical miles southwest from Virginia Key (just south of Miami Beach) to the remote Loggerhead Key in the Gulf of Mexico.

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.

One of the finest waterfront properties in the Florida Keys, Palm Harbor occupies a private peninsula in Islamorada, 90 minutes south of Miami. Set on more than six acres fronting the Atlantic Ocean, the property includes a main house, guest house, caretaker’s cottage, palm-lined tropical gardens with an orchid greenhouse, pool and spa, sundeck, and summer kitchen. With about 2,000 feet of waterfront, including 150 feet of sandy beach and a 2.5-acre deepwater harbor—a boater’s dream with 500 feet of dockage and two lifts, and access to some of the best backcountry bone fishing in the world.
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.

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.

This seafront villa is in Borgo Harenae, a luxurious new gated community with a yacht club and promenade, just steps from the charming village of Cannigione on the Costa Smeralda. The five-bedroom villa includes an airy open-plan living room, dining room, and kitchenette. Patios and covered verandas open to a pool and lush Mediterranean gardens bordering a secluded, sandy beach.
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 snorkeling.

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.

Windsong House is a historic 1.7-acre estate on a private peninsula on Riddell’s Bay and the Great Sound. Built in 1720 as a sea captain’s home, the magnificent 7,200-square-foot, three-level main house has been completely refurbished yet retains its elegant Bermudian ambiance. The seven bedrooms, including a main suite and guest/staff apartment, a drawing room, library, formal dining room, and chef’s kitchen. The waterfront grounds include an organic garden, bayside pool, swimming terrace, sheltered mooring, and a large jetty.
Martha’s Vineyard is one of the world’s most celebrated nautical communities. Each July, the Vineyard Cup Regatta offers three days of world-class yacht racing in the waters of Vineyard and Nantucket sounds.

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.

This classic Shingle-style seaside cottage is in one of the last remaining private communities on the North Shore of Martha’s Vineyard. Built in 1896 and renovated for contemporary lifestyle, the property offers eight bedrooms, six-and-a-half bathrooms, elegant reception areas, and a gourmet kitchen. The highlight is the wraparound porch with a view of Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands. Beyond are mature gardens landscaped with specimen trees, colorful plantings, and a wide lawn overlooking a protected conservation trust beach. Mink Meadows Golf Course and Vineyard Haven are just minutes away.
Dubai is fast becoming a yachting destination, and its premier locale is Dubai Marina, a two-mile stretch of waterfront where superyachts and skyscrapers glitter in the desert sun.

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.

Cobalt blue waters framed by evergreen forests provide the stunning backdrop to a sailing voyage along the shores of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

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.

This 3,900-square-foot penthouse is in Shoal Point, a landmark building at the mouth of Victoria’s historic Inner Harbour. Palladian windows in the principal rooms bring in the light and the views of the Inner and Outer Harbours, the Victoria cityscape, and the Vancouver Island Ranges. The spectacular 3,500-square-foot deck has an outdoor firepit and hot tub with 360-degree views. Residents can moor in adjoining Fisherman’s Wharf.
With 16 major islands across 100,000 square miles of crystalline water, the Bahamas is a yachting paradise. Nassau, its capital city, is a bustling jangle of shops, art galleries, and fine restaurants great and small.

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.

A 120-foot yacht dock with marina-grade amenities is just one of the highlights of Coral Cove, a beautiful Colonial-style villa on a protected lagoon in Nassau’s exclusive Ocean Club Estates. The 9,600-square-foot residence includes an upgraded kitchen and wine cellar, wood-panelled study, grand living and dining room, and an oversized, sheltered outdoor living area overlooking the pool terrace. Upstairs are four large en suite bedrooms with private balconies (three facing the waterway and one overlooking the fairways of the Ocean Club Golf Course).