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Your Expert Guide to Investing in the World’s Best Sailing Locations

Christie’s International Real Estate affiliates and a top superyacht broker share everything you need to know about buying a made-for-yachting home in the U.S.A, the Caribbean, or Europe

What are the prime considerations for a yacht owner house-hunting in the globe’s most exclusive sailing locations? Should you aim for a home with a dock, or one with easy access to a full-service marina? Is an offshore mooring reached by tender a good compromise, and what should you know about the great waterfront playgrounds of the U.S.A., Europe, and the Caribbean before buying?

Chris Cecil-Wright, founder of renowned superyacht brokerage Cecil Wright & Partners, explains that the location often depends on the craft. “While you can berth any size of yacht in a private mooring, you should consider more than just its length. Width to accommodate the beam is equally important in terms of accessibility, as well as draft and tide in waterways connecting to the ocean.”

A small yacht moored in a bay with clear blue water
According to Forbes, superyacht sales remained strong in 2020 and an uptick in sailing vacations is to be expected throughout this year and next—all great reasons to be based in a location that offers easy access to the water. Image: Getty Images

Then there’s also the question of setback—the allowable distance from the property line. “Just because you have 100 feet (30 m) of river frontage, you shouldn’t assume it’s big enough to dock your yacht,” Cecil-Wright points out. “And even if it is, is there access for crew and maintenance workers without them having to come through your house?”

Practical Considerations

Having maintenance at hand is one reason many yacht owners prefer to dock in locations with marinas, while access to the shops and restaurants feeding the sailing lifestyle is another, says Cecil-Wright.

There is a third way though—an offshore mooring can be equally desirable for a smaller craft. “For yachts of up to 60 feet (18 m), mooring in a tidal estuary that can be reached by dinghy from home is a very attractive option,” he says. “It’s charming and romantic to be able to row out to your yacht.”

While oceanfront properties with a private mooring command the highest prices—“and are so desirable that not many are seen on the open market,” says Cecil-Wright—they also come with their own set of concerns. “Saltwater issues can affect not just a home but also the wooden piles of the dock, and ground chains must not be allowed to corrode. On rivers this is something wardens, paid by the municipality, take care of; but on the ocean, owners need to check these themselves.”

A waterfront mansion in Fort Lauderdale Florida, one of the world's top sailing locations
This nine-bedroom home, on the market with Premier Estate Properties, offers direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and is situated in Fort Lauderdale’s highly sought-after Idlewyld yachting enclave.

In sailing locations such as Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean, where hurricanes are possible between June and November, moorings must be reinforced and made as weatherproof as possible. Yet despite the risks, Cecil-Wright prefers these locations to sailing on the northeast coast of America, where he says, “the yacht cruising grounds are amazing, but the rolling waves of the open Atlantic beachfront aren’t ideal for yachts.”

Instead, he names his favorite U.S. location as Florida, with wide sandy beaches and copious canals and waterways that are perfect for sailing. He highly recommends Palm Beach, but points out that there can be tidal and accessibility issues. “Fort Lauderdale, however, is at the heart of the action,” he says.

Find Great Value in Florida

The freedom and privacy afforded by life afloat has pushed the South Florida real estate market through the roof during the pandemic, says Matthew Bertanzetti, broker associate at Premier Estate Properties in Fort Lauderdale. “We’re seeing increasing numbers of people new to boating, who come down and charter a yacht and then decide they want to relocate here and live the lifestyle,” he says.

Demand for both yachts and homes is overwhelming, but Bertanzetti warns. “People new to the area who want to live alongside their boats don’t always understand the different rules governing setbacks and other logistics of the different waterways; they need the expert guidance an experienced broker can provide.”

A grand living room with views out onto a river
Impeccably designed and with panoramic waterfront views, this five-bedroom home has access to a 30-foot (9 m) boat slip at Savannah’s Causton Bluff Marina, which can accommodate a 45-foot (14 m) yacht. It is on the market with Seabolt Real Estate.

To clients from the north and west, such as California and Chicago, South Florida represents exceptional real estate value, adds Bertanzetti. “They will often buy a home priced around $1.5 million just to have a place to keep their boat and crew. On the other hand, those clients whose yachts are 170 feet (50 m) or bigger will typically have a smaller boat as well, which is their go-to for day trips.”

These are buyers, he says, who consider the area’s oceanfront mansions great value at around $6 million. The price of a waterfront property is determined not only by ease of access to the ocean but also to shops and restaurants, he adds. “Walkability to key thoroughfares like Las Olas Boulevard pushes up prices.”

Smooth Sailing in Savannah

A sailing location with even better value than Florida is Savannah, Georgia, a party town which Cecil-Wright praises for its “massive river and islands offering wonderful cruising.”

Elaine Seabolt, president of Seabolt Real Estate, echoes his comment but adds that while the area “has many waterfront properties with private docks,” due to strict regulations over the protection of its wetlands and marshlands, none of the island properties have docks big enough for a craft much over 90 feet (27 m). Instead, she says, “the megayachts dock at one of four marinas. Happily, we have many properties with good marina access, which owners reach from their homes in smaller boats.”

An aerial view of a waterfront estate in Antigua
Known as the White House, this waterfront villa in Antigua—available through Anchor Antigua Realty Ltd.—boasts its own private dock, allowing its owners to sail, swim, and snorkel in the clean, calm waters of the North Sound and Atlantic.

A Caribbean Safe Haven

With its hurricane season, weather is also a consideration in the Caribbean, but its yachting center, Antigua and Barbuda, is considered a safe harbor, says Justin White, director of sales at Anchor Antigua Realty.

White reports a buoyant market during the pandemic, thanks to the region’s relative isolation. “At a time when clients are looking for a safe haven from the strict lockdown measures and the dense populations of cities, there are few other sailing locations in the world which can offer this level of luxury and freedom,” he says. “As an added benefit, the Caribbean’s warm weather makes ‘sheltering in place’ a lot more desirable!”

Sardinia, the Sailing Capital of Italy

In Europe, where yacht owners tend to berth in marinas, Portofino is the jewel of towns on the Italian mainland, says Cecil-Wright. But, while Capri is a popular sailing location, he believes Italy’s real yachting mecca is around the island of Sardinia. Julia Bracco head of sales at Immobilsarda Srl agrees, citing its stunning coastlines and the large choice of well-equipped and competitive marinas along its coasts, which provide top-notch services year round.

While Cecil-Wright’s pick of the area is Porto Cervo, Bracco believes that yacht owners should also look to lesser-known enclaves like Portisco, Poltu Quatu, or Cannigione, which have their own marinas.

According to Bracco, business in Sardinia has been brisk during the pandemic, due to the island being blessed with low population density, good weather, a lack of pollution, and a protected natural environment. She adds that the market has seen growing interest from central, northern, and eastern Europe.

View from a contemporary bedroom onto a tree-lined bay
Only 30 minutes away from Porto Cervo in Sardinia, this contemporary waterfront villa is situated on almost an acre (0.4 ha) of pristine coastline. It also comes with a private pontoon, and is available through Immobilsarda Srl.

While Sardinia’s strict planning controls mean that ocean frontage is rare, this is compensated for by inland plots with enough space to accommodate vineyards and olive groves—and most have sea views and are within 15 to 20 minutes’ drive of the coast. “We’re seeing a trend towards detached houses with gardens and swimming pools,” Bracco explains. “People want to spend more time here, perhaps working and home schooling their children.”

She adds that Costa Smeralda offers “a prestigious portfolio of properties with private docks, as well as seafront villas that are very close to marinas that can host yachts or smaller boats.” This, she believes, signals a new lifestyle trend—one in which “owners of villas use their boat for everything from day trips or excursions to visiting restaurants or enjoying an aperitif on the water.”

In Porto Cervo, she notes, the right property “is all about being within a few minutes of the marina.” But, for those not looking for a jet-set lifestyle, “there are other very well-equipped marinas. For example, Cannigione to the north of Porto Cervo is an ideal location. It’s sheltered from the wind and has access to the stunning archipelago of La Maddalena.”

The Idyllic Islands of Croatia

Croatia is rich in islands, with chic sailing locations such as Hvar (considered the Saint-Tropez of the Adriatic), Brac (famous for its beaches), and elegant Korcula ensuring that the country’s Dalmatian coast is an increasing draw for yacht owners. Less well known, but just as appealing, are the northern coastal enclaves of Istria, including romantic Opatija and Rovinj, which boasts a brand-new marina close to its old town.

An infinity pool overlooking the sea at sunset
Situated in the vicinity of the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia, this modern waterfront villa boasts a private beach and is just minutes away from the city’s marina. It is on the market with Remington Realty.

The market in Croatia is picking up after a quiet winter, reports executive director of Remington Realty, Ivan Kovačić. “Following lockdown, we’re seeing interest from Germany, Austria, and other central European countries, which are close enough to come by car,” he says. “Some yacht owners who keep their boats here are looking for a second home so they can spend more time in Croatia.”

Prices are on the rise, particularly around Split, where modern waterfront villas of 3,230–4,305 square feet (300-400 sq m) fetch over €2 million ($2,432,000)—although, as in much of Europe, “there are few properties with private docks,” Kovačić says. He doesn’t foresee this being a long-term problem, however, as many poorly constructed older properties in the region are being rebuilt, and he adds that “there’s a constant supply of high-quality new homes throughout Croatia.”

Find out more about the brokerage service offered by Cecil Wright & Partners at 

Banner image: A yacht berthed in front of a home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Getty Images