Nothing broadcasts ultra-high net worth quite as clearly as ownership of a superyacht. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that, in a world where the numbers of the very wealthy is on the rise, so is the number of bigger boats.
After a post-crash dip, yacht sales have grown once again. To cater to these new seafarers, a raft of super-size marinas has also recently been launched, with enticing stopping off points across the eastern shores of the Mediterranean (in Croatia, Montenegro, Malta and Turkey), as well as Spain and the farther-flung Caribbean. “Traditionally, superyacht owners have stuck to a handful of locations – the Côte d’Azur and parts of Italy, certain islands in the Caribbean, Miami,” says Rod Taylor, head of international residential developments for estate agent Savills. “Now they’re venturing further afield to find privacy and socialise with a like-minded crowd.”
In the world of modern yachting, the word “marina” means so much more than a harbour. Owners of superyachts don’t just require a reliable source of fuel and expert technicians; to make a port worth calling at, what’s on land must be a mirror of what’s on board. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of property. From Monaco to St Barths, from Miami to Marbella, five-star homes with a ring-side view of glamorous maritime adventures are almost as sought-after as the boats themselves – commanding, according to a recent Christie’s market report, starting prices significantly higher than those for properties in other lifestyle markets. While this presents something of a challenge for those hoping to establish the latest yachting destinations, it’s one they definitely seem to be rising to.
The western shores of the Med along the Côte d’Azur and Italian coast have long been the summer playground of the superyacht set, but over the past few years there’s been a strong pull eastwards – partly, of course, because the owners of superyachts often hail from the Middle East and Russia, but also due to the indisputable attractions of the unspoilt land and seascapes.
The stunning Dalmatian coast, for example, has added a deluxe marina at Porto Montenegro in the Unesco-listed Bay of Kotor (where Savills is selling a three-bedroom beachside villa in Strp, with mooring and pool, for €1.6m), complementing the established ACI marina in Croatia (where Savills is selling a four-bedroom waterfront villa on Brac, the exclusive island opposite Split, for €2.4m). While in Turkey the Palmarina Bodrum has been completely rebuilt to provide 98 berths for yachts measuring more than 30m, and Malta is restructuring its Grand Harbour Marina to welcome boats measuring up to 130m to its historic waterfront.
The recent superyacht development in Cyprus’s Limassol has proven a particularly successful model, combining the latest in luxury living with an immaculately run harbour. “Cyprus is a key route to the Middle East and large yachts crossing between the western and eastern Med used to have nowhere to stop,” says Andreas Christodoulides, CEO of Limassol Marina. “Those looking to explore need a berth.”
Opened in 2014 and operated by legendary marina management firm Camper & Nicholsons Marinas, the marina is partly inspired by the Côte d’Azur’s famed Port Grimaud and forms part of a significant redevelopment of Limassol old town. Designed with the guidance of French architect Xavier Bohl, the landscape is now a mix of low-lying villas and apartments whose tiled roofs and stone walls echo the scale and period of the town. A number of the villas also incorporate private berths, allowing owners to moor their yachts at the bottom of the garden, then walk out of their front doors and into the centre of Cyprus’s liveliest city in a matter of moments. “It undoubtedly helps being in town,” says Christodoulides. “As well as its status as an important international business centre, Limassol has a huge range of attractions – high-end restaurants, art galleries and luxury boutiques – and we’ve just signed a casino.”
Purchasing in Cyprus remains an attractive option for international buyers (particularly its many Russian residents), offering a straightforward legal system and business largely conducted in English. The latest phase of the development (with apartments from €1.8m and villas from €2.9m through Limassol Marina) sits on a private island, with uninterrupted views of the marina, the sea and the city. The project has been such a success that another superyacht marina is under construction at Ayia Napa in southeast Cyprus (with apartments from €560,000 and villas from €4.497m through Sold on Cyprus) and a further three (at Paralimni, Larnaca and Paphos) are at the planning stage.
Building a superyacht marina in an area with a well-developed infrastructure is a monumental task, but nothing like as complex as setting out to achieve the same result in virgin territory. Charles P “Buddy” Darby III, founder and CEO of Christophe Harbour and former CEO of Kiawah Partners, is both a superyacht owner and a developer who likes to be tested – something that was evident when, in 2007, he was approached to see the potential in what is thought to be the crater of an extinct volcano on St Kitts, the Caribbean island twinned with Nevis (both of which, mercifully, were spared the brunt of Hurricane Irma). “When the volcano collapsed, it left a body of water surrounded by mountains entirely protected from hurricanes. As soon as I saw it, I thought, ‘Wow – all I have to do is dredge’.’’
Eight years and a “bunch of money” later, the Caribbean’s latest state-of-the-art superyacht marina, Christophe Harbour, was launched, and now forms the heartbeat of a luxurious resort. “The yachts set a tone,” says Darby. “When you see them lit up at night, it’s quite spectacular. They give the resort an energy.” That energy has been matched in the development’s other splendours, such as the five-star Park Hyatt hotel (which opens later this year), a members-only beach club, the Salt Plage beach bar and, beginning construction in 2018, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course.
Darby owns a classic sailing yacht and as a young man worked in his family’s boatyard, so his own standards for a marina are exacting. Here, yachtsmen are well supported with the largest marina fuel farm in the eastern Caribbean, and (opening in November) a customs office with crew and captain facilities. But the resort is intended as much for those who like to feel part of a yachting community as for the boat owners themselves.
The property offering is extensive and varied, from large freehold plots ($740,000 to $8.5m through Christophe Harbour), where owners can employ their own architects, to a range of custom-built four- and five-bedroom properties (from $1.5m). Darby explains, “The resort is partly modelled on Mustique, but prices here are significantly more accessible”.
Price is not the only draw, however. Purchasers are able to take advantage of both the St Kitts & Nevis Citizenship by Investment programme (which makes property investors eligible for citizenship) and bespoke transport from the island’s airport (with regular flights from London Heathrow), where Yu Lounge can whisk visitors from tarmac to yacht in less than 30 minutes. “Yacht owners tend to be Type-A personalities,” says Darby. “Extreme waiting is not what they want.”
This, of course, is equally true elsewhere. More established resorts have had time to build up their ease of access, and Porto Cervo on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast – undoubtedly among the world’s most exclusive yachting destinations –has one of the largest private-jet terminals in Europe. The small but perfectly formed village, created by Prince Karim Aga Khan and his fellow investors in the 1950s and ’60s, is home not only to a shipyard capable of repairing the largest yachts, but also to the renowned Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, which organises the annual regattas and presents the prizes in the village square. “The yachts here create the lifestyle,” says David Branch of Christie’s International Real Estate. “Most of the day is spent sailing to local islands, then, in the evening, owners and guests return to enjoy the events, restaurants and bars. People purchase property to take part.”
Buying here has never been easy, however, constrained not only by price (with some of the most expensive seaside real estate in Europe), but by the fact that construction along the coastline is highly restricted. So the recent addition of La Tiara di Cervo presents a welcome opportunity. Offering 28 apartments (from €5.9m for a three bed through Christie’s International Real Estate), the development combines traditional building materials, the sleekest of contemporary interiors (by renowned Italian architects Giovanni Maria Torno and Ferruccio Laviani) and views over the Med’s most glamorous ports with all the deluxe facilities – spa, cellar, concierge, underground parking – buyers now expect to allow them to make the most of their holidays.
Not all yachting enthusiasts, however, want to buy in a destination that only comes alive for a brief butterfly season. The seamless combination of sophisticated city living and holiday pleasures is one of the reasons Barcelona has seen a growing demand for property near its superyacht harbour, OneOcean Port Vell. Originally built for the 1992 Olympics, the marina has recently undergone a complete makeover to provide it with 148 berths for superyachts up to 190m. “Barcelona has become a transport hub with daily flights from all over the world,” says Alexander Vaughan, co-founder of Spanish-based estate agent Lucas Fox, “and it’s also seen as a good staging point to explore the Balearics. International buyers here love everything the city has to offer.”
OneOcean Port Vell lies in the centre of Barcelona, the briefest of strolls from the city’s famed shopping, nightlife, restaurants and cultural attractions, and purchasers here expect the same sophisticated standard of contemporary living they’ll find in other major cities. “Until recently, most development was in period buildings reinvented behind an existing façade. Now we’ve started to see the type of new-build property more commonly found elsewhere,” says Vaughan, who is selling a dazzling contemporary home with city and Mediterranean views on Avenida Pearson (off-plan for €9.96m).
Of course, a beautiful home with prime marina access can be an income generator as well as a private escape. Indeed, on the long-fashionable Greek island of Mykonos, recent updates to the marina are having a direct impact on those homeowners wishing to maximise their return on property rented out during the peak yachting season. “People who rent villas here do so on a weekly basis,” says Roi Deldimou of Beauchamp Estates. “Then they hire a yacht and go island hopping. If they’re spending half a million a week chartering a yacht, they can’t be offered something of lower quality on land. Many villas here have had to be upgraded to match expectations.”
Those who are looking to buy a house in peak condition could consider the 10-bedroom, 12-bath Villa Amelia, with not one but two pools (€7m through Beauchamp Estates). Or, to appreciate what the yachting set would consider an ideal pied-à-terre, Villa Albertina (€35,000-€70,000 a week through Beauchamp Estates), in Kalo Livadi, sets an appropriate benchmark for even the most exacting boating parties. Very secluded, it includes 14 bedrooms, two pools, a gym, a hot tub, a helipad – and its own private chapel. Luxury, you might say, worth praying for.