In 1912, Nicholas II moored his 128-metre imperial yacht Standart in Nice Port. The French Riviera has been the spiritual home of superyachts ever since. Half of the world’s luxury fleet is hosted on the splendid shoreline between Toulon and Monaco. Nine out of ten superyachts will cruise the South of France at some point during their lifetime.
Local marinas could be forgiven for resting on their laurels. And granted, a handful of pleasure ports belong in the 1980s. Think withered palms in concrete pots and ship chandlers that take a four-hour lunch break. Fortunately, most follow the lead of Port Vauban in Antibes. In 2021 the largest marina in the Mediterranean embarked on a total reinvention. Added to its 1,642 berths will be new landscaping, a 360-degree viewing tower, a new yacht club, a new capitainerie, a maritime training campus, an upgraded helipad and more.
Other French Riviera marinas are locked in competition for yachting’s richest prize. The Ports Rade de Toulon, a conglomeration of six marinas, has a hydrogen filling station. The Yacht Club de Monaco has a clubhouse styled by Norman Foster. La Ciotat has garnered up to 10 per cent of the global superyacht refit and repairs market. In autumn 2022 this marina will launch Atlas, a megayacht facility that can lift 115-metre yachts into a dedicated dry dock.
No destination has welcomed a bigger spike in superyacht visits than Spain. A yachting tax exemption in 2013 encouraged growth at ultra-luxe hubs like Marina Port Vell in Barcelona, which has 60 berths up to 190 metres. Its USP? It’s a destination in itself, with fine dining, yoga classes, hip hotels and a gym. Plus an enviable location next to MB92, a megayacht refit hub with a sparkling new 4,800-tonne lift.
Port Adriano in Mallorca is like a mini Barcelona. Philippe Starck crafted this only-in-the-Balearics marina comprising 11 eateries, a stand-up paddleboard school and more regattas than Renaissance Venice. Gaze out to sea to view the ultimate local bonus. Four Balearic islands sharing 375 beaches across 1,700 kilometres of coastline, all within a 90-minute cruise. Hooked? The brains behind Porto Adriano also manage the hip Balearic marinas of Marina Ibiza and Botafoc Ibiza.
Yachting used to stop at the big three deep-water marinas in Gibraltar. Like superyacht hub Ocean Village and Marina Bay, which opened new berths in 2020. Now superyachts can hop across to Tanja Marina in Morocco en route to the Canary Islands. Across seven islands, over 30 harbours can welcome the world’s largest yachts - often alongside transatlantic sailors or container supply ships from mainland Spain. Sure, these salty ports aren’t the best place to stock up on Nespresso capsules or Acqua Panna, but a Canarian adventure of whale watching, downhill biking and deep-sea fishing awaits.