You might have spent your summer plotting how to avoid the traffic jams, flight delays and noisy hotels during your fortnight in the Med, but the super-rich travelled – and stayed – by luxury yacht.
Expensive, exclusive, and the envy of the world’s other 99% of holidaymakers, the “superyacht society” is something we’d all like to join. And with some of the world’s most luxurious destinations now catering specifically for yachts, it’s fast becoming the only way to visit them – the true sign of money, style, and status. For the benefit of those already in the superyacht club, or those who dream about getting that much-coveted membership card, we look at four of the top Mediterranean locations for yachts and their seriously classy ports, with the inside knowledge on what to do, where to go, and how to discover their best-kept secrets.
The customary sight of A-list celebrities and high-society players sauntering around the place hasn’t spoiled the humble stone-built charms of this southern French town. Summer season is predictably busy, but the warmth and sunshine lasts into September and October. Port de Saint-Tropez is where you’ll find its most prestigious visitors and yachts.
For the best fine dining, Résidence de la Pinède is home to three-time Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Donckele, who puts his own unique touches to classic Mediterranean ingredients. The beach-view terrace is particularly fancy if you can bag a table. You can also buy your own gourmet grub at Benoît Gourmet & Co on rue des Charrons – caviar, champers, foie gras, the absolute works.
The Musée de l’Annonciade is a converted 16th-century chapel, now an art museum with an exquisite collection of modern works depicting the Côte d’Azur.
It would be a crime to visit St-Tropez and not rub shoulders with the great and good (well, we hope they got that rich by being good) at a seriously high-end beach club. On Pampelonne beach is Club 55, the most refined and discreet of the bunch. The Pearl Beach club is also sophisticated, with an east-meets-west theme and spa.
Pampelonne beach itself. The beach that made St-Tropez’s name is also the most overcrowded. The lesser-known (but no less perfect) Nartelle Beach at Sainte-Maxime is just a 30-minute journey by one of the stylish “Green Boats” that shuttle across the bay.
Between the narrow passages of Place de la Garonne, Rue Gambetta and Rue Allard are a selection of designer stores and ever-changing boutiques. If you want it, buy it – the shops come and go as quickly as the celebs.
Sparkling scenery, impeccable weather and the glitz of the Cannes Film Festival have made the town a desirable destination for the rich and famous for decades. The luxurious Port Pierre Canto and Vieux Port also host the Cannes Yachting Festival in early September, Europe’s most prestigious boat-off.
July and August. The waters get seriously busy at this peak season, and unless you’re heading there specifically for the yacht festival, it’s crammed then too. To avoid crowds but still enjoy the weather, June and late September are the best times.
Tucked away on Rue Marceau and away from the bustle of the main Croisette strip is Casa Mia, an Italian trattoria with a distinctly French flavour. Inside it’s pure class, with a grand staircase that leads to a stylish champagne bar.
Sitting on Port Pierre Canto, Bâoli isn’t just one of the most exotic and exclusive nightspots in Cannes, but the entire Côte d’Azur. It’s a shimmering jewel of pure opulence, where big money goes to drink, be merry, and dance the night away.
Take a short sail from Cannes to the small island of Saint-Honorat, where a small community of Cistercian Monks produce award-winning wines and liqueurs by hand.
While the Boulevard de la Croisette is Cannes’ most renowned shopping street – and always a place to spend considerable cash as well as people-watch – the parallel street of Rue d’Antibes is also heavily stocked with designer label clothing, boutique gifts, and high-end interior design items. It’s a pretty compact town, so between those two main strips, you’ll find most things a self-respecting shopaholic could ever desire.
Despite the party-hard rep, Ibiza is one of Europe’s most authentic, paradise-like treasures. Incredible beaches make it popular for yachting breaks, particularly parked up alongside the filthy rich at the Ibiza Magna marina. Summer season is relentless, so avoiding tourists isn’t about when you go, but where – and there are plenty of gems to uncover.
Famed as the world’s most expensive restaurant, Sublimotion in Sant Jordi de ses Salines is hardly a secret, but the self-styled “gastronomic show” is a one-time-only experience – self-mixing cocktails, nitrogenised olive oil capsules, and illusionist waiters. For drinks, head west to Blue Marlin on the Cala Jondal shore, where you’ll find a toned-down party vibe and massages on the sand.
To soak up some real cultural history, the “Old Town” of Dalt Vila in Ibiza Town has Roman stone statues, a castle, ancient gothic buildings that hang over the labyrinth-like cobbled streets, hidden courtyards and chapels, and museums and galleries. Barely a glow-stick in sight.
Take a trip north to the secluded Hacienda Na Xamena hotel. Set on clifftops, there’s a luxurious spa and cascading pool overlooking the Mediterranean. Utter bliss.
If you haven’t got the stomach for Ibiza’s trademark carnage, stay away from party central Sant Antoni.
At just 220 square miles, Ibiza is small enough to explore, from the incredible sunsets of Cala Gracio on the west coast, to 14th century village Santa Eulalia in the east. Exquisite Voyage hires luxury sports cars on the island – Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis.
A true treasure of the Mediterranean – remote, deceptively vast, and reassuringly expensive. And there’s only one way to see its crisp sands: from the Med itself. Porto Cervo on the north coast has been a desirable mooring spot of the super wealthy since Prince Aga Khan made it his private retreat in the ‘50s.
The chaos and ludicrous expense of Costa Smeralda’s world-renowned Billionaire club will appeal to some, but for a less high-profile night out try Phi Beach. It kicks off just before dusk, when you’ll find yourself watching the sun go down surrounded by beautiful people.
While the Costa Smeralda coastline is for show and glam, inland there’s a more authentic flavour to both food and culture. On the road to San Pantaleo is La Sasima, a barely visible cottage where you can eat mouth-watering suckling pig and other Sardinian classics in the open air.
August. The heat will be almost too much to bear – though that doesn’t stop everyone and their sunburnt mothers from descending on the island – can anyone explain why everyone in southern Europe goes on holiday in the same month?
It’s not hard to spend in Coasta Smeralda. “The Walk” – famed for its top-name designers and fine jewelley – is popular with sheikhs, oligarchs and supermodels, shopping with near bottomless credit. Shops continue beneath the Piazza Rossa, where there are hidden boutiques and craftsmen.
The big attraction, of course, are Sardinia’s impeccable beaches. Just a short drive from Porta Cervo is Pevero Beach, which looks out on crystal clear gulf and is surrounded by juniper forests.
This article was taken from the July/August issue of Gentleman’s Journal. Subscribe here.