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Yachting in Europe

Five destinations with the power to surprise

Europe offers some very well established highlights for yachtsmen in search of the ultimate lifestyle – the Cote d’Azur, the Amalfi coast, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia; the fjords of Norway, the beautiful Balearics and the scattered archipelagos of Croatia. Whether viewed as places to keep your boat or as venues for a special charter experience, each of these destinations has achieved fully warranted fame among the yachting elite.

But while the appeal of the lifestyle is important, the continent’s very best places to invest your boating time also need to lend themselves to making a better boat life as easy to achieve as possible. For instance, what kind of availability is there for marina spaces? What kinds of prices might you be expected to pay? How easy is it to get to if you’re living in the UK? What is the climate like? How long does the season last? Is it a viable destination all year round? Is English prominent among the languages at the marina? Are there readily available maintenance and support services in place? And are the local attractions supplemented with desirable cruising options further afield?

As an established operator throughout Europe, Princess Motor Yacht Sales knows first-hand how positive and enriching boat ownership and yacht charter can be – and while the following five places might not yet be among Europe’s most exalted yachting hit-list, their merits are too glaring to ignore…

Malaga, Spain
Most people tend to look toward Barcelona or Valencia as the key yachting hubs in mainland Spain, but Malaga is every bit as charismatic. Founded by the Phoenicians the best part of 3,000 years ago, it underwent Greek, Roman and then Moorish occupation, before various Muslim dynasties gave way to Christian reoccupation in the 15th century. As you might expect, modern day Malaga is therefore a thrilling architectural and historical narrative, as well as a first-class destination for art lovers, but it still retains all the natural appeal of a first-rate Spanish seaside resort. The waterfront, which boasts a vast sweep of sandy beaches alongside the oldest continuously operated port in Spain, has received plenty of investment in recent years and the climate down here in Spain’s far south also brings winters so warm that it could feasibly be used as a year-round yachting destination. Throw in great shopping, an authentic Spanish bar scene, a wonderfully accessible food culture and the upbeat vibe of a place with profound cultural confidence and Malaga is the perfect spot for yachtsmen in search of something better.

Peak season: Year-round
Time difference: GMT + 1 hour
Best airport: Malaga (5 miles)

Three Lakes Region, Switzerland
While Lakes Zurich, Maggiore, Lucerne and Geneva all enjoy deserved renown, the Three Lakes region in northwest Switzerland is a wonderful destination. Positioned just a short hop from Geneva Airport, this region of classical Swiss watch and winemaking is home to Lakes Neuchâtel, Murten and Biel, each connected to the other by means of wide, easily navigable canals. Lined with elegant vineyards along its northern coast and protected marshland along the south, Lac de Neuchâtel offers plenty of beaches, as well as a vibrant watersports culture and a variety of charming waterfront towns and villages. The old spa town of Yverdon-les-Bains and medieval Estavayer are both fine destinations and French-flavoured Neuchâtel makes a natural hub for marine exploration. While Lake Murten, the smallest of the three, is popular for swimming, courtesy of shallow waters, which are easily warmed by the summer sun, Lake Biel to the northwest is again tied closely to wine making, with delightful vineyard walks, as well as cycle routes and easy access beyond the vineyard slopes to some superb hiking and climbing. Bird watching and paddle boarding are also popular pursuits here and St Peter’s Island, La Neuveville, Ligerz and Biel itself are all accessible places for a memorable stopover.

Peak season: May to September
Time difference: GMT + 1 hour
Best airport: Geneva (53 miles)

Bay of Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein
The Schleswig-Holstein peninsula, perched up in the north of Germany, with the Baltic on one side and the North Sea on the other, is a very surprising destination. Lined with sandy beaches, cut through with deep glacial fjords and blessed with endless miles of unspoiled coastline, it has developed a strong reputation as a summer sanctuary for German high society. Relatively warm, docile and reliable weather from May to September makes this a very easy place to cruise and the region’s yachting infrastructure is also very user-friendly, with plenty of modern marinas, a wide choice of berths, a well-developed charter industry and very manageable distances between facilities. While that enables the novice to navigate in short, easy steps, Schleswig-Holstein also rewards the ambitious yachtsman with some extraordinary cruising opportunities. You can investigate the immediate region by cruising around to Kiel Bay, heading west, via the inland waterways to the North Sea and up the Elbe to Hamburg, before returning to the beautiful UNESCO city of Lübeck via the Elbe-Lübeck Canal. Otherwise, you can head east, along the coast of Mecklenburg toward Poland; or you can push north, further into the Baltic, to explore the southern archipelagos of Denmark and Sweden or even the bustling maritime cities of Malmo and Copenhagen.

Peak season: May to September
Time difference: GMT + 1 hour
Best airport: Hamburg (45 miles)

Istanbul, Turkey
Turkey is a thrilling yacht destination. Perched on the cusp between east and west, between tradition and modernity, between rusticity and opulence, its renown has grown in yachting circles over the past two decades and the shoreside infrastructures now make it wonderfully accessible. The regions between Bodrum and Gocek, and even further south towards Antalya, are now well on the charter radar – and with more than 300 days of sun each year and some of the warmest waters in the Mediterranean, Turkey’s capacity to extend your boating season well into November, when the western resorts have shut down for the winter, is very valuable. Turkey’s clear, sheltered waters are also great for watersports and, while it’s always possible to find a quiet cove, bay or anchorage for some private serenity, it’s equally possible to embrace the ‘time-capsule’ antiquity of the place or to step ashore for some more indulgent fun in a place like Hvar or Korcula. But for those who want something faster paced and more dynamic, Istanbul is unlike anywhere else in the world. With the Black Sea on one side, the Sea of Marmara on the other and the islands of the north Aegean beyond, the cruising potential here is every bit as special as the city itself.

Season: April to November
Time difference: GMT + 3 hours
Best airport: Istanbul (29 miles) 

Jersey, Channel Islands
Jersey is a small island, adrift in the Bay of Mont St Michel, a few of miles off the coast of northwest France. It is the largest of the Channel Islands, with 45 miles of dramatic coastline – some of it geared up for tourism, some of it surprisingly secluded but all of it of great appeal to the visiting boater. The capital, St Helier, sits in the middle of the south coast, at the eastern edge of St Aubins Bay. Here, there are two excellent marinas for visiting boaters with easy access to the centre of town, where the local appetite for the good things in life is wonderfully infectious. St Helier combines the elegance of French-style cuisine and open-air café culture with the welcome familiarity of English language and currency. It offers watersports aplenty, plus a vibrant events calendar, as well as lots of classical tourist attractions, like castles, vineyards, museums and beaches, all within a very small and manageable space. With the equally charming destinations of Guernsey, Herm and Sark within easy reach, as well as the varied delights of Normandy and Brittany, Jersey is a spectacular place to keep your boat.

Peak season: April to September
Time difference: GMT + 0 hours
Best airport: Jersey (6 miles)