Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor is a stunning sight in the evening, especially when the city’s famed skyline is viewed from a large wooden tourist junk under three bloodred sails. But for years, yacht owners wanting to cruise the city’s harbor—and its 263 outlying islands—have been held at arm’s length: Bureaucratic red tape and a lack of infrastructure to accommodate private boats have kept Hong Kong, boasting one of Asia’s most exciting waterfronts, stuck in yachting’s doldrums.
That changed in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, when Lantau Yacht Club became the first new marina to open in the city in more than a decade. Nearly 150 typhoon-proof wet berths, some able to accommodate vessels up to 328 feet, transformed the city into a superyacht hot spot seemingly overnight. “Having berths of that size in Hong Kong is unprecedented,” says Victor Cha, executive chairman of HKR International, a major shareholder in the marina.
And it’s not just Hong Kong that has recently made its debut as an elite yachting destination. The Town of Palm Beach Marina, always well positioned to benefit from Florida’s yacht-rich Gold Coast, until last year had only one slip that could welcome a vessel of 200 feet. But after a nearly two-year, $40 million renovation, the city-owned marina has added the 250-foot-long Royal Palm dock, with slips for 10 superyachts, to better match the upscale look of nearby Worth Avenue. Some argue that the area’s historically sleepy, provincial vibe is what gave the classic docks their year-round appeal in the first place, but for better or worse, the new marina marks a decisive turning point, one that will see Palm Beach compete with Fort Lauderdale and Miami for the yachting set.
An even more ambitious build has turned Barcelona’s Marina Port Vell into one of the most desirable stops in the western Med. The traditional fishermen’s neighborhood of La Barceloneta has worked hard to shed its reputation for stag-party tourism, in no small part thanks to a massive marina reconstruction that is replacing berths for small vessels with more space for superyachts. The marina will soon have 23 new berths for vessels up to 230 feet, or a total of 55 berths for superyachts. The new layout will allow that number to increase to 65 during periods of high occupancy. The marina’s Spanish Quay is nearly 1,500 feet long, giving it the ability to cater to the world’s largest boats. The facilities have made Barcelona the most desired stop on the Catalan coast, offering easy access to some of Europe’s finest beaches, 30 Michelin-star restaurants, an F1 circuit and world-class skiing in the nearby Pyrenees.
Porto Montenegro, once a sleepy backwater in the eastern Med, followed a similar development strategy, creating a modern complex—including 460 yacht berths, with another 390 in the planning stages—on the former site of Tivat’s historic naval arsenal in Boka Bay. The investment in the area included $560 million toward creating or attracting five-star hotels, luxury retail, high-end restaurants and an international boarding school. It has been a remarkable metamorphosis: A decade ago, crews were known to quit when owners insisted on docking their vessels over the winter; now it’s a ritzy, all-seasons haven—and when the Adriatic 42 refit facility opens later this year, it will cement Montenegro as the eastern Med’s foremost superyacht destination.
Meanwhile, the sprawling Dubai Harbor, along with the surrounding cruising grounds of the MENA region, has become yachting’s showpiece for the Middle East—one its developers aim to make the largest in the region. The complex has three marinas, with nearly 700 berths. The 104-berth Bay Marina, dedicated to superyachts, has docks for those up to 525 feet. Its location, in the center of modern Dubai near the Palm Jumeirah and Bluewaters Island, is also a major plus.