For most of us, the yachting life seems like a distant dream – far too pricey to ever be a reality. However, you can actually find some affordable boats to take you around the world’s loveliest waterfront destinations. In fact, we’ve picked five itineraries (along with five charter luxury yacht companies) to help you realize your yachting dreams. Anchors away!
Yachts don’t have to be massive, 100-foot behemoths with multiple decks – and Sail Croatia proves it. Take, for example, their €1,049/week yacht. It sleeps six, has a full bathroom, three cabins, a bathing platform, and a swimming ladder for taking a dip out in the wild blue. Heck, it even has an oven so you can prepare gourmet meals while you’re bopping around the Croatian coast. There are larger yacht options, of course (ratcheting up to a whopping €3,000/week), but for most, the entry-level skiff will do.
Pick up your boat in Split in the south of Croatia – after, perhaps, taking a tour of Diocletian’s Palace and lingering on the beach – then head further south along the coast to Dubrovnik. A straight-shot trip takes only a few hours, though we recommend slowing the engine to a gentle purr when you hit the long, sand-blanketed islands just off Makarska. Jump off, soak in some rays on the beach for a few hours, then swim back to your yacht for the next leg along the Adriatic’s cerulean blue. Finish in Dubrovnik with wine, views for days, and more swimming off the coast.
2: Cyclades Islands, Greece
It’s not an uncommon fantasy: a moseying, serpentine wander among Grecian isles while the sun warms your back and the horizon beckons. Why not make it a reality? Yes, charter luxury yachts are not cheap here – some running up into six digits for a week – but there are also catamarans and sailers closer to €2,000/week. If you head to Alpha Yachting, you’ll find a whole fleet to browse – from simple bareboats to multi-layered yachts with entertainment decks.
As far as your itinerary is concerned, you could spend weeks dotting from one island to the next, but we recommend the archaeologically-rich Cyclades Islands. If you start from the mainland, head south to Mykonos (known for its luscious beaches and thumping dance clubs), then to Sifnos (celebrated for the local pottery, as well as the white-washed Chrysopigi Monastery), then cozy-quaint Ios (featuring a now-wrecked Venetian castle), and finally, to Santorini (known for its iconic white-walled buildings, imposing cliffs, and the archaeological treasure trove known as Akrotiri).
3: Amalfi Coast, Italy
Wend your way from Capri to Positano and Naples as you sip fine Italian wine and devour as much Mediterranean seafood as you can possibly consume. It all starts with a charter luxury yacht from IYC – though these ships might require a pooled investment. The smallest ships, running about 62 feet in length, run more than €10,000/week. You get some incredibly luxe digs, though: full-sized sitting rooms, flat-screen TVs, full kitchens, entertainment decks, bars, multiple bathrooms – not to mention waterskiing and wakeboarding equipment. (Important note: Specific offerings depend on the boat you charter.)
So how to make the most of this extravagance? Start in Naples, make a stop in Pompeii, then float over to Sorrento – the city on a cliff – and make landfall, if only for a seafood-rich meal, several bottles of vino, and views of imposing Mount Vesuvius. Next, tuck into the “secret” beaches of Nerano, ogle the Baroqueness of Amalfi, and finish with a lunch under the lemon trees on the isle of Capri.
4: San Juan Islands, Washington State
While they don’t boast the lusty, foreign allure of Mediterranean islands, Washington State’s San Juans nonetheless offer a fulfilling yachting expedition. Start by picking your charter luxury yacht at Anacortes Yacht Charters (boats can be chartered a day at a time with prices starting around $350/day), then settle in for a dance around the northwest. (To be fair, many of these yachts run about 30 feet and are probably closer to posh boats than proper yachts – but they’re definitely affordable.)
As with many yachting destinations, you can make a full week itinerary – or longer – of your time in and around the islands. That said, we have a few favorite stops. The first is Matia Island, home of a national wildlife refuge; followed shortly thereafter by Sucia Island, a standout for its rock formations and surrounding reef. For a breezy hike (punctuated by an idyllic lighthouse), head to Stuart Island, then move on to San Juan Island to enjoy glorious wildflowers, friendly locals, and quaint restaurants. If you’re keen on more hiking after all of that, head to Cypress Island where miles of rugged trails await.
5: Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Looking for something south of the equator? Australia is always a delightful spot – and the Whitsunday Islands make a great region for yacht-based exploration. Pick up your catamaran at Dream Yacht Charter (with prices starting at $650 for five days); the lower-end “Don Gato” sleeps two comfortably with a shower and kitchen onboard for maximum comfort.
Departing from Airlie Beach, head to the Nara Inlet where you can see aboriginal cave paintings and experience a sun-soaked “bush walk.” Next up: beachtastic Whitehaven where the swirl of the ocean and the white of the sand lull you into a paradisiac bliss. If you stay long enough, you can even catch fireflies illuminating the beach. Lastly, we recommend some turtle peeping at Dugong Beach. You can also do some incredible hiking here, though make sure you’re relatively fit before you dig in; the trails can be tough.
What you should look for in your charter luxury yacht
As you might imagine, not all charter luxury yachts are created equal. Most importantly, figure out how long you want to be out exploring and what your budget is. Then, make a list of your required amenities and look for these when examining options. There are a few offerings most will want, however. These include:
- Crew. If you don’t have a crew that comes with the yacht (and the more affordable ones don’t), then you’ll likely need a boating license to pilot the vessel. Be sure to check with the local authorities about what the requirements are and how you can secure a license.
- Motor-powered operation. Some “yachts” are actually sail or bareboats, meaning you have to use the wind or your own strength to get them moving. If you’re keen on simply relaxing, make sure you look for motored yachts.
- A full kitchen. Some smaller yachts have only a hot plate or an oven, but no way to bake and do stovetop cooking. If this is important to you, make sure you check your yacht’s amenities.
- Tech hookups. Not all yachts have USB/aux cable hookups for connecting your devices, so be sure you look for these features when shopping around. You might also consider prioritizing DVD players and TVs if you plan on spending your evenings below deck.
- Fans. The last thing you think about when fantasizing about yacht travel is airflow, but the reality of many yachts is they get cramped and stuffy. Make sure you have fans onboard to keep you cool.
- Water sports equipment. If you end up bobbing out in the water, you may well want to go snorkeling or enjoy some other water sports. Many charter luxury yachts include this equipment but it’s not guaranteed; keep an eye on inclusions to make sure you get what you’re looking for.