the Dock of the Bay

The world-wide demand for marina property shows little sign of slow-down. We take a look at some of the world’s most popular destinations for harbour-side homes

Whoever first dreamed up the idea of adding residential real estate to a marina development had a vision that was truly inspired. Living beside water, be that a harbour, lagoon or inlet, has well-published health-giving benefits. It is also aesthetically pleasing to look out across bobbing yachts on gentle waters with views that capture soaring seabirds and beautiful skies. Boat owners also relish the opportunity to reside conveniently close to their vessel, not purely due security concerns but because they revel in a marina community of like minds.

Today, a growing number of tatty rundown boat yards have made for swish resort-style water-front complexes with world-class marina homes that hug the shorelines of the most popular sailing destinations on the planet. With its near-perfect sailing conditions, the Caribbean has been an obvious choice for marina resort communities, from the palm-hemmed coastline in Barbados to the picturesque bays of Antigua, Canouan, Grenada and Turks and Caicos.

Offering the latest nautical technology and state-of-the-art mooring, berthing and docking facilities, as well as a range of maritime-inspired amenities, these purpose-designed developments boast safe, pristine waters, jet-skiing, fishing, kayaking and diving with a host of captained charters and sea-faring cruises at hand. Dine at gourmet seafood restaurants; visit a marine-themed luxury spa or enjoy ocean views from a jetty-front bar. Shop for swimwear at swanky over-the-water boutiques or scour the shore for a rainbow of seashells. Gaze out onto a horizon dotted with graceful sailboats in an exclusive setting dedicated to whole-heartedly embracing the joys harbour-side living.

Marina designs have grown increasingly more sophisticated,” observes internationally acclaimed marina architect Demetri Porphyrios. “My work on a design for the exclusive Marina Harbor & Village at Ambergris Cay on Turks and Caicos is highly-responsive to the region, climate, available materials and local culture. Potential buyers are offered a choice of homes to suit their lifestyles or a pre-approved list of top architects to develop their own turn-key design. ”

Another appealing facet of marina resort communities is the influx of visiting sailing vessels and boaters that stop-off and pass-through en route to, or from, an exotic far-flung land. The number of yachters swells during the peak of regatta season, when professionals and amateurs alike flock to sailing and powerboat events across the globe. Highlights include the laid-back glamour of the Caribbean’s hottest boating shindigs, from Grenada Sailing Week, St Thomas Regatta and the British Virgin Island’s Spring Regatta to the glitz of Rolex Antigua Sailing Week and the St Lucia Sailing Festival. A fast-emerging new contender on the boating scene is the Dominican Republic, home to the resort and marina of Casa de Campo and its 350 slips. Upscale Grand Bahama is more established, with lofty marina property prices to match. Expect island-hopping contests complete with rum and reggae beach parties on the Caribbean regatta circuit – usually capped by a finale of fireworks at in the glow of sunset.

“The expanding calendar of international marina and waterfront related exhibitions, conferences and professional courses is indicative of the growth of this sector,” explains Carol Fulford, editorial director of Marina World magazine. “With the number of marina developments set to rise world-wide, this growth looks only set to continue.”

With its well-established sailing routes to the Caribbean, Florida’s 1,200 miles of coastline is no stranger to waterfront development with umpteen small harbour-front neighbourhoods centred on yacht clubs and boat docks. Miami, Sarasota, The Keys and Fort Lauderdale (with its 40 miles of navigable waterways) are the Sunshine State’s boating Mecca’s. Miami is also host to the prestigious US Rolex Olympic Class Regatta, attracting 855 sailors from over 50 nations to compete in both Olympic and Paralympic classes. Even Central Florida’s inland resort town of Orlando is home to a number of small marinas, some of which have real estate on picturesque palm-flanked lakes. Costal marina developments offer boaters access to deep water fishing, a legacy of Florida's historical connection to the state’s aquatic resources and inextricable link with the sea. More than 250 regattas, sailing shows, fishing contests and seafood festivals take place each year in the Sunshine State, from the Safety Harbour Sea Fest to the Naples Regatta.

Notable highlights in the Caribbean region include the Port Louis Marina situated in a natural lagoon on the lee side of the ‘Spice Island’ of Grenada, where luxury berthing and services cater for yachts up to 100m LOA - super yacht size. As a destination port for the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Transatlantic Race, it is hard to imagine that this upscale marina was once a derelict and wreck-strewn expanse - the uplift to surrounding land and property values has been incredible.  Another headline-grabber is the Glossy Bay Marina on the pretty shores of Canouan Island in the southern Grenadines. Bounded by the Canon Airport, a convenient parking spot for the private jets that fly in, the marina has berths for super yachts and is developing some beautifully designed ultra high-end villas. Canon, a 1,200-acre island is blessed with white sand beaches and picturesque palms and tropical foliage and the marina has been billed ‘the gateway to tourism in the Southern Grenadines”.

In St Thomas, American Yacht Harbor offers a total of 123 berths, including 4 Megayacht berths while the Marina at Yacht Haven Grande in nearby Charlotte Amalie has 46 berths dedicated solely to Megayachts - perfect for when the well-heeled Rolex Regatta crowd roll in to town. In Simpson Bay on St Maarten, the Simpson Bay Marina has a total of 122 slips, 20 of which can accommodate Megayachts while properties at the well-established Jolly Harbor Marina in Antigua, with its golf course, shops and close-at-hand beaches, continue to command impressive prices - and is now one of the island’s major tourist draws. Certainly, a growing number of high-end sailing festival sponsors, in the style of Rolex, continue to scour the the Caribbean’s world-class cruising grounds for partnership opportunities - such is the region’s kudos and cache.

“The facilities for yacht owners have dramatically improved in recent years,” observes yachting journalist, yacht surveyor and designer Andrew Simpson. “Travellers keen to explore under sail will find it a rewarding experience as the growing number of marinas world-wide make it easier for water-born tourists to have a solid base. 

What’s On Offer? 

  • In the Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana region, a luxury villa close to resort marina amenities costs from $US 750,000. Full service marina facilities include berths up to 70 feet, with access channels at 8 foot deep, water, fuel and electricity.
  • Top-end state-of-the-art villas in Grand Bahama’s upmarket Bell Channel Club and Marina costs from $US1.5-million. Amenities include a sandy beach, shops, restaurants and bars plus 25 berths.
  • Costal properties on Florida’s Gulf of Mexico shoreline come with price tags of upwards of $US 2-million. Lake-side inland real estate is easier on the pocket with pool villas in Central Florida from around $US 320,000.
  • In beautiful Antigua, a property on the Jolly Harbour marina complex could be yours from around $US800,000.
  • At the Sandyport Marina Village in New Providence, Bahamas a 4-bed, 3-bath home right on the water, and close to restaurants, pools and golf courses, could be yours for $US 595,000.
  • An opulent ocean-front mansion house, overlooking the sea and soft white sands on Grand Cayman, is currently on the market for $25-million.
  • Pick up a beautifully appointed apartment on Turks Cay Resort and Marina in Turtle Cove for a price tag of around $US 1.8-million.
  • On Gros Islet on the Pigeon Island Causeway, a spacious 2-bed apartment on a stylish marina with water-front views costs around $550,000.
  • A fully-furnished luxury apartment on St Lucia at the Marina Village in Margot Bay, decorated with Lloyd Loom furnishings, will set you back $395,000 - the facilities here are first-class.
  • On St Kitts, at Christophe Harbour, plots of land for villa builds are offered at $US 650,000 with a Tom Fazio 18-hole golf course and 5-star luxury hotels just some of the amenities.