Written By: Gabriel Rius
When icy winds start to howl, it’s time to dream of sweet sunshine. Winter, starting with the holiday season, is when yachting truly comes into its own. “The winter is the top period for yachting, even more than the summer, when the focus turns north to New England and other warm-weather destinations. Looking at the winter season offers a unique perspective on how America’s ultra-high-net-worth individuals seek to escape winter’s icy grip, and travel ideas that everyone can enjoy,” said AvYachts Chief Operating Officer Kathy Kennedy. Here are AvYachts’ top five winter yacht destinations for 2017-18:
i. Bahamas, Exuma and Abacos
ii. Grenada and Tobago Cays
iii. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
iv. St. Kitts
v. South Florida – Miami, Palm Beach and Key West
Here’s more on each of these destinations:
Bahamas, Exuma and Abacos
The holiday season in the Bahamas draws partiers to the islands’ most colorful celebration – the famed all-night festival of Junkanoo. On Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, locals shake their tail feathers in Nassau, dance to the beat of the drums and drink as much rum as they wish starting at 1 AM.
For a softer side to the season, the blushing pink sands and swimming pigs of Exuma offer a change of pace, with 130 anchorages available, ranging from gauzy grottoes to mangrove creeks. Of note is Thunderball Grotto, where the 1965 James Bond movie was partly filmed. From there, it’s a pleasant sail to the Abacos and their postcard-perfect views.
Grenada and Tobago Cays
The sultry spice island of Grenada is in the Caribbean’s far-flung south. Its capital, St. George, is said to be one of the prettiest cities in the pearly string of islands scattered across these waters. It also offers the golden sands of Grand Anse Beach, the volcanic lake of Grand Etang National Park and the Concord Falls Trail, with its plunge pools and shimmering cascades.
The five uninhabited islands that make the Tobago Cays include the island of Petit Tabac, so mesmerizing it was featured in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and Horseshoe Reef, with its opportunities for snorkeling. The Tobago Cays offer few bars and restaurants, which make them ideal for yachters looking for peace and quiet.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The 30 remote and luscious islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines invite yachters away from winter and into a world of hidden anchorages, secret coves and silky sandbars. It starts with Bequia, the second largest of the islands and one of the preferred yachting destinations in this chain. Bequia’s highlights include listening to whale song offshore, dining at Port Elizabeth’s trendy restaurant scene onshore and nursing cloudy glasses of rum at the legendary Hibiscus Bar.
Visiting St. Vincent enables travelers to breathe in the cloying scent of cinnamon and nutmeg in the sublime Botanical Gardens, trek to the seething volcano of La Soufrière and walk the black sands of Richmond Beach. Finally, the luxury resort island of Petit St. Vincent offers quiet beaches for romantic moonlit strolls.
Irresistible to adventurers, St. Kitts is the Caribbean lifestyle served with a side of adrenaline, everything from volcanoes to zip-lines in verdant rainforests to sugar trains that chug around the West Indies. Visitors can climb through the cloud forest wreathing volcanic Mount Liamuiga or grab their snorkeling gear to explore the shallow, ship wreck-filled waters of White House Bay.
History buffs will be drawn to the well-preserved 17th-century citadel crowning Brimstone Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before heading back down to the crab shacks and beach bars of Frigate Bay. Golfers can tee off at the new Ian Woosnam-designed course at Irie Fields – and sate themselves on fresh fruit picked from the trees lining the course.
South Florida, Miami and Key West
Yachters looking to stay closer to home can skip the distant shores and head down to South Florida. From sultry Miami nights to lazy afternoons on the Keys, this is the American dream trimmed with sides of blue sky and charm.
There’s Miami, where art deco architecture meets Latino spirit. Palm Beach, a longtime favorite of the yachting crowd, has designer goods on Worth Avenue and chic eateries such as Ta-boo and the Leopard Lounge. Laidback Key West, recovered from Hurricane Irma, has a bohemian vibe, legendary little cafes and bakeries offering scrumptious pies and cakes.