Miami may be best known for its vibrant cultural diversity and fabulous beaches, but there is another fascinating world that exists just beyond its shores—a world best discovered by private yacht.
By Rebecca Cahilly
The sun has lowered on the horizon, casting that perfect glow that can only be captured when set against brilliantly clear, turquoise water. From the aft deck of a private yacht, a personal stewardess offers a refreshing beverage and a delightful array of canapes while soft music plays in the background. As the sun sets, the Miami skyline lights up in the distance.
This is the scene that draws yachtsmen from around the world to the waters and islands off Miami. Bursting with culture, fashion, history and bustling action on land and on water, Miami not only attracts, but also inspires the jet set. This is a city that caters to the elite, where every activity is designed for fun and “joie de vivre.” Miami provides it all, from the very best in designer boutiques and high-end shopping to world-class cuisine, grand homes and the most impressive superyachts in the world, all enhanced by a pulse that is every bit as lively as the star-studded city itself.
Situated along one of the finest stretches of sandy beaches in South Florida, The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort is ideally positioned to take advantage of everything Miami has to offer. One of the most unique—and uniquely “Miami”—ways to experience this great area is by boat; more specifically, a private yacht.
Because Miami is a playground for yachting, a plethora of charter companies offer a spectrum of yachts in all styles and sizes to suit any taste, itinerary and budget. From a private crew-led sportfishing charter to a 50-foot fast cruiser, 75-foot day boat or luxuriously divine 100-foot-plus superyacht, the options are endless. And, with so much to do, chartering a yacht for several hours, or even a full day or week, opens a world of possibilities for adventure and excitement.
“We have the luxury of working with several charter yacht companies with great fleets of yachts and excellent service,” says Brian Bean, chef concierge at The St Regis Bal Harbour Resort.
The Advantaged Yacht Charters fleet comprises 23 private yachts that range in size from 45 to 122 feet. As is the case with most yacht charter companies in the Miami area, personalized service is a core value. “I like to meet every client, and I go out of my way to make each charter perfect,” says Jessica Londono, a charter broker at The Advantaged Yacht Charters.
Each yacht comes fully crewed and complete with fuel, food or private chef, as is the case with the 122-foot OceanFast, a favorite of celebrities that has been featured in a James Bond movie as well as numerous commercials and music videos. Londono says that many of her clients cruising Miami for a day are more than satisfied with a yacht in the 50- to 70-foot range, such as a 54-foot Sea Ray or a 72-foot Sunseeker.
A Day at Sea
Miami’s brilliant beaches, islands and on-the-water activities are best experienced via private charter yacht. After a morning yoga session on the beach in front of The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, a charter yacht can be met at Bayside Marina, Miami Beach Marina and Coconut Grove, or at nearly any of the marinas located along the 35-mile-long Biscayne Bay.
“Each charter is different and we tailor it to suit our guests’ tastes and lifestyle,” says Dhardra Blake, owner of LuxuryDayCharters.com. The company also offers a spectrum of yachts in various sizes, all fully crewed and available with singular amenities.
The charter begins with a leisurely cruise to Flagler Memorial Island, also known as Monument Island, which is named for the 110-foot-high obelisk built in memory of Miami’s Henry Flagler. The yacht will anchor on the island for guests to go ashore and visit the monument, which features four figure sculptures representing prosperity, pioneering spirit, education and industry—the great premises upon which Miami, referred to as “the richest city in America,” bases much of its success.
Heading on to Key Biscayne, the boat drops anchor for lunch while the watersports enthusiasts suit up for some action on the Jet Skis. Some charter yachts will come equipped with water toys or the captain can arrange for them to be rented ahead of time. Key Biscayne is also a great place to tie up alongside other yachts and spend the day relaxing and chatting with new friends. Further, Crandon Park Beach or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park offer quieter spots to swim and snorkel, the latter named one of the top 15 beaches in the U.S. Boca Chita Key in Biscayne National Park and boasts a coral reef perfect for all kinds of underwater exploration, including diving and snorkeling. Another great destination is the state park on Elliott Key, which offers a variety of beach activities such as swimming, fishing and hiking, as well as crystal clear waters.
A charter cruise to the south wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the remnants of Stiltsville, a community of wooden stilt buildings standing on the sand banks of the edge of Biscayne Bay, just south of Cape Florida. Said to have first been constructed in the early ’20s and ’30s, and boasting a colorful history, Stiltsville is now protected by the National Parks Service. If time permits, the elite Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo also offers plenty in the way of diving and snorkeling fun.
“In the evening, clients may wish to watch the sun set while enjoying a gourmet onboard dinner prepared by their personal chef before heading back to the marina,” Blake says. “Or they may wish to cruise to dinner at any of the great waterside restaurants on the Miami River.”
Cruise and Culture
Miami offers something for everyone—and definitely something new for yacht charter clients looking to experience the city from a different vantage point.
Kate Kalamaga, owner of Tropicalboat Charters, enjoys working with clients to tailor each itinerary to their specific needs. “We can incorporate whatever fabulous land-based activities the client wishes to experience into the charter, from a leisurely stroll and people-watching in the creative haven that is Coconut Grove to a captivating tour of the Art Deco architecture that beautifies South Beach,” she says.
Miami is a muse for anyone inspired by art, music or sports. The Miamarina at Bayside allows easy access to both the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat. Marlins Park is a short drive away, and well worth the visit during baseball season. A variety of restaurants and shops make up the Bayside Marina, which is also a great jumping point to visit some of Miami’s great family attractions—such as the Children’s Museum, Seaquarium, Zoo Miami and Jungle Island. Art-related exhibitions and events occur year-round in Miami, but in December, incorporating the world-famous Art Basel exhibition into plans is a must.
For a glimpse of Miami’s impressive homes and architecture, plan a cruise around Miami’s islands. Star Island, Palm Island, Hibiscus Island, the Venetian Islands and the private Fisher Island all offer close-up views of stunning waterfront mansions owned by celebrities and the rich and fabulous. Further south along the coastline is the Vizcaya Museum, built by James Deering in the early 20th century and now one of Miami’s historic landmarks.
Tropicalboat Charters also recommends a cruise up the Miami River as another great way to see Miami’s cultural enclaves. Historic neighborhoods are scattered along the five-mile stretch of river, including East Little Havana, Overtown, Grove Park, Allapattah and the Spring Garden Historic District, which was Miami’s most exclusive residential area in the 1920s.
Any of the nine parks situated along the river provide a great place for an al fresco picnic, while the 10-mile Greenway pedestrian path is an inviting place for a stroll. Casablanca Seafood Bar and Grill or Garcia’s Seafood Grill and Fish Market are recommended waterfront eateries, but as with many, dockage may be limited and best secured with advanced reservations.
Taste of the Ocean
One of the most important elements to a yacht charter is the food. Most large charter yachts, from 80-feet and above in length, will come staffed with a full crew and a private chef. These chefs are generally world-class trained and provide high-end cuisine suited to the itinerary. A chef isn’t always necessary, however, as Miami is home to some of the world’s most exquisite waterfront restaurants, some only accessible by boat and others too good to pass by.
A sport fishing charter takes the yachting and food relationship to a new level, as it provides the opportunity to have the day’s catch prepared and served right on the boat. If the plans don’t include serious fishing, the cruise can depart from Coconut Grove, whose cafes and restaurants span various cultures, from street food to fine dining.
For casual waterfront seafood, Scotty’s Landing in Coconut Grove or Monty’s Raw Bar at the Miami Beach Marina are highly recommended. South Beach offers a wide variety of dining options, ranging from the classy and chic to the hot and trendy.
For other options, look to the restaurants and cafes of Espanola Way, or Bal Harbour itself, where many restaurants offer up mouth-watering cuisine, such as Fresco and the J&G Grill located within The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.
“No matter the clients’ tastes, we can arrange a spectacular itinerary to make this their best visit to Miami ever,” Blake says. The expert team of concierges at The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort agrees, offering guests an opportunity to experience Miami from one of its best perspectives—the water.