Art Basel: 5 Places to visit after the art

Florida Keys

Cruising time from Miami at 12 knots: 12 hours

Miami is highly skilled in the art of reinvention — keeping visitors on their toes with a pick-and-mix of new hotspots to explore each season, as well as one of the world’s most important art fairs, Art Basel, in December. But cool-hunting is exhausting. Luckily, another of Miami’s charms is the ease with which one can escape it for somewhere entirely different in look, feel and atmosphere — within a matter of hours. Set sail along the Florida coast or eastwards to the Bahamas — in either case, you don’t know Miami until you know where its chicest inhabitants go for a break.

1. Florida Keys

The 181.9 kilometre string of mangrove-filled islands that are the Florida Keys offer a taste of the tropical without having to venture from American waters. Connected by sandbars and a series of bridges and causeways, the pace of life is so leisurely that it makes you feel a million miles from the nearest metropolis. “In the Keys, you really feel like you’re getting away from it all,” says Thomas Moloney, owner of 28 metre Paragon yacht Endless Summer. “It’s a slowed-down lifestyle and the atmosphere is so different.”

A true cruising ground in its own right, the Keys offer plentiful stop-offs, including the private enclave of the Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, where Moloney spends part of the year. But the ultimate destination is the famously eccentric Key West. Proud of its nonconformity, its palm-lined streets offer an enchanting mixture of tin-roofed bungalows alongside the odd extravagant mansion and a drinking attitude rivalled only by that of New Orleans. “It’s more than a party destination,” says Billy Lockhart, captain of 37 metre Trinity yacht Finish Line. “There is really great snorkelling and diving, such as at the Vandenberg wreck, which was sunk in 40 metres of water.”

Beyond the Keys lie the islands of the Dry Tortugas, another half day’s journey but worth the jaunt if only to see the red-brick Civil War-era Fort Jefferson. Amid a protected state park, it looks perfectly out of place by the bright turquoise waters.

CLAIM TO FAME: Key West is a famous Ernest Hemingway haunt. Pay a visit to his former home and wander around the rooms and lush gardens, home to more than 40 polydactyl (six-toed) cats.

BOOK TICKETS: Ocean Reef’s annual Vintage Weekend takes place from 1 to 4 December, when classic cars, planes and yachts are ogled by retro aficionados.

Picture courtesy of / Corey Jenkins


Cruising time from Miami at 12 knots: 4 hours

This west Bahamian spot was Hemingway’s favourite escape and you can see why, thanks to its pristine beaches and aquamarine waters teeming with fish. In recent years it has garnered a casino, hotels and myriad restaurants, creating a popular weekend getaway for Miamians, especially in the summer months when crossings are a breeze. But the island’s rustic charms can still be found in the conch shacks and sandy-floored bars that lie beyond the glitz of the resort compounds at the northern end of Bimini.

Less than 81 kilometres from Miami, it can be reached in only a few hours. “If you don’t have much time, it’s the ideal getaway from Miami,” says 46 metre Delta yacht Katya’s captain, Whitney Reiter. “The water is crystal clear, you can swim with wild dolphins and there is a great social scene on Bimini.”

Hemingway lived in Bimini from 1935-37 and the island took a starring role in his book Islands in the Stream. Have a drink at the Bimini Big Game Club, which boasts a rum bar dedicated to the author’s memory.

COMMUNE WITH NATURE: Snorkel and picnic at the picturesque Honeymoon Harbour, where the shallow waters are peppered with stingrays and colourful starfish.

CATCH DINNER: Go spearfishing for hog fish, grouper and snapper — or look out for lobster when in season.

SNAG AN INVITE: At the nearby private island of Cat Cay, you must be a member or be invited by a member to go beyond the marina gates. The pristine T-shaped retreat has all the luxuries you would expect, including a golf course, while maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere.

WHERE TO BERTH: Resorts World Bimini’s superyacht marina, for yachts up to 55 metres, or Cat Cay marina can accommodate yachts up to 49 metres.

Picture courtesy of

Exuma Cays

Cruising time from Miami at 12 knots: 7 hours

What do actor Johnny Depp, magician David Copperfield and comedian Eddie Murphy have in common? They own exclusive private islands in the Exumas, in the Bahamas. Peer into the crystal water and across to the 365 white sand islands and it’s easy to see why this is a star-studded US escape. “Without question, the Exumas are the best cruising destination in the world,” says Billy Lockhart. “There are endless options of places to go and anchorages to visit. The whole place is magical.”

Among the attractions is Thunderball Grotto, a cave where 007 himself (or at least Sean Connery) swam while making the 1965 Bond film Thunderball. Or you could meet the adorable swimming pigs on Big Major’s Spot island — feed them some table scraps and they will be your best friends. Then visit the nurse sharks at Compass Cay, which are so tame you can reach out and pat them.

MUST-BOOK TABLE: The Hill House restaurant on the private island of Fowl Cay — perched on a lofty bluff — for fabulous sunsets and fresh seafood.

INSIDER TIP: “What people don’t realise about Thunderball Grotto is, if you bring a pair of flip-flops, you can climb up to the top of the rock and jump down into the cave through the holes in the ceiling. It’s fun to not tell the guests and surprise them — once they’re up there they are committed!” Lockhart says.

WHERE TO BERTH: There are plenty of beautiful anchorages in the Exumas — try Warderick Wells — but when it is time to berth, visit Staniel Cay Yacht Club, which can accommodate yachts up to 56 metres.

Picture courtesy of / Alexander Chaikin

Harbour Island

Cruising time from Miami at 12 knots: 9 hours

With pale pink sand stretching as far as the eye can see, Harbour Island — or Briland as it’s known locally — is worth the extended travel time. It is a postcard version of Caribbean life, with white picket fences and brightly coloured houses. There are also enough gourmet restaurants, art galleries and diversions on and off the water to keep all generations entertained. It’s no surprise that celebs, including Diane von Furstenberg, India Hicks and Bill Gates, own homes here and plenty more, such as Mick Jagger, make appearances.

Yacht owners love how safe Harbour Island is. “We go to a pink sand beach, the kids love it. The beach goes on for miles and they can run off on their own,” says Thomas Moloney. The island is best enjoyed on a long weekend away from Miami, and it’s easy to fly back home thanks to the airport on the neighbouring island of Eleuthera.

CAST A LINE: “We will fish for tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo — anything that will bite — and the crew like to dive for lobsters,” says Moloney.

MUST-BOOK TABLE: Reserve the beautifully appointed Chef’s Table at the Rock House and order the roasted Bahamian lobster tail.

SIP A COCKTAIL: The aptly named Sip Sip overlooks the Atlantic. Enjoy a Sip Sip rum punch with fresh pineapple, guava and passion fruit.

INSIDER TIP: A golf cart is a necessity to swiftly traverse the 5.6 by 0.8 kilometre island.

WHERE TO BERTH: Romora Bay Marina can berth yachts up to 58 metres. It has a pool that the kids will love and its aptly named restaurant, Sunsets, is one of the best sunset spots.

Picture courtesy of / Robert Harding

St Augustine

Cruising time from Miami at 12 knots: 21 hours

Spanish moss hangs languidly from the oak trees, horse-drawn carriages clatter down cobblestone roads and a 17th century stone fortress with unfurled drawbridges looms in the distance. Sailing into the northeast Florida beach town of St Augustine feels like a journey back in time and there is no spot closer to Miami where you can get a taste of Old Florida.

“St Augustine enjoys a change of weather and change of pace [from Miami] with great scenery and beautiful beaches,” says Randy Ringhaver, owner of 45 metre Newcastle Marine yacht Carson. Ringhaver likes to take his guests for a round of golf at the famous TPC Sawgrass course or tour the numerous historical sites of St Augustine’s Old Town by horse and carriage.

Founded in 1565, St Augustine is the oldest town in the US but it was American industrialist Henry Flagler who brought this sleepy outpost to life. He built grand hotels that attracted rich northerners to flock south for the winter and the overtly decorative Moorish Revival-style architecture of Flagler’s buildings defines the city’s style.

The idyllic town experienced its first direct hit for more than half a century when Hurricane Matthew caused havoc in October. However, the clean-up operation was swift and every effort has been made to recover its historical buildings.

MUST-BOOK TABLE: O’Steen’s, the unassuming cash-only eatery, serves the best fried shrimp on the East Coast, which is demonstrated by the nightly queue to get a table.

WHERE TO BERTH: The Municipal Marina, right in the heart of downtown St Augustine, can berth yachts up to 60 metres.

INSIDER TIP: “Check with the local Sea Tow office regarding the state of the inlet, which can be dicey when conditions are poor. For a nominal fee, when arranged in advance, they can guide a yacht through if there’s any uncertainty,” says Carson’s captain, Jim Rosenberg.

Picture courtesy of / Russell Kord

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