The top polo destinations to visit by superyacht

Sydney, Australia

Wondering where to head next on board a luxury superyacht? Whether it's for love of the sport or for the glamour of the event itself, polo offers everyone the perfect excuse to cruise to the likes of Australia, Spain and Dubai on a luxury yacht vacation.

1. Sydney

Sydney, one of Australia's largest cities, is a great place to take a yacht and will be the host of this year's World Polo Championship. Organised by the Federation of International Polo (FIP), the tournament is held once every three years. Eight international teams will compete at the 11th edition, October 17 to 30, at the Sydney Polo Club, including the current world champions from Chile.

The Sydney Polo Club, which dates back to 1870, is on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, about 40 miles north-west of Sydney Harbour, and has five polo grounds and a horse-riding school. Five other polo clubs are also located nearby, giving the Hawkesbury Basin 20 polo fields and a range of playing and lesson opportunities.

You may want to consider extending your Sydney visit well beyond the FIP tournament if you're spending a few days on a superyacht around Sydney Harbour. Summer — particularly December and January, thanks to annual yachting and holiday festivities — are the best months for superyacht charters, says Joachim Howard, managing director of Ocean Alliance. However, Sydney is also a cruising destination beyond the austral summer, and, if you’re keen to satisfy polo urges, keep in mind that the sport is mainly played here in autumn (from March through the end of May) and spring (August through November).

Other Sydney draws, adds Howard, include the “beautiful deep-water harbour with protected anchorages, luxury shopping, the Sydney Opera House and the amazing beaches.” If you’re chartering in the area for a week, he recommends an itinerary that also includes Pittwater, an expanse of waterways 14 nautical miles to the north, which, in addition to a protected anchorage, offers “fantastic restaurants and a more natural setting.”

Surf and fly

Two must-do Sydney experiences are a surf lesson at Bondi Beach and a helicopter ride to a Hunter Valley vineyard, says Joachim Howard.

Beach bar views

Take in views of Bondi Beach while enjoying one of Icebergs’ classic cocktails and a menu of regional Italian cuisine that celebrates seasonal flavours.

Walk this way

Polo shouldn’t be your only land-based activity while in Sydney. Spend a few hours embarking on one of the city’s coastal bushwalks; for example, the four-mile Coogee to Bondi Beach Coastal Walk or the nearly 10 kilometre Spit Bridge to Manly Scenic Walkway.

Picture courtesy of Pinctada Cable Beach Polo Pty Ltd

Sotogrande, Spain

The luxury estate of Sotogrande, on the western end of Spain’s Costa del Sol, is home to the Santa María Polo Club, which has been holding tournaments since 1967. Today, the club has nine fields and hosts more than 25 tournaments per year, including two on the World Polo Tour (WPT): the Sotogrande Gold Cup (a WPT Championship Cup) and the Silver Cup (a WPT Cup).

“There are always at least five superyachts that come to Sotogrande for the summer polo season,” says Bella White, charter and training manager for Yachting Sotogrande. “Often, these yachts are occupied by the owners of the polo teams.”

Polo isn’t the area’s only sporting draw, though. Sotogrande is home to several golf courses, including the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, south of the port, designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1964 and recently restored, and the Real Club Valderrama, which hosted the first Ryder Cup played in mainland Europe.

For more extreme sports, such as quad biking and land sailing, visit Tarifa, 51.4 kilometres southwest of Sotogrande, suggests White. Quad biking tours visit the cork oak forests of Los Alcornocales National Park, which, on clear days, grants views of Morocco.

From Sotogrande, White recommends cruising south toward the Rock of Gibraltar and then continuing across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, on Africa’s north coast. As you cross the Strait, look out for pilot whales, sperm whales, orcas, fin whales and three species of dolphins. Alternatively, if you prefer glitz and glamour, cruise northeast from Sotogrande to Puerto Banús and Marbella, says White.

Fine dine

If you’re seeking a Michelin-star experience, visit Kabuki Raw in the Finca Cortesin hotel. Dine on oyster and seaweed tempura and “sunny-side up” transparent goby with free-range egg and potato while watching the chef at work in the Kabuki kitchen.

All that and moor

Puerto de Sotogrande can accommodate yachts up to 70 metres (230 feet). “Depending upon size, yachts can berth [close to] a promenade with various tapas bars and restaurants or on the visitors' quay by the entrance to the port,” explains Bella White.

Take a hike

For a gentle stroll, make your way to the Guadiaro River Estuary, south of the port and a resting area for 144 species of migratory birds. Or, for a lengthier hike, head northeast to 3,986-foot La Concha (“the shell”) in the Sierra Blanca range behind Marbella.

Picture courtesy of the Santa Maria Polo Club

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Still sometimes played on sand in the United Arab Emirates, polo has become one of Dubai’s most popular sports. Nowadays, it is played at the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club and the 150-acre Dubai Polo Club at Desert Palm. The latter, built by polo pro Ali Albwardy and home to the renowned Dubai Polo Team, has several Argentinean professionals on hand in season and offers lessons and instruction for all levels, as well as chukkas for members and non-members.

If you’d prefer to watch, Desert Palm hosts the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge in February, and the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club hosts the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series from late January through mid-April.

Polo matches are just the beginning when it comes to this emirate’s spectator sports, though. “Dubai offers a remarkable events calendar year-round,” says Captain Stephen Corbett of Dubai-based The Yacht & Charter Service Company. Events include the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (golf), the Dubai World Cup (horse racing) and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“Dubai and the UAE offer excellent wintering holes or great stopovers for round-the-world travellers or Indian Ocean explorers,” continues Corbett. “Dubai has an incredible list of activities for families, especially children’s activities. They have just launched the largest indoor theme park in the world (IMG Worlds of Adventure), plus many water-themed parks and Ski Dubai [also indoors], to name a few. And for owners’ wives, the city offers a treasure trove of shopping possibilities.”

Play in the sand

Played on a sand field between the Dubai Marina and the Arabian Gulf, the annual Beach Polo Cup will be held April 6-7, with a gala dinner on the opening night.

Must love heights

One of Dubai’s many must-see attractions is 828-metre-high Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, helping Dubai become one of the top destinations visited by celebrities. Take in the dizzying views from the At the Top SKY lounge on the 125th and 148th floors or linger for the signature wine-pairing menu at At.mosphere on level 122.

When to go

Dubai’s polo season (October through April) also falls within the best cruising months — approximately mid-September through mid-May, says Stephen Corbett. “This way, you avoid the very hot temperatures. Yachts do come year-round, but our winter is the most frequented.”

Picture courtesy of / esherez

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