What makes the perfect marina and what should you look for
When looking for a good marina, the selection criteria will be determined by the purpose of mooring – do you require a technical or a leisure stop-over? If you are looking for a technical stopover the decision is straightforward, as it will be based on if you are able to lift your boat, what reputable and capable companies are on site for repairs and who can complete a quality job in a decent time and at a decent price.
If the purpose of the stopover is purely for leisure, perhaps just passing by, or you are travelling and want to discover the area, your requirements and selection criteria will be very different. The must-haves versus the nice-to-haves are a matter of personal opinion, but generally the deciding factors are location and amenities in the area, noise levels, cleanliness and marina staff.
- Location: How close is the marina to a town or city? You will probably want to buy groceries and do so without taking a bus, train or taxi into the town centre. You may prefer marinas in a city with an authentic local market where you can buy fresh produce. A city-based marina (or close to a city) also offers opportunities for spending the day sightseeing, enjoying the nightlife, whether a drink on a terrace or a delicious dining experience, and entertaining children if you are travelling with a young family. For me, shops are a must have so I can re-fill the fridge, and a nice-to-have is a tourism offer – the chance to visit something of interest while I am there.
- Cleanliness: Mooring at a marina is often synonymous with the chance to have a wonderful shower, an experience that can be ruined if showers are not well taken care of. The cleanliness of the bathrooms is often a good indicator of the quality of a marina. I also want somewhere to sort my recycling and empty the grey water tank.
- Noise levels: This will come down to the kind of traveller you are and what experience you are looking for. If a quiet marina and a good, peaceful night’s sleep are high on your list of priorities, it is worth checking the marina does not turn into a night club during high season.
- Friendliness: If the people working at the marina are friendly it really is the icing on the cake. They are your first point of contact and can set the tone for the rest of your stay.
What are the most common pitfalls?
The main pitfall is to always go back to the same place, when there is the wonderful opportunity to discover somewhere new. If you know what you are looking for and have a list of key criteria, it is easy to get an idea if you will like a marina or not. It is also worth reading reviews from other boaters when deciding where to go. They give you lots of details without spending hours on research, and it does allow you to avoid simple mistakes by learning from the experience of others.
Not booking is a very common mistake. During high season booking with a marina means your spot is secured, your berth is waiting for you and you can stay at anchor until later in the day, then head over to the marina in your own time feeling relaxed. It mitigates the need to leave your anchorage at 2pm and rush to the marina to make sure you find a spot.
Any favourite marinas?
There are so many great ones it is difficult to choose. Many of my favourites are on the French Riviera:
- Nice: It is in the city centre but it is fairly quiet because you are not on a main road or surrounded by bars and clubs. You have easy access to bars, restaurants, supermarkets and shops. It is easy to get a taxi to nearby towns, there are plenty of places to visit and lots of opportunities for exploring and walking. The view is beautiful, the marina has a great atmosphere and it is good value for money.
- Port-Grimaud in the gulf of Saint Tropez: I love the layout of this marina. It is like a little French Venice. It is very cute, very quiet and very different from anything else you will see.
- Portus Karalis in Sardinia: It is right in front of the beautiful city of Cagliari with easy access to shops and restaurants. It is well protected from the wind too so which makes for quieter nights, and it is very close to the airport, which makes it a perfect stop if you need to pick up or drop off friends.
- Estartit on the Costa Brava: A beautiful marina right after the French border. The marina has been renovated so feels brand new. It is very close to town, the prices are good, the marineros are always there to help you dock when you arrive, which is really nice to know that someone will help you dock when you have just sailed for a few hours.
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