With four seas and a staggering 7200 kilometres of coastline, the most remarkable aspect about Turkey’s sailing industry is that is only just being discovered. From the inland Marmara Sea to western Turkey’s Aegean Sea, to the Mediterranean in the south, there is ample opportunity for exploration. The 7200km of coastline quoted above doesn’t include Turkey’s many hundreds of islands, small and large, waiting to be explored.
Forty-eight million Europeans participate in marine activities and somehow visit marinas every year - and this includes 36 million yachties. Each year upwards of 700,000 yachts visit the Mediterranean. Until a decade ago, Turkey was still very much off the beaten track for most of these sailors, although this is now changing with mega investment into the country’s marinas and general marine infrastructure.
Presently, Turkey is home to 36 international standard marinas and a dozen municipality operated marinas. The total capacity is a little over 14,000 floating berths and 5,600 hard standing. Around six more are under construction. There are also a number of leisure boat harbours of varying sizes and standards. That makes just over 50 marinas - but this is still not enough. In fact, compared to other Mediterranean countries like Italy, France and Spain, 50 marinas is very little indeed.
The Turkish government is aware of the problem and is currently working to increase the number of berths available. This huge, untapped mine of potential is something that government and tourism officials are extremely excited about.
Sailor and Turkey property analyst Cameron Deggin says the lack of berths currently available is problematic. “We really need to up our game if we want to compete with other Mediterranean countries for yachting income,” he said. “Each year more and more sailors are heading out this way and competition for berths can be fierce. We’re slowly getting there with new marinas being built all over the coastline but in order to keep pace with demand we have got to step up our game.”
The two biggest players in the Turkish marina game are Setur Marina, owned by Fortune 500 company Koc Holding, and D-Marin, owned by Turkish conglomerate Dogus Holding. Setur Marina owns and operates nine marinas, while D-Marin has three. Both operators have new marina projects in the pipeline. Koc Holding’s chairman Rahmi Koc has quipped that some marinas are now so full that there is not even enough space to store his own boat.
As you can see, the industry’s main players are well aware of the scope and breadth of work still to be done in Turkey. The government, keen to reap the almighty tourist dollar, is firmly on board. Back in 2009, the Ministry of Transportation declared that between 2009 and 2023, 40 new marinas will be opened in Turkey, boosting the countrywide capacity to 30,000 yachts. And it won’t end there - the longer term plan is to see 50,000 berths by 2030, by which time Turkey’s yacht tourism income is expected to hit the 10 billion USD mark, almost three times what the current annual income is today.
A new breed of yachtsmen
So what’s changed? Why the sudden interest in Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline? Firstly, international tourism has played a huge part in increasing numbers of sailors heading to Turkey. In 2011, 31.5 million people visited Turkey - making the country the world’s sixth greatest tourist destination. A huge motivation for visiting Turkey is the seaside, and it follows that a great many visitors will be exploring the coastline by boat.
The second factor is Turkey’s economic status. The country avoided the worst of the recession and has become one of the world’s most powerful emerging economies. As wealth increases in major Turkish centres such as Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya and other southern regions, more and more of Turkey’s middle and upper classes are becoming interesting in boating, and the sale of leisure boats within Turkey has increased.
The Turquoise Coast
For thousands of years vessels have traversed the southern Turkish coast, leaving a legacy rich in legend and a coastline dotted with striking ruins. Here, we outline a few of the most striking sailing routes.
Kusadasi to Bodrum: South of Kusadasi, the Dilek Peninsula National Park is home to a number of beautifully peaceful coves and bays. You’ll pass the Menderes River estuary. Stop if you can to explore the remains of the ancient Priene, Miletus and Didyma civilisations. Some people find the gulf so beautiful they don’t venture any further, preferring to explore the four large bays and endless coves and inlets.
Bodrum to Marmaris: Turkey’s original tourist destination is now one of the most lively spots on the coast. This seat of the ancient civilisation of Halicarnassus is now the premier destination of international jetsetters and Turkey’s nouveau riche. Make sure you visit Bodrum Castle, which sits strikingly in the harbour.
From Bodrum head out along the Gulf of Gokova. This is one of the prettiest routes to be found in Turkey’s waters, with its backdrop of mountains and pines. Stop at Sedir Island’s incredible beach to laze on the sand and look out over the Kiran Mountains. Traverse the islands south west coast, known as the Bay of Sixty Six Inlets.
From Sedir Island head into the Gulf of Hisaronu, home to the Datca Peninsula, where the ancient city of Knidos was built for Aphrodite, and is today one of Turkey’s loveliest resorts. As you leave the Gulf of Hisaronu you’ll reach the Bozburun Peninsula, where you’ll see yet more ruins - this time Loryma, only accessible by boat.
Your last stop before Marmaris will be Turunc, a large natural harbour.
Marmaris to Fethiye: Surrounded by pine-clad hills which drop to white sand and blue sea, Marmaris is a very popular destination with holidaymakers. It’s also a great place to stock up on provisions, and replenish your vessel at the marina - one of the largest in Turkey.
After leaving Marmaris you’ll reach Ekincik, a peaceful, authentic Turkish centre. Southeast of Ekincik you can explore the Dalyan Delta, identifiable by the long, golden sandy beach at its mouth. Here there are a numerous waterways to explore and if you’re lucky you might spot the endangered caretta caretta turtle in this protected area. Also keep your eye out for the imposing Caunos rock tombs.
Leaving Delikli Island you’ll reach Sarigerme, where sailors like to anchor at Baba Island, a peaceful spot with a sandy beach. Next up is the Gulf of Gocek, known for its stunning pine forests and its top marinas. The gulf is full of pretty islands and interesting coves and many sailors can spend a good few weeks exploring this part of the coastline. On the tip of the gulf you’ll see the ancient ruins of Arymaxa, and on Tersane island you’ll encounter the relics of a Byzantine shipyard. From the Gulf of Gocek it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to your final destination of Fethiye.
Turkey’s best marinas
Sailors visiting Turkey will experience firsthand just how much the country’s yachting infrastructure has developed. With the amount of money poured into marinas in the past few years it’s hard to pick out the best. So we’ve narrowed it down to the best in each area, to give you an idea of what’s around.
Bodrum Palmarina - after a multi-million dollar investment by the Pamali Group, the former Port Yalikavak Marina is now one of the best marinas to be found anywhere in the world. With the latest technical equipment and upmarket facilities, this marina is set to transform Yalikavak and wider Bodrum.
Gocek D-Marin - The once sleepy fishing village of Gocek is now a major yachting hub, and D-Marin is at its forefront. This sophisticated and upmarket marina is located just a few minutes’ walk from Gocek centre and offers everything from top services to top meals at its waterfront restaurant.
Cesme Marina - this Camper and Nicholson operated marina opened in 2010 and quickly won a bagful of awards. Not only are there 400 berts for yachts up to 60m and access to some of the best technology around, but this marina is right in the heart of Cesme town, making this marina a convenient base for those wanting to stock up and explore.
Antalya Celebi Marina - You’ll find modern, vibrant Antalya City right on the doorstep of this fantastic marina. However, with full technical services and comprehensive port and general services, you need never leave the facility. There’s everything from a swimming pool to a laundry service at this up-to-date marina.
Fethiye Ece Marina - This 460-capacity marina caters to boats up to 60m. The marina’s top services mean it’s one of the best on this part of the coastline. Not only does it offer technical services but also a wealth of leisure services including a hotel, international restaurants, a spa centre and shops. And it’s also a short distance from some of the most beautiful beaches and bays in the Mediterranean, including the famous Oludeniz Beach.
Turkish sailing Full steam ahead
Turkey’s sailing industry is entering a new phase of development and growth, and the potential for generating wealth and prestige for this emerging economy is limitless. With its rapidly improving infrastructure and new marinas, Turkey will surely find itself among the top sailing destinations in the world.
Cameron Deggin of Property Turkey, who has a passion for the sea, has been sailing these waters for many years and seen the coastal evolution firsthand, surely puts it best: “I’m not surprised that Turkey’s coastline is attracting more and more sailors. To me, the greatest surprise is that it’s taken so long - I may be biased but I genuinely believe that Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines are among the most beautiful in the world. From our viewpoint as real estate consultants, we are surprised that there are still homes available in Turkey near Turkey’s best marinas under euro 1m. Comparable properties in Italy, Spain or France would have more than twice the price tag. However, we are seeing the price gap narrow year after year. This segment of the Turkish real estate market, as well as its marina & sailing industries are sailing faster than the wind. Catch it when you can.”
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