Many years ago I worked in the yachting industry, whilst hanging around in the likes of Monaco and St Tropez I always heard people wax lyrical about Porto Montenegro. It sounded like a glamorous far off place, with its purpose built marina and luxury properties, all nestled in a naturally formed bay off the Adriatic Sea. Fast forward a decade, and an invitation to visit Regent Porto Montenegro, part of the IHG Hotel group, well I jumped at the chance to finally see what all this hype was about.
Getting to Porto Montenegro is relatively easy, with daily flights from the UK to Tivat, but this airport is notoriously difficult to land in when the sea winds pick up and the fog descends so we ended up in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Nothing to worry about though, it’s only a short drive across a few borders and you’re in Montenegro, plus the drive along the coast is quite something, I loved the little ferry that took us across the mouth of The Bay of Kotor. As we approached Porto Montenegro you could see the change in architecture and landscaping, reminiscent of a marina in France or Italy, the vibe was chic understated luxury. We pulled into the private entrance and up to Regent Porto Montenegro, its impressive facade welcomed us with the main entrance nestled between luxury shops including Hermes and Bulgari. Resisting the urge to shop immediately, we entered the main lobby to check in. The lobby is a light filled airy space with a mixture of interesting art to admire while you wait for your keys. My check in, with Bozidar Popovic, was smooth and professional and before I knew it I was in my One-Bedroom Suite. Regent Porto Montenegro offers 175 rooms in total, with one to three bedroom suites and penthouses, where guests can experience chic, Riviera-style, five-star luxury, set against the marina of Porto Montenegro. Inspired by the views of Boka Bay and the sea, the bedrooms, suites and penthouses combine classic sophistication with a subtle nautical theme, reminiscent of a private cabin on board a luxury liner. My One Bed Suite certainly felt like a luxury cabin aboard a luxury liner with muted blues and polished wood, the only difference here is the huge windows allowing lots of beautiful natural light to permeate the room. Also within my room; a huge bathroom with freestanding bath, separate shower, his and hers sinks and a WC, a large lounge with small kitchen and a large bedroom with king size bed, outside there is a balcony overlooking the pool and the marina beyond. One last thing to add, in my lounge and upon pre request, was a spin bike! If you know me you know I love spinning, so to find this in my room was a pure delight. No need to go to the gym, I could work out privately in the comfort of my suite, now that’s luxury.
After unpacking, first up was lunch at Murano Restaurant, on the ground floor of the hotel, where dishes with Montenegrin flair are served under glass chandeliers and the mosaic art of Svetlana Ostapovici, each reflecting the glassmaking tradition of the Italian isles from where the restaurant takes its name. Here you can enjoy a vast array of starters, soups, pastas, flame-grilled meats and fresh seafood, complemented by a collection of regional wines, many from boutique Montenegrin vineyards. I really enjoyed the Tuna, which was so delicately cooked with a charred peppercorn crust and raw interior. The local Savina Rose Grenache served with this was absolutely delicious, a fresh Provencal style wine that was perfect for lunch. After a Bespoke Black Book tradition of an espresso martini it was time to chill in my suite, and a lovely luxurious bath to decompress after the journey from the UK. After dinner out in the marina of Porto Montenegro it was time to sink into my lush king size bed ready to explore Montenegro further in the coming days.
Up bright and early, and after a hearty breakfast on the terrace of Murano, we took a tour of Porto Montenegro. It was clear from our tour that Porto Montenegro offers a luxury lifestyle experience, from accommodation and provisions, to shops, entertainment, culture and history. We visited the village of Tivat, just outside Porto Montenegro, which encompasses world class retail and commercial offerings combined with public facilities, waterfront promenades, gourmet and casual restaurants and cafés, with a casino complex in planning. Porto Montenegro’s retail facilities mix local crafts and international brands. Shops are clustered in zones with exclusive designer fashion boutiques dotted around the beautifully landscaped Venice Square. There are currently 3,500 square metres of retail space featuring cafés and restaurants offering Italian, Mediterranean, Lebanese, Japanese and oriental cuisines, a bakery, bank, supermarket, hair salon and day spa, yacht brokers, marine services and more. The piece de residence of Porto Montenegro though is the marina. The Porto Montenegro marina integrates full yacht and superyacht servicing capabilities with a vibrant waterfront village in the heart of one of Europe’s most picturesque nautical regions. The 450-berth marina is situated within a sunken canyon with berth depth range from 4.5 to 16 metres that afford excellent protection by the Bay’s mountainous surroundings and the inclusion of bespoke breakwaters. As a result, tide variation is low and currents are dissipated. The marina offers mooring facilities to homeport vessels as well as those navigating Montenegro’s waters on a temporary vignette. Overall the marina and the surrounding village are stunning, a European oasis that feels more French Riviera than central Balkans!
It was time to explore more of Montenegro, outside of the marina, so we jumped in our air conditioned car and headed to the town of Kotor, a coastal town in Montenegro, located in a secluded part of the Bay of Kotor. The fortified city of Kotor was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as part of Venetian Works of Defence between 16th and 17th centuries in 2017 as the old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period. Now this place is crazy beautiful, almost like a movie set with its tiny streets, flagstone floors and quaint churches but my favourite bit? The cats. The historic town of Kotor hosts hundreds of stray cats, but their homelessness should not fool you, these cats are looked after and adored by locals and visitors alike. Upon entering the cobbled old town of Kotor there are prowling felines on every corner. The cats all look super healthy and well-cared for, not what you would imagine from strays. As you walk round the town you suddenly start to notice bowls of food and water left by shop owners and restaurant staff, and you can find the most confident cats lounging on the laps of tourists, purring for affection. Including “the most photographed cat in the world” outside a shop just chilling not caring that they were trending on Instagram. Hard as it was to leave the kitties it was time for lunch, so a little ride from Kotor we stopped in Perast, for a fabulous bay side lunch of fresh fish and seafood washed down with a sunshine staple of Aperol Spritz. Sitting there in the sun with the sound of the water at my feet I again felt like I was on some lake in Italy rather than in the Balkans, why had I not been to this place earlier? After lunch we hopped on a boat to see the famous Our Lady of the Rocks church, built on the site of a rock that stuck out of the Bay of Kotor and that was slowly built over time by sailors putting more and more rocks on top of that rock. Crazy as that sounds the Bay is so sheltered many sailors took shelter from the harsh Adriatic Sea here and to thank God and honour his mother Mary they placed rocks on the rock to show their gratitude for not being engulfed by the waves and sent to a watery grave. Today it is a tourist attraction but still a working church, certainly worth the small boat ride to see the mementos, artefacts and views back over Kotor and Perast.
Back at the Regent Porto Montenegro it was time to chill, I was lucky enough to find a private pool outside by the spa, I sat and took in the view of the marina and yachts before my spa treatment. A massage, with Miljana Spajic, where I got to pick my own scented oil and completely relax while the aches and pains of office life were massaged out of me. That evening we dined in the Onyx Bar & Garden by Beluga outside the main lobby of the hotel, a luxurious setting for a glamorous pre-dinner aperitif or an indulgent nightcap. Their decadent cocktail menu designed by skilled mixologists is accompanied by light bites and delicious dishes including a sushi menu. I went for my trusty favourite combo of Louis Roederer and Spicy Tuna Sushi, which never fails to impress. After a nightcap of the best Spicy Margarita type drink I have ever had (no I won’t share the recipe with you so stop asking) it was time for bed for the next day bought wind, waves, sails and sun.
As I said at the start of this article, I used to be in the yachting industry, from luxury motor yachts to extravagant sail yachts, I have had the luck to board and spend time on some pretty impressive vessels, but one thing I have never done myself is sail. It was time to change that. From the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club we took out our little sailboat, and when I say little I mean it, but thank god as after a tutorial of how to sail the thing, anything larger would have been sunk! We took our boat out past the Black Pearl, one of the world’s largest sail superyachts and out into the bay. Once as a team we got the hang of the ropes, sails, jibs and what not we were like a well oiled machine flipping the sails from port to starboard and started to pick up some real speed. I don’t think we will taking on the likes of Ben Ainslie anytime soon but I suddenly saw the draw of sailing. Out on the water, the sun shining, the wind in your hair and nothing but the sound of the water it felt like a type of meditation. A feeling of wellbeing just floods over you with all the stresses of life left on the shore. It was a sad moment when we had to head back, I could have spent all day sailing around that bay watching the light dance on the water and reflecting back. However, the pain of leaving the water was dampened by our last activity of our magical trip to Porto Montenegro, a visit to the Savina vineyards.
As I said before, we tried their rose at lunch at Murano at Regent Porto Montenegro, so I was very much looking forward to visiting the Savina vineyards to see what else this winery produces. After a little tour of their wine making facilities and vineyards it was time to try a few wines, from their Chardonnay to the Merlot. All the wines were crisp, good acidity and not overpowering, reminiscent of cold climate French wines. The Chardonnay 2021 was so good I bought a few bottles to take home. As the sun set from our viewing point at the winery over Boka Bay, having spent 3 days in this beautiful region of Montenegro, I realised why so many years ago people waxed lyrical to me about Porto Montenegro. It has everything and then some, from historic sites to world class wine, luxury shopping to water sports, diverse restaurants to wellness. Staying at Regent Porto Montenegro and having the opportunity to explore this region was a true eye opener, and because of its location it is easy to get to by plane (or superyacht) and the weather is pretty good all year round. Porto Montenegro is the perfect escape this Spring, don’t make the mistake I did and wait to visit this beautiful haven off the Adriatic coast.
Regent Porto Montenegro