“It was part of the job description!” as Editor-in-Chief of Conde Nast Brides, Jade Beer was asked to visit over 30 luxury honeymoon destinations worldwide. But which were her top Honeymoon Hotels?
The Mark, New York
Try to imagine a more glamorous location for a city moon than this Upper East Side address and you’ll struggle. While its reputation as the fashion pack’s favourite – it’s the before and after party venue of the MET Gala – might say serious style credentials, the experience of staying there is a lot of fun too. For starters there is the Frederic Fekkai salon where you can start the day with a big bouncy New York blow-dry; take one of the custom-made Mark-branded bicycles to nearby Central Park for one of the hotel’s gourmet picnics; or, up the ante and board its sailboat on the Hudson River for a sunset sail; after a day exploring Madison and Park Avenues return to the black and white striped Haute Dog Cart outside and rub shoulders with the locals. And if you’ve over-indulged on the Jean-Georges menu, there’s always the fitness centre. I once took one of its personal trainers for a run around central park. Forty-five minutes later we were back, and I thought I was done, only for him to steer me towards the gym for another gruelling, but very much needed weights session. The rooms are some of the largest I’ve stayed in in the city and were created by renowned French designer Jacques Grange in a calm palette of neutrals. At night-time, you’ll find Laduree treats by your bedside, one final reminder that The Mark is super chic.
Smiths Beach Resort, Margaret River, Western Australia
One of the most peaceful beach honeymoons I’ve ever experienced, this resort has all the luxury you want a stone’s throw from the sand and is situated in one of the world’s most famous wine regions. Choose from a one-bedroom beach shack to a four-bedroom beach house, the latter being the ultimate in understated luxury. At 183 square metres they can accommodate up to eight guests, perfect if you’re planning a buddy moon. You’ll have much of the convenience of a high-end hotel – infinity pool, tennis court, in-room massage and yoga classes – but with huge living and entertaining spaces and full-size kitchens so you can really make yourselves at home. Floor to ceiling windows flood the properties with light and add to the seconds-from-the-beach feel. The water will be the first and last thing you see each day. There is an almost giddy array of tours and activities that will grant you access to some of the best-known wineries in the region including Cape Mentelle and Vasse Felix. Cheers to that!
Naladhu Private Island, Maldives
With just twenty discreet houses, this is a private island honeymooning at its best. You’ll have your own private swimming pool and uninterrupted views of the Indian ocean from your bed. If you’re looking for peace, quiet and privacy, this is the place to find it. I stayed in an ocean house with its own beach cabana where whole days were lost to a good book on the giant deck swing – and where clever design over 300 square metres delivered views from a sunken bath to the pool to the deck to the ocean beyond. Butler service comes as standard and breakfast is served 24 hours a day – because who wants to be told what time to wake up on honeymoon. It’s also the trip where I ate the most meals with my toes in the sand and where I ventured from lounger to complimentary kayak until it was somehow cocktail hour again.
Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice, via the Orient Express
Memorable for one defining moment – I slept in a bed previously enjoyed by George Clooney – the Palladio Suite for those keen to know – with its wraparound lagoon views, private terrace with plunge pool and not one but two vast marble bathrooms. This was the most glamorous honeymoon I ever had. Possibly because I was lucky enough to be following in the footsteps of previous visitors Yves St Laurent, Sophie Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana. Situated on the Eastern end of Giudecca Island with views towards St Mark’s Square, guests are treated daily to scenes reminiscent of a Canaletto painting. You’ll arrive on the hotel’s private launch – the warm pink hue of its walls visible long before you disembark into pretty rose filled gardens and wisteria-draped pergolas. Start saving now, it’s rumoured to be Italy’s most expensive hotel but it’s easy to see why. The Olympic-sized swimming pool, the Murano glass chandeliers, Fortuny fabrics, Michelin-star dining and the lagoon-side Cip’s Club restaurant are loved by well-heeled locals for its Venetian classics.
Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge, South Africa’s North West Province
The very first honeymoon I ever took as Editor of Conde Nast Brides and probably the one I have recommended the most since. It was my first safari so I agreed with the team at Turquoise who were arranging it for me that it should be to the malaria-free, big five Madikwe game reserve where I stood a great chance of seeing everything. The property accommodates just sixteen guests, in eight air-conditioned standalone suites, so the level of service is exceptional. You’re asked not to walk to the main lodge without an armed escort, just in case any uninvited four-legged visitors have wandered into camp. There were many high points on this trip: tracking a herd of elephants and their young; a night drive in one of the roofless land cruisers listening to the roar of distant lions who got within metres of our vehicle; sleeping out all night under the stars on an elevated wooden platform with just a walkie talkie for protection; sundowners overlooking the bush as the heat of the day receded; staying in our own glass fronted lodge made from local stone, wood and thatch with a bathroom and lounge that were totally open to the elements and the safari guides themselves. Above all, it was their storytelling that made this trip truly unforgettable.
Palazzo Avino, Ravello
Stumbled upon by accident one summer when I was staying further along the Amalfi coast, this is the one hotel on the list that I have returned to the most – and the place I discovered I was pregnant with my second daughter. It will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart. A former 12th century private villa, today the Pink Palace as it is known locally, has all the hallmarks of a luxurious honeymoon destination: the lobster and martini bar, the jaw dropping views from its position 1,000 feet above the Mediterranean, helicopter services and its own exclusive-use, sea level Beach Club with direct access to the water, on the very slim chance you tire of the 20 metre heated outdoor pool. Since my last visit it has also opened The Pink Closet, a boutique stocking stylish clothing and homewares from local artisans so you can now take a little slice of this Italian heaven home with you. With just 33 rooms and ten suites, it is entirely worth the hairpin drive to get there.
Les Airelles, 1850, Courchevel
Part oak-panelled ski chalet, part stately home with added oil paintings, part European castle with stained-glass windows, Les Airelles has an otherworldly quality that feels magical from the very beginning. You can ski direct from the hotel itself which eliminates a lot of the hassle immediately. Your boots (warming overnight of course) and kit are all kept together and there is always someone on hand to help you into everything without being asked. The first ski resort established in the Trois Vallees in the shadow of the Alps and Mont Blanc, today the region caters for every ability. But this is surely the jewel in the crown with its La Mer Spa, in-house hairdresser and nail salon as well as swimming pool, in and outdoor jacuzzi and, naturally, a spa snow cave. Don’t be surprised to see guests’ bodyguards joining them for dinner. This is the ski playground for the (very) rich and famous.
The Cotton House, Mustique
The three-mile long private island in St Vincent and the Grenadines is where the rich and the royal have been escaping to for years. Kate and Wills like to retreat here and it’s where Mick Jagger, Brian Adams, David Bowie, Tommy Hilfiger and Princess Margaret have all owned homes. For one simple reason, it remains a relatively deserted paradise. Nightlife is limited with the famous Basil’s Bar being the most popular for cocktails, fresh grilled seafood and tunes provided by local musicians. If you’re staying at The Cotton House, don’t miss the weekly drinks in the Great Room, attended by guests and homeowners, for a chance to eavesdrop on island life – and where they hold a huge collection of native rums. You’ll spend your days exploring the many nature trails, sailing, fishing, snorkelling with the resident turtles, diving or horse-riding along the beach before fresh sushi at the Beach Café at Endeavor Bay. Cook on the Sand is also a highlight where the chefs will build a fire on the beach and where it’s ‘happy hour and a half’.
Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland
It’s not called ‘the glorious playground’ for nothing. Arrive with your energy levels high because there is plenty to do in the great Scottish countryside. Everything from zip wiring to salmon fishing, dressage, ferret handling and gundog training, take your pick. But when the day is done head to one of the ten restaurants and bars – perhaps none more fun than The American Bar, a glamorous 1920’s cocktail bar you’ll want to dress up for. On my last visit for the ‘season opener’ the champagne tower was overflowing – and I don’t think it stopped all night. The perfect pre-wedding moon for you both when the wedding feels like it’s taken over and you need a cosy couples’ retreat with a side of adventure.
And where was Jade’s real honeymoon?
Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi.
It may be twenty years on, but I still remember the vivid bougainvillea, the abundant olive and lemon groves, the fact that every meal was taken with a backdrop of those incredible coastal cliffs – and how it used to light up with a thousand twinkling lights come nightfall. I remember the waiters who never stopped smiling and the shuttered windows that meant we slept like babies every night. I remember the sweet Bellinis and bombing up and down the coastline in a tiny speedboat, wearing very little, until we ran out of fuel and had to be rescued. Take me back!
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