Exploration and surfing have always gone hand in hand.
Olotsara Retreat is a 65km adventure west of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. We say adventure because getting there is no cruise down a highway – expect bumpy roads, rickety bridges and only one sign – ‘turn for Olotsara’.
Once there, you’ll be escorted to one of five rustic bungalows, all with epic beach views. This or a tent on the beach, if that’s more your vibe.
While most surf in the Solomons is in the Western Province, there are more and more waves being discovered in Guadalcanal, too. A stay at Olotsara is a hark back to the 1970s and 1980s, when surfing was still in its relative infancy in the western world, and brand new waves were being discovered every year.
For what it’s worth, there are two main breaks Panukurutu, a right-hander, is about a fifteen-minute boat drive north of Olotsara. Nughu Kiki Tiaro is a break for the goofy footers and is a more exposed break south of Olotsara that attracts more South swell. They also offer board hire, and transport to and from the breaks by boat.
A trip to Olotsara is a great weekend adventure or the perfect add on to an extended trip out to the other provinces. You can get a bus from Honiara that will cost you $60.00 SBD (around $10 AUD) or drive yourself, and there are plans afoot for a shuttle bus.
The Calile Hotel in inner-city Brisbane is like the best of both worlds: a stunning tropical paradise based in the midst of a rising urban metropolis.
It was recently ranked the 12th best hotel in the world by influential and respected World’s Best group, comprised of almost 600 independent industry leaders.
It’s got one of the most aesthetically pleasing swimming pools we’ve seen, set amongst bold architecture which works on every turn.
The colours are very ‘northern-cool’; a term we’re inventing to describe the palette of pastels that seem to work so well on a swathe of new Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast hotels. Palm trees are also very in at the moment, and The Calile has heaps of them.
As we continue uncontrollable runaway train which is the countdown to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games, which is down to a mere nine years, it is places like The Calile Hotel which confirm the Brown Snake’s reputation as a city on the rise.
The brand new Anantara Koh Yao Yai Resort & Villas sits on a lush island in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, where limestone islets dot the horizon in every direction. Unfolding over a kilometre of golden beach, this is a luxury resort in every sense. But while the word ‘resort’ usually associates with sitting by a pool all day drinking cocktails (which you’re welcome to do, mind you) there is so much experiential goodness to soak up at Koh Yao Yai that you may not spend much time on the banana lounge.
Dive enthusiasts will love the abundance of underwater life. Venture off the beaten track to tranquil Hong Island to discover a small white sandy beach with a crystal-clear lagoon – our recommendation is to trek up 400 steps to a phenomenal 360-degree viewpoint.
Drift along mangrove canals in a kayak as eagles soar above. Take a boat out to a natural sand bank for a twilight candlelit dinner, or go for a vintage sidecar experience in a motorbike dashing through a rubber plantation.
There were already plenty of reasons to go to this part of the world; looks like there’s one more.
If you’ve ever wanted to live in a Wes Anderson dupe—this is the hotel for you.
Situated just outside of Durban, South Africa, The Oyster Box is 5-star luxury hotel with a famous cat, its own lighthouse and a host of cheeky local monkeys to keep the guests entertained.
Literally. Don’t leave your beachfront doors open unattended, they’ll raid your mini fridge.
The buffet breakfast on the pool patio is indulgent in all the best kinds of ways (oysters and Bloody Mary’s, anyone?); the day spa has its own hamam; and the variety of bars means even the booziest of us can stay entertained.
The only thing The Oyster Box is missing? Bill Murray.
Going underground is generally synonymous with fugitives on the run or sheltering from a bomb threat.
But here at Casa na Terra, it’s a place you go willingly. And you never want to leave.
The house blends naturally, almost seamlessly into the Portugese landscape. So seamlessly it’d be understandable if nearby animals and humans didn’t even know the place exists. Looking for privacy? This place is on another level.
This subterranean lair is definitely up there on the architectural genius scale, but the main brilliance of Casa na Terra is it’s total originality. It might just be the most beautiful bomb shelter ever made.
To stay at one of the many old school, but newly renovated, European castles on the market, you usually need to be prepared to leave with a wallet considerably lighter than the one you took in.
Not here though. Albergo Il Monastero is the achievable European castle stay; a former 16th century convent with room starting at just AU$215. Bargain.
Albergo is a restored stone beast perched high up on the Island of Ischia, just off the Italian south coast. From this vantage point you can sit on the castle’s terrace at night and admire the lights on the fishing boats as they bob gently up and down in the Gulf of Naples, catching fresh seafood for your next day’s dinner.
Across the way is the hullabaloo of Naples, but that’s well in the distance; here you’re ambling about with a vino from the on-site vineyard, at complete ease with the world. #CastleLyf is pretty sweet, if you can afford it.
Ambiente™ Sedona describes itself as the first ‘landscape hotel’ in North America. What’s that mean? They allow the environment to take centre stage.
We’re not arguing given the way the hotel blends seamlessly into the dramatic red rock of its surrounds. Staying here feels less like looking at pretty scenery and more like you’re an active participant in the landscape.
Floor-to-ceiling windows bless each room with epic vistas of ancient waterways and the Brins Mesa mountain range. This place is stunning, and so cool. FYI we really thought ‘ambiente’ was going to be Spanish for ambient, but it’s Spanish for environment. Makes sense we guess.
Rhythm flows through Soulshine, as if its owner is a musician or something.
But wait, this just in: its owner is a musician! Chill crooner Michael Franti and his wife Sara (a former ER nurse) have turned their considerable talents (a combo of creativity and calmness) toward Soulshine, a one-of-its-kind wellness and sound retreat.
This stunning, but laidback, Balinese resort is surrounded by rice terraces and ancient temples, and features three swimming pools, one waterslide, three Panorama Penthouse Suites, several yoga spaces and two restaurants. It’s the kind of place that’s a bit ‘ooh la la’ but being barefoot is totally acceptable (probably even encouraged).
Terazzo tubs and record players are in each room, the cocktails are abundant—as are coconut trees and sunshine—and the dancing is non-stop. What a vibe.
Out: iPhone, traffic and living expenses. In: Fresh air, gum trees and natural expanses
Into the Wild Escapes are a set of tiny homes that seem to be multiplying faster than Catholic rabbits, with almost 50 stays now dotted across Australia’s eastern states.
One of these escapes is Maggie—a beautifully simple, spatially economic structure set in Victoria’s high country beneath some of the brightest stars in the world. The further you make it up the long winding driveway leading to Maggie, the more secluded you feel from the outside world. We highly recommend.
Traditionally, you wouldn’t describe Maggie as luxurious. But then that depends on your definition of luxury—waking up with someone (hopefully) very nice, drinking coffee with a panoramic view of the lush high country? Small home, big luxury vibes.