Honeymoon Hot Spots

Mr and Mrs Smith’s boutique founder, Tamara Heber-Percy, selects the must-go’s to start married life
Monday , 25 July 2011
Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia
Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia
Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Berkshire, UK
Berkshire, UK
Miami, Florida, USA
Miami, Florida, USA
Santa Catarina, Brazil
Santa Catarina, Brazil
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang, Vietnam

Picking where to go on honeymoon must be the second hardest decision you’ll ever make (you’ve already made the hardest one: who to marry). So what makes the ideal escape? Apart from champagne at sunset and long lie-ins in a four-poster bed, there are a few more boxes to be ticked before our hearts melt and pulses quicken. At the top of Mr & Mrs Smith’s checklist is location (stunning scenery or historic city), followed by atmosphere (utterly spoiling and relaxed), design (romantic not chintzy) and service (we don’t want to lift a finger). That might sound like a tall order, but we’ve uncovered some amazing honeymoon hotels that tick every box, whether you prefer a cultured city stay or a sunny break here are six of the best...

Eco-Lovers

Honeymoon hot spot: Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia
Rising from Tasmania’s low east-coast hills, like the arching spine of a whale, is the island’s famed Freycinet Peninsula, the go-to destination for pristine beaches, crowd-free trekking and seafood to savour. The impressive pink peaks of the Hazards capture the eye and fire the imagination. Beyond these crags lies a jewel: the gorgeous hidden inlet of Wineglass Bay, surely one of the world’s most blissful beaches. It’s hard to imagine a more photogenic stretch of sand: a seductively curved arc seemingly scooped out between forested headlands, framed by jagged granite peaks and ribbons of gently breaking waves. Forget bright city lights, this is lighthouse country where tempting trekking terrain, out-of-the-way camp sites and snoozy fishing towns offer back-to-basics escapism.
Stay: Hugging the bay’s pure shores, Saffire is a new, sustainably built boutique hotel and a natural gem, with sunset-strewn beach views from sleek suites, sumptuous local seafood and a seductive spa. At first sight it resembles a close encounter with a shiny UFO, but this jaw-dropping stingray-shaped sanctuary embraces the landscape, encouraging you to chill out in style. Beyond the hotel’s invitingly curvy beach, famous Wineglass Bay awaits, as well as the wild charms of the Freycinet National Park. Head out for an oyster farm tour, check out the vineyards, grab one of the hotel’s free bikes or go island hopping. This is undiluted, raw Tasmania at its best, where the cliché of ‘unspoilt’ nature still very much rules. All the light, private suites and contemporary public areas are angled to make the most of the soul-soothing sea views, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, alfresco decks and terraces for soaking up the surrounding landscape. Honeymooners should nab a Premium Suite, which boast private pools and are spacious, with sea vistas. Saffire’s chef can even come and cook for you in-room. Bag a front-facing deck for the best views, or a suite nearest the beach if you want to hit the waves early. Food works a seaside theme too, with multi-course seafood and fish tasting menus a speciality here, washed down with local wines.
Rooms: 20 suites.
Rates: Double rooms from AU$1450.00, including 10 per cent tax.

Cultured Romantics

Honeymoon hot spot: Florence, Tuscany, Italy
For a city boasting more past glories than the average continent, the capital of Tuscany is excitingly forward-looking. A love affair between culture, commerce and good living, Florence has long been celebrated as the most aesthetically pleasing city in all Italy, if not the world. And between the fairytale squares, centuries-old churches and sprawling palaces run streets alive with sociability, style and irresistible shopping. On top of this, 60 per cent of the world’s most important works of art are housed in Italy and half of these are in Florence – you’ll particularly love the Bargello, which contains an unrivalled collection of Renaissance sculptures (sbas.firenze.it/bargello) and the famous Uffizi which houses Botticelli, Michelangelo and da Vinci; reserve tickets at polomuseale.firenze.it. The Santa Maria del Fiore, aka the Duomo, was built in 1434, and its dome is a celebrated feat of engineering: climb the 414 steps to the top of the Campanile, or up the Duomo itself for a fantastic 360-degree view of Florence.

Stay: Il Salviatino is one of the newest and most acclaimed additions to the diverse hotel scene. This ultra-private and totally ravishingly updated renaissance villa high in the hills over Florence has a museum’s stash of 19th-century frescoes, antique bath tubs and valuable artworks. The beautiful boudoirs are graced with oak floors, silver candelabra and fresh orchids, and there are two restaurants, a bar and spa to explore. Escape the bustle of Florence by hiding out in the magnificent gardens scented with roses and lavender, or by the terraced infinity pools, which overlook a tranquil, green valley. Newlyweds should definitely splash out on one of the uniquely decorated suites on the ground or top-most floors. The Ojetti Suite has a dramatic sun room with a stained glass floor above the tremendous main staircase, as well as a private terrace on the roof with an alfresco Jacuzzi – the views are also simply amazing. Alternatively, please your man by staying in the Salviati Suite – and a Ferrari will be yours for a day.
Rooms: 45, including 22 suites.
Rates: Double rooms from USD363 excluding 10 per cent tax.

True Brit-Ophiles

Honeymoon hot spot: Berkshire, UK
For fine eateries, picturesque countryside and fascinating heritage, the Royal County of Berkshire is hard to beat. Bordering the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and Hampshire, it’s both a convenient base to see much of southern England and a splendid county in its own right. From the quiet beauty of Windsor Great Park to the stylish bars and shopping possibilities of Reading, it’s an area with much to offer. Threading its way through the whole region, the Thames unites the soft landscape of gentle hills and warm valleys like a slow-flow highway to the heart of England. Whether you choose fine dining in fashionable surroundings or trencherman lunches in oak-beamed pubs, this part of the world is a hive of culinary activity. The village of Bray in particular has amassed more than its fair share of Michelin accolades, with Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, Fat Duck, and Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn. However, this is where traditional Sunday lunches of tender roast beef still hold sway; venture into a cosy pub to sample the best.
Stay: Like all country piles worth their jodhpurs, Coworth Park is a new Georgian manor boasting a colourful history. However, Coworth’s taken its rightful place as one of the new generation of country-house hotels that wears its haughty heritage with 21st-century insouciance. It’s got everything you’d expect a stately home (and The Dorchester’s country-dwelling sister hotel) to have: 240-acres of lovingly tended grounds, polo fields, riding centre, tennis courts and an opulent dining room overseen by a Michelin-starred chef. Don’t be fooled though; Coworth’s looking to the future with a glint in its eye. The interiors – by Fox Linton – are warm and autumnal, a theme supported by leaf-motif iron four-posters, arboreal artworks and sylvanian sculptures – many provided by up-and-coming British artists. As well as the wear-a-jacket restaurant, there’s an informal stone-floored gastropub. Not only can you grab a 12-bore and head off hunting, you can also look forward to a reflexology massage in the state-of-the-art eco spa afterwards – a half-buried sweep of glass and timber with a herb-garden rooftop. For the ultimate post-wedding bliss, be swept away by the grand garden views from the Derby Suite (room 34), a regally decorated four-postered love nest located smack in the centre of the main mansion house building.
Rooms: 70 altogether – 30 in the mansion house, 40 in assorted stables and cottages in the grounds, including 16 suites.
Rates: Double rooms from £215, excluding 20 per cent tax.

Hip Honeymooners

Honeymoon hot spot: Miami, Florida, USA
Miami is a particularly colourful swirl in the great American melting pot; few cities are more diverse and cosmopolitan, and even fewer can boast white-sand beaches and endless days of perfect sunshine, too. Half of Miami’s population is Hispanic, including a sizeable community of Cuban exiles, which gives the city a fast-paced rhythm and Latin swagger that is as much a part of the Caribbean and South America as it is Florida. Districts such as Coral Gables, Little Havana and Coconut Grove offer the kind of sultry indulgences their names suggest, but it’s South Beach (SoBe) that’s the heart of the party scene in a city that takes its hedonism, ostentation and extravagance very seriously. The wide sweep of SoBe sand between the famous candy-coloured art deco beachfront of Ocean Drive and the Atlantic surf is both Miami’s playground and its catwalk. Beyond the bling and bikinis lies a city of stylish restaurants, decadent lounge bars and a burgeoning arts scene offering irresistible virtues and vices in equal measure. Miami is a serious party town; the venue, the look and the attitude are all important factors to consider if you want to make it past the bouncers. The glitterati migrate to a different venue each night of the week, so check out the local low down on the hippest hot spots.
Stay: Soho House brought cool to the countryside and made city-chic its signature; now, with the newest outpost, it has injected sex appeal into the seaside with Soho Beach House. Admittedly, South Beach was never lacking in allure – graced with vacationing celebrities and supermodels, glittering clubs and gourmet restaurants – but Soho Beach House adds some laid-back London nonchalance to the equation. Like other Soho House outposts, the beachside hideaway comes stocked with a Cowshed Spa, fashionable restaurant, rooftop pool and private cinema. Rooms riff on a South American theme, with warm, earthy paints, antique wooden furniture and a Cuban bar, and the hotel honours its art deco origins (it’s built on the historic site of the Sovereign Hotel) with 40s touches. British roots, Miami setting, sultry Latino flair – Soho Beach House could teach classes in cosmopolitan cool.
Rooms: 50, including six suites.
Rates: Double rooms from $325, excluding 13 per cent tax.

Jungle Adventurers

Honeymoon hot spot: Santa Catarina, Brazil
Brazil couldn’t be a hotter destination right now. Journey from one side of Santa Catarina to the other and you might think you’ve crossed continents, so diverse are the landscape and cultural make-up of this sun-basking south-Brazilian state. Along the coast you’ll find vast swathes of sand where surfers mingle with sunbathers and Havaiana-clad fishermen mooch from beach shack to bar. The coves around the sleepy villages are studded with colourful boats and pastel buoys left by oyster farmers, whose skills have been passed down through the generations from the original Azorean colonisers. The waters are largely untouched by the holidaying masses, but they’ve been discovered by visitors of another kind – hundreds of migrating southern right whales, who escape the Antarctic winter and venture north to nurse their calves in warmer climes. Away from the ocean, Santa Catarina’s lush greenery is interspersed with plunging waterfalls, deep gorges and towering plateaus. The valleys are dotted with colonial enclaves founded by German, Italian and Austrian immigrants, where the street names, the languages, the food and the architecture recreate a mini-Europe amid the exotic landscape. The cities of Florianópolis and Joinville add a dash of urban hustle, but it’s the relaxed lifestyle and jaw-dropping natural splendours that entice most visitors – and often keep them here.
Stay: Ponta dos Ganchos romantic resort is truly a private paradise, located on a secluded stretch of Southern Brazil where sunsets sparkle and breakfast lasts all day. This relaxed rainforest retreat is on its own peninsula, fringed by tropical trees, choppy shores and oyster farms, with plenty to keep you busy and the only Christian Dior spa in South America so book in for reiki and reflexology by the water’s edge. Each of the bungalows has a king-size bed, walk-in wardrobe and hammock on the veranda. Steam up in the sauna of a Super Luxo Bungalow then head out to the wooden deck for bubbles and bay views in the Jacuzzi. Or splash out, quite literally, on the Special Emerald Villa Bungalow – pick your own wines from its cellar, work out in its underground gym and notch up some laps in its infinity pool. Don’t fret if you forget your flip flops – the hotel supplies Havaianas, the staple of Brazilian footwear, for all guests.
Rooms: 25 freestanding suites.
Rates: Double rooms from BRL1,250, excluding three per cent tax.

Pampering and Privacy

Honeymoon hot spot: Nha Trang, Vietnam
There’s more to Vietnam’s leading seaside resort than a sweeping stretch of sand and crystal-clear sea. Nha Trang, on the south-central coast, is a buzzing town that offers a compact window on the country for those overwhelmed by the scale of nearby Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Boasting a beautiful backdrop, hemmed in by jagged peaks and ringed by tropical islands, it is also one of Vietnam’s top dive destinations. Nha Trang is the seafood capital of Vietnam, with a huge fishing fleet visible in the river estuary nestled beneath the Po Nagar Cham Towers (lobster farms provide fresh tails daily). Whether bubbling in a hotpot or grilled on the beach, fruits de mer should top your list of indulgences. Nha Trang Beach is one of the few stretches of sand in Vietnam to be located in a city, offering the best of both worlds. You and your new hubby can laze away the day from the comfort of your loungers, then prowl the urban jungle by night, browsing restaurants and hopping bars. Here, you can live the quiet life in your resort, and the high life in town.
Stay: Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is situated in an isolated crescent-shaped bay accessible only by boat, the rustic yet undeniably luxurious boutique retreat near Nha Trang offers the weary a total reality break. Follow sandy paths through the jungle to the world-class spa, and prepare to experience enlightenment – Six Senses style. Treatment pavilions are dotted about the hillside and designed in the same style as the villas, but with alfresco Jacuzzis. Restaurant Dining by the Bay offers informal dining with expansive views over the twinkling resort by night. The menu includes Vietnam’s finest such as banh xeo (stuffed savoury pancakes) and seafood hotpot. Dining by the Pool is ideal for a light lunch such as papaya and seafood salad. Whereas Dining by the Rocks is the resort’s special-occasion eatery, high on the cliffs and only available by reservation. You can also dine à deux in the romantic Wine Cave or, for a more intimate affair, request a villa barbecue. Honeymooning couples should choose a Water Villa with a private plunge pool perched amid boulders and a ladder that leads directly into the sea – and savour the outstanding cuisine, butler service and the chance to dive, spa or simply laze. You won’t want to return home...
Rooms: 58 villas, including one suite.
Rates: Double rooms from $600, excluding 10 per cent tax.