While we’ve discovered we love stopping in a place for a while, living in a tiny apartment and getting a real feel for living in a neighbourhood, sometimes we just want to be pampered. Of the four continents we’ve been to, here are our favourite luxury spots for couples. These are not budget places, but they’ve made for utterly relaxing and memorable stays.
Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia
Our stay in Cradle Mountain Lodge was only a short one (just 2 nights), but one we often recommend to friends heading to Tasmania. Even in the middle of a winter so cold that the small lake next to the lodge froze over, we had a great time here.
We stayed in a Spa Cabin a short walk from the main lodge. It was very spacious for the two of us, very comfortable and the ever-burning wood fire and complimentary port kept in a crystal decanter certainly kept us nice and toasty. The main lodge was just as inviting, with many lounges and open fireplaces to warm ourselves by.
One of the surprising quirks about Cradle Mountain Lodge is that there is local wildlife all around, and they’re not afraid to come and say hello. We were greeted on our doorstep each morning by pademelons (small, inquisitive wallabies keen to come inside and steal some warmth from the cottage), and wombats (who are often disguised as large rocks until someone points them out, or they shuffle onto the next grazing spot).
There were many activities to choose from and given that we only had two days, we laboured over the choice. Quad biking or a day at the spa were sacrificed to enjoy the wine and cheese tasting and the Crater Lake walk. Pairing local cheeses and wines and learning some of the region’s history, the wine and cheese tasting was a really enjoyable way to spend a cold afternoon.
The next day the walk to Crater Lake gave us some exercise and rewarded us with a breathtaking landscape, the still lake reflecting the surrounding mountains and sky. A clear day treated us to a view of the summit of Cradle Mountain too.
As expected in a luxury lodge we enjoyed fine dining (and more of Tasmania’s local wine), at the Highland Restaurant and on our second night relaxed in the tavern with some pub style fare and a few beers. The best of both worlds.
Despite the middle of winter cold, we enjoyed food, wine, nature, history and total relaxation.
Carneros Inn, Napa USA
We were in the USA when the Australian dollar was really strong (ahh, those were the days) and so luxury didn’t seem too out of reach. We headed to Napa from San Francisco to see what the famous wine region had to offer. After a full day of tasting some of California’s finest drops, we needed somewhere nice to stay.
From the first moment we reached Carneros Inn in California we were absolutely relaxed. This may have been because we were greeted with a glass of local wine to ease us into the checking in process. Our bags were put in the back of a luxury car and we were driven up to our cabin. A bottle of chilled champagne was waiting for us in our very cosy cabin. It was early March so still quite cool (the outdoor shower didn’t see much use, but would be fantastic in summer). The fireplace took the edge off the weather and provided a romantic atmosphere too.
The day spa has a selection of treatments so large that two occasional massage recipients like us were a little rattled by the range. We had a massage though and the relaxation continued.
There are several options for enjoying food, and for breakfast we opted for casual dining at the Boon Fly Café. The diner style breakfast was just what we needed the morning after a day of wine tasting. A romantic dinner at Farm Restaurant paired delicious meals with local and international wines, with very attentive and personable service.
The dessert was sensational and inspired moans that were maybe a little too enthusiastic for just food (Adam still ranks this dessert on the top of his list).
DDG Retreat, Casares, Spain
DDG will always hold a special place in our hearts as it’s where we spent our honeymoon. Regardless, we often comment that it was the place we have been most relaxed in our lives.
About an hour outside of Malaga, the drive on the opposite side of a winding mountain road to get to DDG was less than relaxing, never having driven on the right-hand side of the road before (we’ll probably get transfers next time).
Once we got there all our worries faded immediately. We were greeted by Olga and Alexander and felt like we were being welcomed into their family, not just their beautiful accommodation. We were shown to our private casa with plunge pool and were even more delighted. The main infinity pool, which was heated to the perfect temperature, was surrounded with day beds and hammocks to lounge on.
The view was spectacular; on a clear day you can see past Gibraltar across to Africa. Each evening, we would grab a glass of wine and watch the sunset. The planets literally aligned while we were there – and from our casa we were able to clearly see Jupiter, Venus and Mars align with the moon in the dark skies over the Alboran Sea.
Every meal we had was a feast fit for royalty at DDG. Our daily breakfast consisted of several different courses of cooked breakfast, fresh fruit and pastries. Some days we didn’t need lunch. On the day we ordered platters for lunch there was so much delicious food it got us through two days.
Olga lovingly prepares the most delicious dinners. The choices are fine dining meets home cooking, taking the best of both and resulting in a memorable culinary experience.
We loved DDG retreat (can you tell?). It’s luxury accommodation with the hospitality of family. At no time were we given too much or too little attention.
We’re excited to hear that later this year DDG will be opening a second retreat, this time in Cambodia. We can’t wait to check it out.
Santhiya, Koh Yao Yai, Thailand
A year on from DDG (as we were on the wrong side of the world to be able to return), we celebrated our first anniversary in Thailand.
We were greeted by a shuttle bus at Phuket airport and taken on a 20-minute drive to the marina. There was enough time for a quick craft beer (a local Phuket brew called Chalawan Pale Ale) before boarding a speed boat for the ride of our lives (only a slight exaggeration – the seas were rough that day, friends), through the Strait of Malacca to our destination – a small, hilly and lesser-known Thai island Koh Yao Yai.
We checked into Santhiya with the rest of our boat-mates in the main area of the resort, enjoying some refreshing ginger and lemongrass iced tea, before being shuttled to our villa on a wooden truck (much like a Songthaew back on the mainland).
We were totally speechless as we were shown around the villa. Between the private pool overlooking the sea, the king-sized canopy bed and lounge-worthy day bed, we didn’t know where to start.
There are plenty of dining choices for any mood, with pretty much all of the casual restaurants overlooking the beach, so we opted to spend our mealtimes there watching the waves.
We spent one of our days being pampered at the resort spa with all of the usual relaxation goodies on offer, and buffet breakfast in Thailand is really something else – every cuisine you can imagine, eggs prepared in front of you any way you like, beautiful fresh fruits, fresh pastries and good coffee.
It was certainly worth walking up the hill for each morning.
Even though we’re technically backpacking at the moment, we can definitely see ourselves seeking out more luxury places to relax for a few days in again soon.
Where are your favourite luxury escapes? Maybe we’ll add them to our wish list 😉