here is something thrillingly adventurous about the Australian outback. A full day’s travel from home, remote and yet familiar, with Sydney in easy reach. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is one of those places that people with the inside track rave about, a meaningful wilderness set against a backdrop of the steely Blue Mountains.
It’s an outdoorsy, fresh-air-fuelled, carbon-neutral adventure, where wallabies scratch up against the wooden decks of the villas and kookaburras drink out of the swimming pool on misty mornings. In our summer (their winter), the campfires in the grounds flicker at dusk and chilly adventuring is rewarded with mugs of hot chocolate while stargazing from the restored 19th-century homestead. Children will have their minds blown by the 7,000-acre conservancy – exploring on horseback (there are gentle intro lessons for first-timers), by bicycle, or on foot with field guides.
Switch off entirely from the outside world and really tune in to the experience. Discover crayfish-filled creeks, journey to the Glow Worm tunnel and hike up Donkey Mountain. There is also a great spa on tap for authentic, locally-rooted treatments including sacred stone massages and chakra-balancing sessions. But the landscape, its vast uncharted spaces, is in itself restorative, it’s a kind of meditation just looking out to the rusty red escarpments, eucalyptus forests and that big sky. For children, the whole thing will feel impossibly exotic
Stopping over in Dubai on the way to or from Australia is a great way to break up the journey. Wellness is at the core of the One&Only philosophy and here, on The Palm Jumeirah and also on Jumeirah Beach, are two joined-at-the-hip yet quite different offerings.
One&Only Royal Mirage, with its KidsOnly programmes, belly dancing classes and camel rides, seems like the obvious place to decamp with children. And One&Only The Palm, slicker, cooler, quieter, appears more of a hushed grown-up retreat. But of course, scratch the surface and both places can really deliver for everyone. The steamy, soapy traditional Oriental hammam at One&Only Royal Mirage is a brilliant way to scrub off the exhaustion of a long flight, while the children get involved with tennis lessons or learn to water-ski. And at One&Only The Palm, just a boat hop away, there are daily programmes of sand sculpting, henna painting and even evening Arabian camping, as well as one of only six Guerlain hotel spas in the world for powerful anti-ageing treatments.
City fixes such as Dubai can be brilliant for half-term holidays. But no jet lag, overnight flights and lovely spring-like temperatures means that South Africa is also an unexpectedly savvy choice for May and October. The opening of the new Zeitz museum last year has added extra cultural excitement for budding art-history students and curious younger kids. The One&Only Cape Town is right in the thick of the action on the V&A Waterfront, only a few minutes’ walk from the extraordinary collection of African art at MOCAA and, of course, they have the best access.
There are also art conversations with local art dealer and collector João Ferreira, and trips to the coolest galleries in town. And the Insta-Walks are huge fun – guided tours of the hippest, most photogenic spots in the city. The non-arty can try surfing lessons – great fun for the whole family to do together before breakfast. And afterwards, everyone will deserve a session in the spa – the Jet Setters Mini Manicure and Pedicure is especially popular.
One&Only Le Saint Géran is another long-haul-with-minimal-jet-lag destination. For that very reason Mauritius has always been hugely family friendly. The weather is deliciously warm throughout our summer but not ferociously hot. The Mauritian people love children and go out of their way, above and beyond, to keep smiles on little faces. And the reimagining of One&Only Le Saint Géran will put smiles on the grown-ups’ faces too. The classic resort, much loved and full of loyal guests, received a tremendous revamp last year, slickening and sharpening the rooms, carving out new space for swimming pools, adding restaurants, bringing the resort in line with the crisp smartness of other One&Only properties. And the result is stellar.
Repeat visitors have given the thumbs-up. The spa also has a new lease of life and extra space, with ESPA running the show with its holistic, deeply calming therapies.
For more shiny-bright beach action, head to Los Cabos, on the edge of the Baja Peninsula. One&Only Palmilla is one of the chicest hideouts in Mexico, with beachfront access to one of the few swimmable beaches in the entire region (the rough rollers on the Pacific shore make it incredibly alluring for surfers). In July and August, the temperatures do soar but a stiff sea breeze keeps everyone cool, and the lush tropical gardens are full of shady spots to retreat to. Check in to the supremely popular Villa One, an all-singing, all-dancing family house with its own glass-sided swimming pool, chefs and babysitters on tap, and views overlooking the Sea of Cortez where you can spot dolphins and whale-sharks.
At the spa there is the exciting new addition this summer of a Temazcal, a traditional Mexican sweat lodge, infused with herbs and incense, to cleanse the body and calm the mind. Children can find equal calm with yoga and mindfulness sessions, and classes in the Art Lab.
The ultimate getaway though, for a holiday that feels like you are acting out a scene from a postcard, is the Maldives. At One&Only Reethi Rah, the island is your playground, and your escape from the stresses of real life. Here, you can have a massage in an open-sided villa at the spa with the sound of the sea lapping the beach as the soundtrack. Here, you can run along the purest white sand on an early morning jog, swim in sea the colour of an aquamarine ring and eat fresh fish caught that morning by the kids.
Active children can crash around the full-size football pitch, take snorkelling adventures with the resident marine biologist and leap and bounce on the huge inflatables in the sea. Little creatives will get their kicks from painting sessions with the artists in residence. The one thing that is really guaranteed is that everyone will be their very happiest. And that is a holiday in itself.