4 Island Escapes For a Blissful Honeymoon

Get off the mainland and island hop to your heart's content

  • Story by Margot Marshall
  • Photography by shutterstock, getty

MYKONOS, GREEK ISLANDS

PLAY: With a reputation as one of the most popular and glamorous Greek isles, Mykonos offers old world charm and a modern free spirit. Dotted with windmills that frame your arrival onto the island (and the odd pelican cruising around the old town), Mykonos is picturesque by day and positively luminous by night. Visit during the high season (July-August) if you love the buzz of people, music and parties – or travel out of season for a more low-key vibe without the crowds.

Explore Panagia Paraportiani, Mykonos’ most famous church, which comprises four chapels, as well as another on an upper level reached by an exterior staircase. Wander around the town and take in the postcard-perfect whitewashed houses covered with lush bougainvillea and geraniums, settle in for an afternoon at the beach on your loungers, then linger over a seaside dinner.

A fun way to explore another side of the island is a self-drive 4x4 safari – a full-day excursion that gives you a glimpse into true Greek life, with many hidden foodie and cultural treasures along the way.

EAT: Just steps from the sea, Kostantis Taverna serves tasty food by the beach. Treat yourselves to a late lunch of baby squid and risotto, followed by crumbly Greek feta with honey or one of their famous frappés. Make a night of it at Blue Myth restaurant – with its whitewashed detail and hues of blue, this is Greek dining at its best.

Enjoy a candlelit dinner of local specialties on the open-air verandah overlooking the beach. Or discover the hidden treasure that is Funky Kitchen, a pretty and intimate restaurant tucked away in a quiet corner of Mykonos town.

Feast on octopus carpaccio followed by fresh ravioli filled with Cypriot halloumi cheese in a chicken and mint broth, then finish with delicate pastries filled with almonds and cinnamon in a rose water syrup. And did we mention the cocktails?

STAY: A luxury resort featuring Cycladic-style bungalows and villas on Psarou Beach, Mykonos Blu Grecotel Exclusive Resort sits just four kilometres from the Mykonos Windmills. Soak up the sun on your bungalow terrace as you look out to sea. Relax in your private jacuzzi before a few laps in the resort’s stunning infinity pool.

For a serious splash of honeymoon cash, the Belvedere Mykonos is an intimate boutique hotel offering high-end luxury with a world-renowned chef, Six Senses spa and prime location. Romance is at the heart of the Belvedere’s accommodation, with each room and suite enjoying a sun-kissed terrace with sea views.

SAMOA

PLAY: Just a four-hour flight from Auckland, Samoa is a beautiful jewel in the Pacific. Kick off your honeymoon on the popular island of Upolu, where you can laze on one of the stunning white sand beaches and indulge in fresh tropical fruit and coconuts.

Samoa is full of fantastic sights, so it’s worth booking a tour around the island itself. Rent a beach fale (a Samoan thatched hut) to have the water literally at your feet; a cheap and cheerful way to see Samoa at its best. Visit the Apia markets for cleverly crafted goodies and delicious local food (buy an icy cold niu – drinking coconut – to enjoy as you wander) then head to the Museum of Samoa. Check out the churches dotted everywhere, each with unique character and architecture, before a lazy beach afternoon.

If you fancy getting off the beaten track, take a ferry to the outer island of Savai’i. This untamed beauty boasts beautifully tepid waters to swim and play. Don’t miss the Afu Aau Falls – a spectacular waterfall that plunges from the rainforest deep into a fresh-water swimming pool. The Alofaaga Blowholes also offer an awe-inspiring scenic stopoff; this natural phenomenon is wave power in its purest form with huge jets of water propelled hundreds of feet into the air. Then head into the sky  at the Falealupo Canopy Walkway, a treetop canopy walkway built 40 metres above the ground amongst giant Banyan trees.

EAT: Food in Samoa is all about nature’s bounty from land and sea. Plantations of bananas, taro, tropical fruits and vegetables are plentiful, while the ocean brings crayfish, snapper, mahi mahi, octopus, tuna and more. Enjoy a beach breakfast of papaya plucked from a nearby tree, then at lunch try the popular delicacies of palusami (young taro leaves baked in coconut cream) and oka (raw fish in lime and coconut milk). You may be treated to a meal cooked in a traditional umu – an above-ground stone oven heated by hot rocks. Food can be cooked directly on the rocks, wrapped in banana leaves or plaited coconut fronds. And don’t leave without indulging in a fried banana – yum!

STAY: If you’re keen to stay on the main island of Upolu, then the beachfront Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort offers all the trappings of a big luxury resort, including a tennis court, authentic dining options and great swimming. It’s also home to the Manaia Polynesian Spa, where you can relax with traditional spa treatments and Samoan therapies using locally made products.

For a more intimate experience, bask in the seclusion and serenity of Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa . This beautiful honeymoon paradise offers an adults-only sanctuary. Relax in your villa, explore the abundant tropical grounds, or take a dip in the horizon-edge pool, followed by a refreshing cocktail. This is the ultimate couples’ retreat! Sinalei is renowned for its fresh seafood, which is sourced directly from local fishermen or from the resort’s own boat. Prepared alongside local produce from independent farmers, your culinary experience at Sinalei will be one to remember as you dine above the lagoon, poolside or in the lush tropical surrounds.

HVAR, CROATIA

PLAY: A Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar sits just off the Dalmatian Coast. Hvar Town is the hub of the island; a small bay town where 13th-century walls envelop stunning ornate Gothic palaces and pedestrian-only marble streets.

Wander arm in arm through the main square, get lost in the maze of streets, take a dip in the ocean at one of the myriad golden beaches then slip into your glam evening attire and prepare to party the night away.

Get onto the water and make a day of it with a trip out to the nearby Pakleni Islands – a must for anyone staying on Hvar. Charter a yacht or jump on a taxi boat and head out to the cluster of 21 wooded isles, which offer deserted lagoons and hidden beaches with turquoise seas.

It’s worth noting that some of the Pakleni Islands have a reputation as naturist beaches – so if you’re happy to swim in your birthday suit then leave your bikini and boardies behind!

EAT: Hvar is packed with amazing places to eat and drink that will accommodate every taste and budget. Indulge your sweet tooth at Nonica – a tiny storefront café with a reputation for the best cakes in town. Try the old-fashioned local biscuits and don’t miss the Nonica tart: a delicious combination of chocolate mousse and orange peel. Rub shoulders with the glamour crowd at Restaurant Gariful, where celebs fresh off their superyachts come to enjoy some of the island’s freshest and best seafood, or get back to basics at Konoba Menego, a rustic old house where marinated meats, cheeses and vegetables are made the traditional Dalmatian way.

STAY: Relax in style at the boutique Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel , just five minutes walk to the beach and the Hvar’s historical centre. With its luxurious Sensori spa, rooftop terrace and seawater swimming pool, the stylish hotel boasts panoramic views of the ancient city, harbour and Pakleni Islands. Enjoy a bottle of Prosecco at the sky bar, then slip on your dancing shoes and dance the night away looking out over the twinkling village lights below.

Originally owned by one of Hvar’s most ancient families, Villa Heraclea offers luxury heritage accommodation for culture lovers. Built in 1612, the Villa is located in the heart of the old town, looking over the Riva esplanade and harbour beyond.

Its five gorgeous rooms have a Mediterranean aesthetic, with beautiful linens and terrace views of the crystal clear waters. Take time out together in the Villa’s Gothic garden , which is filled with the scent of lemon and orange trees as well as lavender, jasmine and rosemary.

STEWART ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

PLAY: With its glorious sunrises and sunsets, the Southern Lights and abundant wildlife, Stewart Island is a nature lover’s paradise from bush to beach. Well and truly off the beaten track, this is the place to unplug, slow down and savour each other’s company, all in stunning surrounds.

Get your energy levels flowing and follow in Prince Harry’s footsteps with a trip to iconic Ulva Island; the jewel of Rakiura National Park, it’s just ten minutes via water taxi from Golden Bay wharf. The long, narrow island boasts beautiful sandy beaches and coves and is the perfect place to explore by kayak.

A predator-free island managed by DOC, public access is restricted to daytime only, so make the most of your time here and arrive early before embarking on a Ruggedy Range Wilderness Kayak. If you prefer to keep your feet dry, take your pick from one of the many walking tracks to suit your fitness level.

Back at basecamp, discover the spirit of Stewart Island with a trip to Bunkhouse Theatre where you can take in a quirky flick about the island and its history before heading to Rakiura Jade – the southern-most jade workshop in the world, with majestic views of Halfmoon Bay. Create your own treasure from jade as a special memento to take home.

EAT: The top spot for a caffeine hit on Stewart Island, Kiwi-French Café is the ideal place to refuel before your next adventure. With beautifully fresh French bread, crêpes and tempting sweet treats, sit and relax or take away your favourite coffee. If you fancy it, Kiwi-French Café also offers a delicious packed lunch for busy sightseers.

Come nightfall, grab a spot on the deck of South Sea Hotel and treat yourselves to the local bounty of the sea. Start with an oyster shot each, then follow up with seafood chowder, mussels, local salmon or Stewart Island Blue Cod – all washed down with a glass of Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc.

STAY: The ideal spot for nature lovers, Anchorstone sits on the borders of Rakiura National Park. You’ll be surrounded by natural woodland, including giant miro and rimu trees, and enjoy magical views over Horseshoe Bay. With native birdlife in abundance and even small wild deer and kiwi known to grace the property, this is Stewart Island at its best. And pack your walking shoes – Anchorstone is situated near the Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’.

Observation Rock Lodge is a luxury boutique lodge with gourmet dining and a wellness retreat. Indulge with the Lodging Deluxe, a unique Lodge House that includes a sumptuous dinner for two, bush sauna looking out into native forest and hot tub under the stars, where you’ll be treated to views of the Southern Cross and Milky Way amongst the twinkling canopy. Wrap up warmly to relax on your private treetop balcony and soak up the serenity as the sun goes down.


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