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Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, Australia - Southern Ocean Lodge

Andrew Harper's 20 Favorite Hideaway Hotels

By Andrew Harper

The Harper Way | November 6, 2017

All year long, Andrew Harper’s small team of editors travels far and wide, uncovering the most distinctive hotels in the world. While our 1,000 recommended properties vary in size, style and locale, it’s hideaways — those tranquil hotels of 50 rooms or fewer — that are at the heart of what we do. Our favorite hideaways possess exceptional character and a commitment to classic hospitality, and they are sanctuaries offering a profound sense of place.

Andrew Harper editors have been traveling the world for decades, and their evaluations go beyond simple checklists. Their ultimate aim is to separate the truly enchanting from the merely excellent. So if it’s a place of refuge you seek, a place where you can leave the world behind and experience something genuinely special, then let our editors point the way.

Post Ranch Inn
The deck of the Pacific Suite at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California - Kodiak Greenwood

1. Post Ranch Inn 99hummingbird icon

Big Sur, California

This exclusive coastal resort occupies a dramatic bluff directly above the Pacific in Big Sur, 45 minutes south of Carmel. The 39 lodgings include the extraordinary circular Pacific Suites, which feature outdoor hot tubs, woodburning fireplaces and private entrances. An outstanding gourmet restaurant is backed by a superlative wine cellar. A wholly exceptional romantic getaway and spa retreat, Post Ranch Inn is a long-standing favorite of Andrew Harper members — a place where the views are mind-boggling and total seclusion is guaranteed.

Superior service: With about 150 employees, the resort has one of the largest staff-to-guest ratios in the world.

A design tour de force: Constructed with recycled redwood and huge panes of glass, its accommodations are architectural triumphs.

The outside comes in: The spa uses its own products, which are made from wildflowers found on the estate.

Aman Venice
The Piano Nobile Lounge of Aman Venice in Venice, Italy - Courtesy of Aman

2. Aman Venice 98hummingbird icon

Venice, Italy

Offering refined comfort amid surroundings of scarcely believable grandeur, the Aman Venice is an opulent 24-room hotel in the spectacular renovated 16th-century Palazzo Papadopoli on the Grand Canal. Magnificent common areas include a dazzling second-floor dining room with gilded mirrors, lavish moldings, glittering chandeliers and glorious frescoes. Some rooms and suites feature works by great Italian artists, including Sansovino and Tiepolo.

Overwhelmingly grand: Built in 1560, the Palazzo Papadopoli is one of only eight palazzi monumentali in Venice.

Home to the best suite in the world: The Alcova Tiepolo Suite might just be the world’s most beautiful hotel room.

Where Hollywood royalty married: This is where George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin — and let’s face it, they could have gone anywhere.

Ballyfin Demesne
Ballyfin Demesne in County Laois, Ireland - Ballyfin Demesne

3. Ballyfin Demesne 98hummingbird icon

County Laois, Ireland

Located 60 miles southwest of Dublin and surrounded by a 614-acre estate, Ballyfin Demesne is perhaps the greatest Regency house in Ireland. In the magnificent public rooms, sumptuous fabrics and rugs are complemented by mahogany furniture, Chippendale mirrors and a collection of Irish paintings from the 18th century to the present. Each of the 20 rooms is individually decorated with authentic furniture, resplendent fabrics and original artwork. Despite the grandeur, the atmosphere is relaxed and the staff are as friendly as only the Irish know how.

Travel back in time: Ballyfin is like living in the 18th century — but with electricity.

Best suite: The Wellesley-Pole Suite, with its view of the water cascade, is truly palatial.

Insider info: An 80-foot library runs the length of the mansion’s south façade, from which the conservatory can be accessed via a secret door hidden in a bookshelf.

Twin Farms
The main farmhouse at Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont - Twins Farms

4. Twin Farms 98hummingbird icon

Barnard, Vermont

At this intimate and exclusive country retreat, amid 300 acres of meadows and woodlands in an unspoiled valley north of Woodstock, guests choose from 20 distinctive lodgings that feature feather beds and sitting areas that open onto private screened porches. The restaurant at Twin Farms is exceptional, as are all other on-site facilities, including a spa, a gym, Japanese-style soaking tubs and a raftered library housed in the original barn.

Cultural connections: The historic home of author Sinclair Lewis, Twin Farms has been completely reimagined, and its stunning interior is now decorated with paintings by David Hockney, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and others.

Best bath: The Aviary suite comes with a sunken hot tub directly in front of a log fireplace.

Unique experiences: The property has six private downhill ski slopes, accessible by high-speed snowmobile. The romantically inclined may wish to dine in the wine cellar, which can be reserved for private dinners for two.

San Ysidro Ranch
The gardens at San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California - Peter Malinowski/Insite

5. San Ysidro Ranch 98hummingbird icon

Santa Barbara, California

The 500-acre San Ysidro Ranch resort is set in the leafy foothills of Montecito, just outside Santa Barbara. Landscaped grounds contain 41 cottages with peaked roofs, fireplaces or stoves, private patios and generous sitting areas. Dining venues include the award-winning Stonehouse restaurant and Plow & Angel bistro. Luxury accommodations, a full-service spa and extensive hiking trails make this wonderful retreat feel far removed from the troubles of the world.

Little-known fact: San Ysidro Ranch was originally cultivated by Franciscan monks who received the land in a grant from King Charles III of Spain in 1769.

Celebrity connection: Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were married at the Ranch, and John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned here. John Huston wrote much of the script for “The African Queen” during a three-month stay.

Over-the-top indulgence: In-room pet massages are available for $75 for 30 minutes.

The Brando
The Brando on Tetiaroa Private Island, French Polynesia - Eric Martin

6. The Brando 97hummingbird icon

Tetiaroa Private Island, French Polynesia

A private island once owned by Marlon Brando, Tetiaroa is a 20-minute flight from Tahiti by private light aircraft. The Brando’s lavish one- to three-bedroom beachfront villas (there are 35) feature outdoor tubs, high-tech media rooms and decks with plunge pools. Amenities include a glamorous wellness facility, complete with a waterfall and bird’s nest-like couples suite, and a French restaurant overseen by Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin.

What makes it different: Arguably, this is the ultimate castaway island escape. For centuries, it was a retreat reserved for Tahitian royalty.

Big-screen connection: Brando fell in love with Tetiaroa while filming “Mutiny on the Bounty.” He conceived it as his personal paradise and said that it was “beautiful beyond my capacity to describe.”

One-of-a-kind activities: Polynesian dance lessons; music lessons with ukulele, pahu or toere; and pareu dyeing and tying.

Les Prés d'Eugénie
The garden and courtyard of Les Prés d'Eugénie in Eugénie-les-Bains, France - Les Prés d'Eugénie

7. Les Prés d’Eugénie 97hummingbird icon

Eugénie-les-Bains, Bordeaux, France

The renowned 47-room Les Prés d’Eugénie hotel and spa was created by legendary chef Michel Guérard and his wife, Christine. The gracious French country-chic enclave comprises the main hotel, three other self-contained smaller “hotels,” a Michelin three-star restaurant and a rustic bistro. This gourmet hideaway has an exceptional cooking school with half-day, full-day or five-day courses and is also a sublime wellness retreat with comprehensive spa facilities and two swimming pools.

What makes it unforgettable: This is perhaps the world’s foremost temple to refined hedonism.

Claim to fame: Chef Guérard earned his first Michelin stars in 1967. His legendary cuisine minceur allows you to eat stupendously well and lose weight at the same time. 

Good to know: The hotel’s Ferme Thermale, housed within a former 18th-century farmland, is famous for its citrus milk baths in front of an open fire.

Gidleigh Park
The exterior of Gidleigh Park in Chagford, Devon, England - Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd

8. Gidleigh Park 97hummingbird icon

Chagford, Devon, England

Located amid dense woodland at the end of a narrow driveway lined by high stone walls, Gidleigh Park is a distinctive Tudor-style sanctuary set along the banks of a trout stream in England’s timeless West Country. The 24 individually designed rooms contain antiques and original paintings. The atmospheric public salons lead to a superlative Michelin two-star restaurant overseen by chef Michael Wignall. The property is located at the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, and the country walks and horseback riding excursions are exceptional.

A step back in time: The surrounding area, including the exquisite little town of Chagford, is a surviving fragment of an England in which Miss Marple would have felt entirely at home.

Literary connections: The mysterious atmosphere of Hound Tor, a granite outcrop looming above Dartmoor National Park, is said to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Evelyn Waugh finished writing “Brideshead Revisited” in Chagford.

Villa La Coste
The private terrace off the Pavillon Suite at Villa La Coste in Provence, France - Richard Haughton

9. Villa La Coste 97hummingbird icon

Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, Provence, France

The spectacular Villa La Coste hotel is built on a hillside overlooking a 600-acre estate just north of Aix-en-Provence. Twenty-eight supremely comfortable guest accommodations are housed within individual stone-faced villas set along a shady jasmine-planted lane. Irish businessman Patrick McKillen purchased the estate in 2002, and he and his wife have acquired one of the most impressive collections of modern art and sculpture in France. This remarkable hideaway exemplifies chic, low-key design and is a self-contained property that merits an extended stay.

Not your father’s France: Here you will find a very different version of the south of France — not Cézanne and van Gogh but Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei. But despite being surrounded by a vast contemporary art gallery, the resort is friendly and unaffected.

Relax, Japanese-style: The exquisite spa contains a Japanese-style hot-spring onsen bath and a hammam; the products are made specially for the resort.

Wakaya Club & Spa
Beach palapa at Wakaya Club & Spa on Wakaya Island, Fiji Islands - The Wakaya Club & Spa

10. Wakaya Club & Spa 97hummingbird icon

Wakaya Island, Fiji Islands

The 10-room Wakaya Club & Spa occupies a remote 2,200-acre private island that evokes the South Pacific of Maugham and Michener, with limpid emerald lagoons, soaring cliffs, shell-strewn beaches and a ruggedly mountainous interior teeming with exotic birds. The cottage suites feature indigenous woods, cathedral ceilings and lavish baths with open-air lava-rock showers. The sensational setting, intimate size and castaway atmosphere create a truly extraordinary hideaway.

You won’t find the paparazzi here: Owned by Canadian entrepreneur David Gilmour, founder of Fiji Water, Wakaya is one of the world’s principal bolt-holes for publicity-shy celebrities.

If you don’t scuba dive: You can always explore the reef in a glass-bottomed kayak.

Wheatleigh
The pool at Wheatleigh in Lenox, Massachusetts - Peter Peirce

11. Wheatleigh 97hummingbird icon

Lenox, Massachusetts

Surrounded by 22 acres of parkland designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Wheatleigh is an exquisitely restored 19th-century Italianate palazzo a short walk from Tanglewood in Lenox, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The 19 rooms and suites are accented by modern art and objets d’art from around the world. In the main restaurant, chef Jeffrey Thompson presents a menu of superb French-American cuisine. As is often the case in the world’s best hotels, it is not the lavish décor or extravagant amenities but the quality of the personal service that makes Wheatleigh exceptional.

Not just a summer destination: Although famous as a base camp for Tanglewood, Wheatleigh is particularly magical in the winter snow.

Be voted Most Popular: You can treat up to 36 of your best friends to a stay in the Berkshires. Wheatleigh is available for exclusive use at about $40,000 a day.

Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
An aerial view of The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in Matauri Bay, New Zealand - The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs

12. The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs 97hummingbird icon

Matauri Bay, New Zealand

The plantation-style Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is set on 6,000 magnificent acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean and its own world-class championship golf course. The 23 guest suites face sensational views of the sea and fairways and include gloriously scenic verandas. A casually elegant lodge encompasses a glass-enclosed formal dining room that serves delicious Pacific Rim cuisine. The golf course features six dramatic cliffside holes, plus nine others with ocean views.

It’s a passion project: The property’s billionaire owner, American hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, fell in love with New Zealand at a young age and now owns two other exceptional lodges: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay and Matakauri Lodge near Queenstown.

The tour you have to take: Neglecting to indulge in a helicopter ride of the nearby Bay of Islands would be madness.

Domaine de Murtoli
The pool at Domaine de Murtoli in Sartène, Corsica, France - Camille Moirenc

13. Domaine de Murtoli 97hummingbird icon

Sartène, Corsica, France

Occupying 4,900 acres in southern Corsica, the Domaine de Murtoli is a private estate comprised of 16 renovated stone farmhouses scattered across an idyllic landscape of fragrant maquis, the bright-green carpet of bushes and wild herbs that covers much of the island. Huge boulders stud the property, which is bordered by a private five-mile white-sand beach lapped by sparkling-blue water.

Why it’s one of our favorite places: Sweeps of unspoiled beach-fringed coastline are all too rare in Europe nowadays. If you want to experience the Mediterranean as it used to be, this is the place to come.

Eat local — really local: The Domaine de Murtoli is a working estate, producing honey, cured meat and a brocciu cheese. You can go to the farm with a basket and pick your own vegetables for dinner.

Fogo Island Inn
The exterior of Fogo Island Inn on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada - Alex Fradkin

14. Fogo Island Inn 97hummingbird icon

Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada

The sculptural Fogo Island Inn stands with stunning improbability near a remote fishing village off Newfoundland’s northeast coast. The main four-story modernist structure is cross-shaped, with one axis supported by angled metal poles. Colorful quilts and handmade furniture complement the stark white interior. Those who have a recurring dream of getting away from it all to explore the far corners of the earth will find that the 29-room Fogo Island is its realization. It is a place of spectacular and elemental beauty.

The inspiration: Fogo Island Inn’s design stems from a 400-year-old vernacular tradition of creating seemingly temporary although ultimately permanent structures (original settlers were expected to fish Fogo Island’s waters and then return home to England or Ireland).

Cool cocktails: From June 1 to July 15, the sea off Fogo Island is known as “Iceberg Alley.” On whale-watching trips, drinks are served with iceberg ice.

Huka Lodge
The Jetty Pavilion at Huka Lodge in Taupo, New Zealand - Huka Lodge

15. Huka Lodge 97hummingbird icon

Taupo, New Zealand

A European-style country house hotel, Huka Lodge is set along the willow-draped banks of the Waikato River near dramatic Huka Falls on New Zealand’s North Island. The 21 peaked-roof guest accommodations dot the grounds in a series of stylish duplex cottages that feature riverside verandas and skylit baths. Dining venues include a formal space decorated with Scottish tartan fabrics, a trophy room and a vaulted wine cellar. Huka Lodge also offers exceptional trout fishing.

This is the original Super Lodge: New Zealand has a handful of so-called Super Lodges, resorts of fathomless indulgence where helicopter is the standard way to get around, but Huka is the grande dame — the place where it all began.

Who it appeals to: Founded in 1924 as a simple fishing lodge, Huka still draws anglers from around the world, but its idyllic riverside setting appeals to just about anyone, including the queen of England, as well as international A-list celebrities.

Tawaraya
The exterior of Tawaraya in Kyoto, Japan - Tawaraya

16. Tawaraya 96hummingbird icon

Kyoto, Japan

This justly celebrated 18-room ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) has been owned by the same family for nearly 300 years. The deep culture of excellence and refinement that informs daily life in Japan is represented at this property by the elegance of the rooms, the beautifully designed gardens, the artfully presented 20-course kaiseki dinners and the discreet staff. Though the property is in the center of Kyoto, stepping inside Tawaraya feels like a form of time travel.

Why visitors go: To experience Japan at its most traditional. Guests are assigned their own kimono-clad personal attendant and wear yukata robes and slippers.

Time for a travel agent: Tawaraya is nearly always full. It has no website, and it is not possible to reserve accommodations online.

The essential experience: Eating an elaborate dinner in the privacy of your own room is an essential part of the experience.

Petit St. Vincent
The beach at Petit St. Vincent on Petit St. Vincent Private Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - Mike Toy

17. Petit St. Vincent 96hummingbird icon

Petit St. Vincent Private Island, St. Vincent

Petit St. Vincent is the very definition of a hideaway. A tiny private island with just 22 stone cottages, it lies in the southern Caribbean surrounded by the pristine Grenadines archipelago, a legendary sailing ground. It takes approximately 45 minutes to stroll around the white-sand beach that encircles the island, though considerably longer if you pause for swims in the dazzling turquoise sea or a snooze in one of the numerous hammocks along the way. At times, this unique property feels close to the end of the world.

Refined simplicity at its best: The cottages and villas are spacious but have no phones or Wi-Fi. If you want room service, you just raise a flag at the end of your driveway.

Mustique is a world away: Thirty miles to the north, Mustique is a party island. In contrast, guests at P.S.V. are in search of privacy and pristine natural surroundings. Both private islands attract shoals of the rich and famous, but in character they could scarcely be more different.

The essential experience: P.S.V. is surrounded by some of the Caribbean’s finest coral reefs, and since 2014 it has hosted the Jean-Michel Cousteau Diving Center.

Southern Ocean Lodge
The great room at Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, Australia - Southern Ocean Lodge

18. Southern Ocean Lodge 96hummingbird icon

Kangaroo Island, Australia

The refined, environmentally sensitive Southern Ocean Lodge stands between two national parks on remote Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. The 21 spacious oceanview suites feature a contemporary design with dramatic glass-walled baths and furnishings by local artisans. Guided excursions allow guests to discover the rugged landscapes and diverse wildlife of “Australia’s Galápagos.”

An otherworldly experience: Gaze across the seemingly endless Southern Ocean from your suite — the next significant landmass is Antarctica.

Immerse yourself: Wildlife viewing is a big part of the experience. Sea lions, seals, kangaroos, wallabies and koalas are all abundant.

Seclusion personified: For a couple in search of privacy, there are few more-romantic retreats than the resort’s Osprey Pavilion.

Belmond Villa San Michele
The exterior and grounds of Belmond Villa San Michele in Fiesole, Italy - Genivs Loci

19. Belmond Villa San Michele 96hummingbird icon

Fiesole, Florence, Italy

Housed within a 15th-century Franciscan monastery, the sumptuously restored hilltop Belmond Villa San Michele commands an iconic panoramic view of Florence. With a façade designed by Michelangelo, this romantic hideaway is preserved as an Italian national trust monument. The 45 guest accommodations feature massive doors and period furnishings; some include spacious seating areas and private terraces. Though the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to the city center, many guests prefer to spend their time relaxing in the idyllic terraced gardens.

Panoramic dining: Lunch in the loggia overlooking Florence is one of the supreme experiences of European travel.

Get a bird’s-eye view: If you tire of lounging by one of the world’s most beautiful swimming pools, the hotel can arrange a hot air balloon flight over Florence.

North Island
A walkway leading to seating with a view of the Indian Ocean at North Island in Seychelles - Andrew Howard

20. North Island 96hummingbird icon

Seychelles

This 462-acre private island is located 20 minutes by helicopter from the international airport on Mahé. Each of the 11 two-bedroom villas is a self-contained world with a dedicated butler, kitchenette and library. The hotel has four white-sand beaches and offers an encyclopedic selection of outdoor activities. North Island is a conservation area where rare indigenous species are now being reintroduced.

Good enough for the royals: There are several exquisite private islands in the Seychelles, but this is the one that Prince William and Kate Middleton chose for their honeymoon.

The island is home to one of the largest tortoises in the world: The island has a population of Aldabra giant tortoises, which can grow to a weight of 500 pounds.

It’s all about nature: Since 1997, the island has been undergoing a complex program of environmental rehabilitation to make it a sanctuary for endemic species.

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Andrew Harper Photo Our editors write under the Andrew Harper byline so they can travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who they are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.

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