13 Secret Beaches for a Clandestine Getaway

You won’t have to share the sand at these hidden paradises around the world.

By Sandra Ramani 09/04/2019

Beaches, like travellers, come in all styles. There are the sleek and sophisticated ones, the powdery-soft stretches that make all the “most beautiful” lists and star in countless Instagram posts. There are the party ones, home to lively day clubs and DJ-fueled parties, and the boho-chic ones that chill out with bonfires and sing-a-longs. Exotic ones in far-flung locations are vibrant with colour and culture, while rocky ones may seem prickly at first, but end up revealing their own treasures.

But our favourite beaches are the ones you have to work for—the little-known stretches of sand around the world that require a real effort to find. Here, we spotlight 13 such spots—beaches that are local secrets, hidden away, and totally private. They aren’t just exclusive or reserved for a lucky few, but real discoveries, like the beach in Australia that requires a two-day return hike, or another one in Bermuda that only exists for a few hours of the day at low tide. From Mykonos to Mozambique, these 13 beaches are so special, you might not want to share (and good thing, you won’t have to).

Mopion Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

While the “secret” of the Grenadines appears to have already gotten out, there are still some less-discovered—and off-the-beaten-path—places hidden along this Eastern Caribbean gem. Tiny Mopion Island, or as locals call it, “Sandy Island,” is the perfect spot for a true castaway experience, as there’s nothing there but a thatch-roofed palapa and two cushy loungers. The islet is ringed by coral (making it a great launch pad for snorkelling and diving), so you can only access it via a narrow channel—meaning you’ll have to ride in on a dingy from your private boat.

Where to Stay: Less than two kilometres from Mopion, the private island resort of Petit St. Vincent is the closest place to stay. The property offers complimentary half-days on the isolated beach, complete with a breakfast or lunch picnic and a walkie-talkie to radio the staff when you’re ready to be “rescued.”


Mopion Island comes with nothing but a whole lot of sand and a palapa for two.
Photo: Petit St. Vincent

North Point and South Point Beaches, Benguerra Island, Mozambique

Gorgeous white-sand beaches abound in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, and many of them are only accessible via some private and exclusive way. Some of our favourite beaches in the region, though, are right on Benguerra—mainly because you’re pretty much guaranteed to never see another person while you’re there. Reachable via helicopter from mainland Mozambique, and set just south of the larger island of Bazaruto, Benguerra is only home to a few resorts—so when one hotel is planning on setting up a “castaway” picnic for their guests, it coordinates with the others to make sure no one else will be there. Among the scenic choices for your exclusive beach day are North Point—a sandy strip bordered by the ocean on one side and a calmer bay on the other—and South Point, a wide, dune-topped beach dotted with giant pieces of bleached driftwood that look like they were strategically placed there for a fashion shoot. Spend the day searching for shells and ghost crabs, spotting flamingos, and cooling off in the Indian Ocean.

Where to Stay: AndBeyond Benguerra Island takes guests to North and South Point for a cushy dune-top picnic complete with pillow-topped beach beds and gourmet eats. The resort can also whisk guests to hidden-away spots for exceptional diving adventures or traditional dhow boat.


AndBeyond Benguerra Island offers the ultimate castaway picnic.
Photo: AndBeyond Benguerra Island

Madame Zabre Beach, Desroches Island, Seychelles

Though there’s only one hotel on Desroches Island, it isn’t technically private—which is part of what makes staying there such a special experience. Located a 35-minute flight from the capital of Mahé in Seychelles’ less-visited Outer Amirantes group, the 933-acre island is home to two villages—one Indian, one Creole—with a total population of about 100. In-between, there’s also the Island Conservation Society, which focuses on land restoration, wildlife protection, and operating a sanctuary and breeding centre for the indigenous Aldabra giant tortoise. And ringing all this is a series of tucked-away beaches and sandy spots of varying sizes. One particular favourite is Madame Zabre Beach, a powder-soft cove shaded by palm trees. To reach it, you’ll need to bike across the island’s airstrip, through unmarked forested pathways, until you reach a small copse framing the postcard-perfect shores. Keep a lookout for giant turtles along the way.

Where to Stay: Guests of the island’s sole resort, Four Seasons Desroches Private Island, can hop on their personal bike to visit the villages and sanctuary, then continue peddling—picnic hamper in tow—to enjoy Madame Z’s beach for the day.


Madame Zabre Beach.
Photo: Four Seasons Resort Seychelles

Private Beqa Lagoon Islands, Fiji

The island of Vitu Levu in Fiji is already a serene escape on which you can explore natural wonders and experience unique cultural traditional and rituals. But if you want an even more remote hideaway, though, it’s also a good base from which to stake claim to your own strip of sand. Each day during receding tide, tiny sandbanks emerge from the ocean, revealing their pristine white sands for only four or five hours at a time. Get there quickly to enjoy these temporal havens, where you can dip in the blue-green waters and enjoy a Champagne-fueled picnic before it’s time for the sand to retreat back underwater.

Where to Stay: Nanuku, Auberge Resorts Collection can sail you to one of these “disappearing” spots and set up an unforgettable picnic. Or, if you’d like a bit more time on a private beach, rent out the resort’s two-acre private island in the Beqa Lagoon system of coral reefs. The refuge can be booked for day trips or a magical overnight experience and is only available for exclusive use.


Tiny Beqa Lagoon is for guests of Nanuku Resort only.
Photo: Nanuku, Auberge Resorts Collection

Mosquera Islet, the Galápagos Islands

On Mosquera, “do not bathe while a male is nearby” is a warning that refers to the more aggressive members of the island’s only residents: sea lions. Located between the islands of Baltra and North Seymour, the narrow islet rises up from the sea ringed by a reef of lava rocks and coral and is fronted by a white-sand beach that’s popular both with human visitors and one of the region’s largest sea lion colonies. Only accessible via a wet beach landing, Mosquera is also a top-notch snorkelling and diving site, offering easy access to a world of tropical fish, brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, and more. Along with the limited physical accessibility, the island is restricted to those on naturalist-guided walks and other specially-authorized permit holders, so you’ll never find crowds lined up on the beach—save for the sunning sea lions, of course.

Where to Stay: Set on the central Galápagos island of Santa Cruz, the luxe Pikaia Lodge—a stylish spot that also happens to be completely carbon neutral and built using recycled materials—has three house yachts that can ferry guests to Mosquera and other spectacular islands in the area.


Sun yourself on a stretch of sand next to Mosquera Islet’s lazy sea lions.
Photo: Pikaia Lodge

Accidental Beach, Edmonton, Canada

In 2017, something magical appeared in Edmonton, Canada. As construction was underway on two new bridges across the Edmonton River Bank, locals began to notice a beautiful stretch of sand suddenly appearing further back along the North Saskatchewan River. When it continued to grow into a decent-sized beach, a few intrepid folks ventured through the brush to check it out. Word slowly began to get out about this secret spot—an unexpected find in this Alberta town—and thus began an epic struggle between citizens and bureaucrats, pleasure-seekers and inconvenienced homeowners that continues to this day.

But what’s wonderful is that the beach endures. After disappearing that first winter, the “Sand District,” as locals dubbed it, popped up again in summer 2018, and is expected to appear this summer season, as well. There’s a significant movement to keep it as a permanent site; the rocks that were placed in the river during the bridge construction could be adjusted and left there safely, ensuring a full-time beach. While those plans continue to be debated, the beach will most likely still be around for another two years, until construction wraps up—so try and catch this Canadian “Atlantis” while you can.

Where to Stay: Set in a 1910 former financial trust building, downtown Edmonton’s Union Bank Inn is full of history, character, and standout dining spots; choose from rooms in historic or contemporary styles.


Accidental Beach lives up to its name in the middle of Edmonton River Bank.
Photo: Kory deGroot

Bremer Island, Northern Territory, Australia

Arnhem Land may just be one of Australia’s last great frontiers. Bordered by the Arafura Sea, the Gulf of Carpentaria, and Kakadu National Park, the vast, 97,000-square-kilometre natural wonderland is dotted with gorges and rivers, waterfalls and rocky outcrops, as well as a wealth of ancient indigenous cultural sites. The territory also remains under Aboriginal ownership and protection, which means that visitors are required to obtain a permit (via a hotel or tour operator) to enter.

All of this makes exploring the beaches of Bremer Island off the northeastern tip of Arnhem Land an extra-special experience. Hop a 15-minute seaplane flight or a private boat transfer from the mainland to reach the island, which is ringed by pristine beaches that are usually empty, save for nesting sea turtles and rich birdlife.

Where to Stay: The only tourist spot on Bremer is the Banu Banu Beach Resort, a six-tent eco-resort built in concert with the Yolgnu people—so not only are the beaches exclusive, but they also offer plenty of opportunities to interact with locals, who are happy to show you how to spearfish or weave baskets the traditional way.


Australia’s Bremer Island isn’t just beautiful—it’s a cultural experience.
Photo: Tourism Northern Territory

Fragia Beach, Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos is hardly an undiscovered destination, but even the popular hot spot has a few secrets. Case in point: Fragia Beach, which until a few years ago was not open to the public. Set on the island’s more remote southeastern side, the wide, sandy beach is tucked among a series of other “locals’ secret” spots, including Pano Tigani, hidden gem Tsagari beach, and the wide cover of Lia Beach. Fragia, though, is even more of a find, as its most easily accessed by boat (the land approach requires a keen sense of direction and a patience for unmarked dirt roads.) Once there, you’ll find sparkling Aegean Sea waters and an expansive, protected crescent of sand.

Where to Stay: Make a day of it with a cover-to-catch experience courtesy of Grace Mykonos, Auberge Resorts Collection, which includes a private sail on a traditional caïque fishing boat, casting for fresh seafood, a visit to Fragia Beach for a dip, and an intimate barbecue back at the hotel.


Hard-to-find Fragia Beach is unknown among Mykonos’s tourists.
Photo: Grace Mykonos, Auberge Resorts Collection

Hog Bay Beach, Bermuda

Beautiful beaches abound in Bermuda, but Hog Bay stands out as much for its elusive nature as its aesthetic qualities. First, you’ve got to navigate getting there, hiking over steep, rocky, and hilly terrain along a woodland trail in the 32-acre Hog Bay Park nature reserve. Then, once you arrive, the beach may not even be around, as it only exists during low tide. Assuming all the stars align, you’ll find a gorgeous expanse of blush-hued sand leading to clear-and-cool water, and dotted with a few craggy boulders. In addition to providing a secluded spot for sun worshipping, picnics, and a mid-day snooze, the beach is great for snorkelling—so even if you miss low tide and arrive to find just the sea, you can jump right in to explore the underwater world.

Where to Stay: The 240 acres of the recently redone Rosewood Bermuda include a golf course, spa, several dining and drinking options, and a long, serene stretch of pink-sand beach.


Hog Bay Beach’s big secret is that, for most of the day, it doesn’t even exist.
Photo: Bermuda Tourism Authority

Klein Curaçao, Curaçao

A historic lighthouse, palm trees, and a couple of huts are all you’ll find on Klein Curaçao—along with a long, wide stretch of empty beach. Set 12.8kms off the southeast coast of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, the 1.7-square-kilometre “Little Curaçao” has no inhabitants, and it’s only accessible by helicopter or a two-hour boat ride. Once there, you’re rewarded with one of the longest and most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, as well the chance to snorkel past vibrant coral and scuba dive to shipwrecks and underwater caves. While most visitors just hang out for the day, locals like to camp for the night along the beach, under a canopy of stars; most luxury hotels or tour operators on Curaçao can make that happen.

Where to Stay: Check in to one of the 23 suites and villas at Baoase (many with private plunge pools), and enjoy easy access to the sea, not to mention a pretty spectacular beach right in front of the resort.


Little Curaçao has no inhabitants and is only accessible via boat or helicopter.
Photo: Wikipedia

Satellite Island, Tasmania, Australia

It takes a somewhat epic journey to reach this wild hideaway—which only recently became accessible to the public—but it’s worth it. After getting to mainland Australia, then to its southern island of Tasmania, hop in a car in capital city Hobart and drive along a windy road that takes you through coastal towns and tiny inlets. About 90 minutes later, you’ll take a ferry from the town of Kettering to Bruny Island, where you’ll continue to drive along the coastline (this time stopping to snack on fresh oysters, artisan cheese, and other Bruny specialties.) In the village of Alonnah, the Island Keeper will load you up onto another ferry for the five-minute trip across the appropriately storybook-sounding D’Entrecasteaux Channel—and, finally, to Satellite Island. (Of course, you can also arrive by helicopter, but the long way is definitely part of the decompressing experience.)

Once there, wander along cliff walks and down to the water’s edge, where you can enjoy lunch at the Boathouse, beach-comb for treasures, cast for shellfish and crayfish right off the jetty, or shuck oysters plucked fresh from the sea. The beaches include a mix of pebbly strips and sandy coves; you can kayak or jump into the pristine Tasman Sea waters from either, then come back at night for a bonfire and glass of Tasmanian wine.

Where to Stay: The only accommodation on-site, Satellite Island is an exclusive-use luxury lodge with room for up to eight guests in the Summer House, Boathouse, and one posh tent. The houses come stocked with kayaks, fishing equipment, snorkels, stand-up paddleboards, and more to enjoy on and off the beaches.


The long haul to Satellite Beach is well worth it.
Photo: Kate Alstergren

Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia

With more than 500 kilometres of coastline, this South Australia island (set
about a 20-minute flight from Adelaide) has no dearth of scenic beaches for swimming, sunning, and catching waves. Stokes Bay, though, is where you go for solitude—and a bit of adventure. You’ll need to walk through a labyrinth of caves and rock tunnels (on an uneven path nicknamed “The Secret Tunnel”) before reaching the gleaming white-sand beach on the quiet north coast. The picturesque spot is protected from the surf by giant rocks—resulting in what feels like a big, warm private swimming pool. And while you probably won’t see another soul while you’re there, you’ll find plenty of company in the native wildlife—including a number of the island’s namesake kangaroos.

Where to Stay: The perennial award-winning Southern Ocean Lodge is a contemporary, all-suite island resort complete with gourmet dining, lots of complimentary perks, and unbeatable coastal views.


You might find some kangaroo tracks in the sands of Stokes Bay.
Photo: Gab Rivera

Refuge Cove, Victoria, Australia

Victoria’s Wilson’s Promontory National Park is full of natural wonders and several stunning (and less-visited) beaches. Fairy Cove, for example, is only accessible by foot at low tide, when two nooks come together to form the pristine beach. It’s mainly only visited by locals, who come to sunbathe atop the granite boulders dotting the cove. For those who really want to earn their beachside fun, though, there’s Refuge Cove, which is only accessible to boaters with special permits (and even then, with tons of restrictions) and to hikers up for a 33km trek with two nights of camping. The hike will take you over steep slopes and river crossings, and up to panoramic lookout points. At the end, you’ll descend onto a white-sand beach bordered by wooded slopes and sparkling waters.

Where to Stay: After your hike and camp-out, reward yourself with a stay in one of Wilson’s luxury Coastal View Cabins, which come equipped with jetted soaking tubs, pillow menus, foldable glass doors to take in the views—and the possibility of visits from koalas, wallabies, or kangaroos.


Refuge Cove can be all yours—if you’re willing to work for it.
Photo: FreeAussieStock.com

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Wake Up To World Martini Day 19 June

Cocktail legend Dale de Groff talks Grey Goose, World Martini Day and getting wet.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 18/06/2024

Dale de Groff knows his way around a bar. Back when late nights and heavy drinking were a badge of honour, he presided over one of New York City’s most legendary venues, The Rainbow Room, and is credited with reviving the classic cocktail across Northern America.

To promote World Martini Day on June 19 he’s teamed up with vodka company Grey Goose, for which he has served as a brand ambassador since 1997, to make a winning case for the classic Martini everywhere. He is even lending a hand at the opening of Le Martini bar at Crown Melbourne. 

We asked de Groff about his time serving stars like Michale Douglas, Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood and, of course, how he likes his martini.

Dale for the uninitiated, please describe the Rainbow Room.

In the 1980s Rainbow Room was situated high atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Back then, it was just the pinnacle of glamour.

It has stunning views of the city from way up on the 65th floor. Being situated in the same building as NBC Entertainment, still pretty synonymous with late night TV,  it was and still is the home of Saturday Night Live. You can imagine the kinds of people we’d be getting in each week—from celebrities, musicians, even governors, you name it. 

Robb Report ANZ: What was one of your favourite memories from that time?

Dale de Groff: In ‘88 we held the 30th anniversary Grammys afterparty at the Rainbow Room which I’ll never forget. The event took place over multiple floors, but in the bar itself, the three tiers that go up from the dance floor were taken over by the who’s who of the time. I remember roping off a zone just for music legends like Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and Madonna—who was no stranger to the bar during those times. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

RR: What role do cocktails play in making a good venue truly great?

DD: A venue’s popularity ultimately comes down to the bartender or team behind the bar. How they interact with people, size them up as they walk through the door, talk to them over that three feet of mahogany, I mean, it’s everything.

RR: What’s the trick to becoming a great bartender, one who can easily impress guests, friends and family?

DD: Knowledge behind the craft. Let’s face it, understanding how to create a really high degree of deliciousness is required, but getting deep into how beverages are made is a massive skill in drink making. The research and innovation behind it is just mind-blowing.

RR:What three cocktails should every sophisticate know how to make?

DD: Well, a martini obviously! I personally like mine 50/50—equal parts vodka and vermouth. I used to drink my martinis for the power, but now I prefer a wet martini. Then I think a classic spritz is a must—always effervescent, lower in alcohol, really it’s the preprandial libation. Then thirdly, it’s gotta be an Old Fashioned.

RR: How do you make a solid martini at home?

DD: If I’m making a classic martini at home, I’m adding Grey Goose, vermouth and bitters to a mixing glass with ice, stirring then straining into a chilled glass. Garnished with lemon twist of course.

Le Martini, the world’s first standalone Grey Goose bar, is now open and will welcome guests in time for World Martini Day on 19 June. You can follow:  @LeMartiniBar 

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The 10 Best Omakase in Sydney

Sydney’s best Japanese chef’s-table dining experiences.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 06/06/2024

In Japan, where food is a cultural art form, omakase stands for traditional Japanese foods made with seasonal ingredients. A good omakase meal, prepared with purity and mindfulness, can make an unforgettable imprint on the culinary memory. Yet in a land defined by seasonal traditions, omakase is a relatively new concept.

Omakase originated in Japan in the 1970s as affluent Japanese began to dine more regularly at first-rate sushi counters. Bowing to the expertise of the sushi master, omakase loosely translates to “I’ll leave it to you.” In a setting where money is no object, letting the chef decide was designed as a chic way to take the awkwardness out of ordering.

In Australia where there’s an abundance of fresh seafood, omakase menus have experienced a recent rise in popularity. Today omakase is any series of small dishes served directly by the chef to the diner. Each part of the meal is presented on beautiful ceramics and lacquer wear, with a great —and somewhat— intimidating reverence for elegant details. It’s a chance to see a chef’s knife skills up close and get a feel for their cooking style.

Omakase menus are based on whatever is freshest at the market and can be influenced by the chef’s mood, expertise, and response to the guest. They can be slowly paced like a ceremony—hushed and reverential—but they can also be rowdy, humorous, and personal.
Here we give you 10 of the best to try in Sydney.

Yoshi’s Omakase at Nobu Crown Sydney

Crown Sydney, Level 2/1 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo. Open: 12–3 pm, 5:30–9:30 pm Phone: 02 8871 7188 Reservations: F&B-SYD-Nobu@crownresorts.com.au; $380 per head (including matched wine and sake). Crownsydney.com.au

Sushi Oe

16/450 Miller St, Cammeray; Tue – Sat. SMS only 0451 9709 84 E: jizakana16@gmail.com Phone: 0426 233 984 $230 per head. jizakana.com.au

Kisuke with Yusuke Morita

50 Llankelly Place, Potts Point; Tuesday – Saturday: 17:30 – 10.45 (closed Sunday/ Monday) $185-200 per head Kisukepottspoint.com

Haco 

102/21 Alberta St, Sydney. Lunch, Friday to Saturday 12 -2:00 pm Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday 5:45 pm – 8:1 5pm (closed Sunday & Mondays) P: 0408 866 285                                     E: haco@hacosydney.com.au; $150 – $210 Hacosydney.com.au

Kuon

Shop 04 2/58 Little Hay St, Sydney, Lunch: Fri-Sun 12:30 pm. Dinner  Tue-Sun 5:15 pm or 7:45 pm sittings.  Reservation via SMS at 0488 688 252; $220 per head @kuon.omakase

Sokyo 

The Darling, Level G, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont. Open dinner Monday to Thursday from 5:45 pm P: 1800 700 700 $300 per head Sokyo.com.au

Kuro

368 Kent St, Sydney; Open Tue – Wed – Thur: 6 pm Fri & Sat: 5:30 pm P: 02 9262 1580, reservations@kurosydney.com $220 per head. Kurosydney.com;

Choji Omakase

Level 2, 228 Victoria Ave, Chatswood —upstairs from Choji Yakiniku. Every Monday to Wednesday at 6.30 pm. One seating per day only. $295 per head. Chojiomakase.com.au

Gold Class Daruma

The Grace Hotel, Level 1/77 York St, Sydney; 12–2:30 pm, 5:30–9.00 pm Phone: (02) 9262 1190 M: 0424 553 611 booking@goldclassdaruma.com.au·$120 – $150 per head Goldclassdaruma.com.au

Besuto

Besuto Omakase, Sydney Place precinct, 3 Underwood Street, Circular Quay. Omakase is available to book for dinner – Tuesday to Saturday. 5:30 pm & 8pm sittings. From $250. Besuto.com.au

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is no soy and wasabi offered during my omakase meal?
Even though sushi and sashimi are being served, the chef is serving each piece of sushi so quickly and directly that the chef is applying the wasabi and soy to the sushi themselves. Watch as they brush the top of the fish with soy and dab a tiny amount of wasabi on the rice, under the fish. You should not need to add extra, and in fact, it can be insulting to the chef to add more. Bathing the bottom of the rice of your sushi in soy sauce is considered bad manners, as it is seen as detracting from the flavour of the fish.

Nobu, Sydney

Can an omakase experience accommodate my dietary needs?
Although there is often little variation once the chef has set the daily menu, some customisation is possible. Advise the restaurant when you book and remind them of allergies or aversions again as you sit down. They will let you know when you book if your allergy is possible for the chef. Japanese menus feature a lot of seafood and dashi so accommodating a no seafood request can be genuinely tricky.

What are the golden rules for chopstick etiquette?
Use your chopstick holder in between eating, rather than putting chopsticks on your plate. Don’t use your chopsticks to gesticulate or point; if offering food to someone to try, never pass food directly from your chopsticks to theirs. Rather place the food onto a small plate and let them pick it up.
Never touch communal or shared food with your chopsticks. The longer, slightly larger chopsticks are like sharing cutlery, never put these in your mouth.

Without a menu, how can I know what I am eating during omakase?
Omakase is often a no-menu situation, and you are expected to try new things. Attending an omakase experience with an open, trusting mind yields the best results.
There are Wagyu and tempura omakase that reflect the chef’s personal predilections and training, but in a standard luxury omakase, the format will include a lot of freshly caught seafood and will usually kick off with a delicate appetiser. This will be followed by a sashimi and sushi course, a savoury egg custard (chawanmushi) with meat and seafood, a cooked or blow-torched market fish, a soup course, and dessert.

Can I talk to the chef during omakase? What is the protocol?
Guests at an omakase experience are welcome to ask questions of the chef; in fact, interacting with the chef is part of the experience. It is considered polite to ask questions or inquire about the food so they can explain.

What is best to pair with omakase  in terms of drinks?
In general, wine and sake are a perfect match for omakase. Aged fish and vinegar have strong umami flavours so depending on which course you enjoy, different wine and sake will pair well. Dry chilled sake is a great choice. Amazing sakes are imported into Australia, so trust the restaurant to advise you and take you on a sake journey at the same time.  If you don’t like sake, drinking chardonnay, a crisp young riesling, or even a dry complex Riesling is also totally acceptable. All three styles help bring out the flavour of the fish. Champagne can also be good. Try a blanc de blancs— 100% chardonnay —for a great way to start the meal. As you progress, remember that sake is good for dishes with a strong taste, such as uni and eel.

Nobu, Sydney

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Can Italy’s Lake Garda Finally Compete With Como—or Will It Become a Victim of Its Own Success?

Crowded, cacophonous Lake Como is overflowing, filling its nearby villages and lakes with new luxury hotels and savvy, in-the-know travellers.

By Jake Emen 17/06/2024

The sun is shining down and your wooden Riva Aquarama boat is slicing through the lake. The crowd is beautiful, well-tanned and they like their spritzes. Sound like Lake Como? Almost. You’re about 150 kilometres southeast on the larger, yet less frequented, Lake Garda.

As the popularity of Lake Como has grown thanks to non-stop celebrity endorsements filtered down via social media, an in-crowd is discovering that Garda offers the same glitzy perks of its neighbour with far fewer headaches.

“Giorgio Clooney is to Como what Tom Hanks is to Garda,” says Katie Parla, author of “Food of the Italian Islands” and a tour leader across Italy. “Sure, Como is beautiful and charming, but Garda is equally talented, and some would say, more versatile and well-rounded.”

Grand Hotel Fasano, which turned 135th anniversary, is welcoming a new crowd.
Grand Hotel Fasano,

Long the preferred destination for Italians and other continental families, the secret of Garda has now well and truly been leaked. Investment is pouring in at Ferrari speeds.

On the hotel front, historic, legendary properties such as Grand Hotel Fasano (from USD$470)—which celebrated its 135th anniversary in 2023— are joined by a flock of newcomers. There is the new family-owned spa hotel Cape of Senses, a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member (from USD$628). Conti Thun (from USD$225) debuted as an on-vineyard wine resort last year. And this spring, Borgo Tre (from USD$640) opened a small collection of luxury apartment suites in a converted 18th-century farmhouse. (If you haven’t noticed already, a stay here is still considerably cheaper than say, Lake Como’s Passalacqua at USD$2,660 a night).

The region’s established properties are doing their best to stay ahead of the new arrivals, too. The mountain-top wellness haven Lefay Resort & Spa (from USD$460) is famous for encouraging its guests to wear their plush robes across the grounds from morning to night, as the saunter from treatment to treatment. It’s just unveiled a new, elevated room category dubbed Sky Suites that will speak to Como expats. These top-floor units are 1,500 square feet and come with a terrace hot tub, a private in-suite sauna and, of course, unimpeded views of the lake, mountains, and valleys beyond.

Lefay Resort & Spa is drawing wellness activists to the region.
Lefay Resorts

But change like this always comes at a cost. Locals and long-time visitors worry that the region’s newfound popularity puts it in danger of losing its distinctive atmosfera. Ironically, even the new guard hotels are concerned.

“We don’t want that, we’re not a mass tourism product,” says Cape of Senses general manager Alina Deutsch of any attempt to clone Como at Garda. “What is luxury today? It’s what people are missing from their lives, and that’s space and time.”

“Locals, like me, really hope that our beautiful destination will remain as authentic as it is now, even if international tourism is booming and new luxury properties are going to continue opening in the next couple of years,” added Alice Lancini, Grand Hotel Fasano’s sales and marketing manager.

But the scene in Lake Garda’s is already shifting. Lancini says that in the last three to four years, U.S. travellers have made the lake hotel the brand’s second strongest market after Germany. “Lake Garda is becoming more popular in the States as it’s much cheaper than Como, less crowded—still, for now—and it’s a completely different experience than Lake Como.”

Parla adds that the 50 kilometre-long Lake Garda has a natural protection from “becoming a Disneyland” overnight: its massive size makes it feel more like a sea than a lake at times.

“Como the town, Bellagio, and all the fancy hotels are beyond overcrowded and have become the playground of influencers generating their FOMO-inducing content,” she says. “I don’t see a way to enjoy the lake if you stick to those two towns, which most do…Lake Garda is so much bigger.”

Its other protection? Garda isn’t a first stop for first timers. After all, would you tell someone to skip the Eiffel Tower on their first trip to Paris, or forgo the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? Icons are icons and that includes Lake Como.

The new family-owned spa hotel Cape of Senses just opened on Lake Garda.
Cape of Senses

“Lake Como is for romance and honeymoons, and lounging around on a boat and never leaving the confines of a luxury hotel,” adds Parla, noting that other lakes and villages attract a more active, creative and adventurous crowd.

So will Garda ever become Como? Lancini thinks it’s likely, and that’s why you should get there sooner rather than later. “Lake Garda is going to boom as a destination in the next three to five years,” she says. “Now is the time to take advantage and come to this beautiful destination before it becomes too crowded.”

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Kyoto Has the Most Michelin Restaurants per Capita: Report

There are 100 Michelin-starred spots in the Japanese city, serving some 1.5 million people.

By Tori Latham 17/06/2024

The residents of Kyoto, Japan, are positively swimming among Michelin-starred restaurants.

The Japanese city is home to the highest density of eateries ranked by the French tire company, including five three-starred restaurants, according to a new report from website Chef’s Pencil. With 100 Michelin-ranked spots and a population of almost 1.5 million, Kyoto has one restaurant for every 14,637 people.

Coming in a close second is—unsurprisingly—Paris: The city’s 122 Michelin-starred restaurants serve 2.1 million residents, resulting in one spot for every 17,235 people. (Paris also has the second-highest absolute number of Michelin-starred restaurants, behind Tokyo.) Third place may come as a shock: Washington, D.C., has ranked highly, with 25 restaurants for 690,000 residents, or one for every 27,582 people.

Of course, there are some caveats for the Chef’s Pencil report. The website looked only at cities with 500,000 or more residents. And the restaurants had to be located within the city limits, rather than the larger metropolitan area. The Michelin Guide itself often includes eateries in a broader region, so this list may be slightly more abbreviated than the official selection.

To address some of that disparity, Chef’s Pencil has also released a ranking of Michelin density in midsize cities, those with 100,000 to 500,000 residents. At the top of that list is Nara, Japan, which has 23 starred restaurants for a population of just 367,000 (one restaurant for every 15,972 residents). That’s followed by Maastricht, Netherlands (six Michelin-starred restaurants and 120,000 residents, or one restaurant for every 20,038 people), and Geneva, Switzerland (eight starred eateries and a population of 204,000, or one spot for every 25,494 residents).

And while France is the country with the most Michelin-starred establishments, Switzerland actually has the most starred spots per capita. The country’s 134 Michelin-starred restaurants serve a population of almost 9 million, or one for every 66,872 residents. The much smaller Luxembourg, with just 672,500 residents, comes in second for this metric: With 10 Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s one for every 67,250 people.

While many people travel to the areas with the most Michelin-starred restaurants, they may be better served by going to the areas where they’re the densest. Neither Kyoto nor D.C. may be called its respective country’s culinary capital, but both are teeming with Michelin-ranked spots relative to their size.

 

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Tyler, the Creator’s Golf le Fleur Teamed Up With Parachute for a New Bedding Collection

Available from today, the new line includes sheets, duvet covers, and even plush slippers.

By Rachel Cormack 17/06/2024

Tyler, the Creator is bringing his signature golfer style from the streets to the sheets.

The two-time Grammy-winning artist’s luxury brand Golf le Fleur has teamed up with U.S. outfit Parachute on a new line of bedding and accessories. The collaboration may not seem as natural a fit as, say, Tyler’s collab with Pharrell and Louis Vuitton or Globe-Trotter, but it did come about quite naturally. Apparently, the rapper walked into the Parachute headquarters in California unannounced and then spent hours with company founder Ariel Kaye. The two talked about dream bedding and the new collection started to form.

The limited-edition Parachute for le Fleur range is fun, whimsical, and a little unpredictable, just like Tyler’s own highly distinctive fashion. The curated pieces showcase an unexpected palette of pastels and le Fleur’s signature camo print, making more of a statement than the boring white sheet. Parachute says the designs are made of “the softest linen you’ll ever touch.” Crafted in Portugal from the finest European flax, the buttery material is also garment-washed for a perfectly lived-in feel from the first night. Linen is fit for both warm or cool sleepers, with an insulating quality that keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The light and airy material is also naturally eco-friendly, antimicrobial, and durable.

The duvet set in Geneva Blue with sheets and pillowcases in Blonde.
Jessica Schramm

Starting at USD$69, the linen bedding is available in the elegant hues Geneva Blue, Jade, and Blonde. The Blonde is adorned with a subtle leopard print, too. The sheets, sham sets, duvet covers, and pillowcases come in a range of sizes, from standard to king.

The Shearling Slippers.
Jessica Schramm

The line also includes statement pieces such as a striking spherical pillow (USD$109) made from 100 percent shearling wool and a cozy throw woven from baby alpaca wool for extra fluffy softness (USD$299). The star of the collab has to be the plush slippers (USD$109), though. Made from 100 percent shearling, the wool clogs are “like fluffy clouds for your feet,” according to Parachute. Available in multiple sizes, the unisex kicks feature sturdy foam soles and are comfortable enough for all-day wear.

You can shop the collection now on the Parachute website.

 

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