Nadia El Ferdaoussi and Vicki Notaro highlight their honeymoon hotspots.
South Africa is becoming more and more popular with newlyweds for their once-in-a-lifetime trip, ticking a lot of boxes all in one country and offering affordable luxury in the process. Keep both parties happy with world class food and drink, outdoor activities like hiking up Table Mountain or whale and dolphin spotting, wildlife safari, beautiful beaches and the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. There really is something for all preferences. The weather is nice and warm all year and there’s only a two hour time difference, so you can avoid the dreaded jet lag.
Stay at a secluded luxury retreat, either close to wildlife or, my personal preference, on a vineyard. Or for a totally unique experience you could try a treehouse. The stand-alone Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse is completely private and built around a majestic 500 year-old tree. Sleep under the stars, away from everything but the sound of nature and views of the open savannah – it doesn’t get much more romantic than that.
A popular choice with honeymooners is the Garden Route drive, a scenic 200km long stretch which you can start in Mossel Bay heading east ending at Storms River. You’ll pass beautiful sandy beaches, lakes and lagoons, you can see African penguins, and wine-lovers will find plenty of places to stop for a tasting (make sure you call shotgun on being co-pilot!).
If you fancy an add-on to your adventure, lots of couples take a mini-break from their holiday to Mauritius for a twin destination honeymoon. Flights take around 4-5 hours depending on your departing city, but while you’re there it would rude not to. Right?
ere aren’t any direct flights from Ireland to South Africa unfortunately, but lots of airlines connect in European cities. BA offer flights to four destinations in SA via London Heathrow for around €800 per person return.
When booking our honeymoon, my husband and I looked at all the more traditional options – the Seychelles, Maldives, the Carribbean and Bali. But the thoughts of jetting off somewhere completely unknown and a bit (dare I say it) cliché left us cold. So when I suggested travelling to our beloved USA, I knew it would have to be a bit special. Then, I saw exactly what I wanted on a British blog I follow – northern California wine country in spring time.
So 48 hours after we said I do, Joe and I boarded an 11 hour flight to San Francisco. Upon landing, we hired a car and drove for 90 minutes to the absolutely beautiful town of St Helena and checked in to our very own version of paradise – Meadowood, a sprawling country club style resort with tall trees, lots of white wood and a restful silence. It was absolutely blissful.
The focus there is on farm to table food (read: fresh), which is rare enough in America, and of course on wine. We ate, sipped and cheers-ed to our hearts’ content, visiting local wineries, strolling the picturesque streets, shopping and even visiting a very cool dive bar (because sometimes you want a break from wine).
You can travel around the entire region – nearby Yountville is also stunning, as is the neighbouring county of Sonoma. It’s all very relaxing, most resorts have a spa and the one in Meadowood is the most incredible I’ve ever visited. You can play tennis or golf, lounge by the pool or just hang out stuffing your face. It was the most stunning start to married life, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Aer Lingus fly direct to San Francisco from Dublin
‘It’s like Ireland on steroids’ – that’s what one of the DMs I received on Instagram when I was in New Zealand said and it wasn’t wrong. I also heard from so many people who had taken their honeymoon there recently telling me it was hands down their favourite holiday ever. Why?
Well, New Zealand has it all. Stunning scenery, friendly locals and brilliant hospitality, gorgeous food and wine, dramatic landscape, very well run tours for visitors and amazing luxury lodges. The sheer scale of the offering can be overwhelming though, there is so much to see and do. My recommendation would be speak to the experts. NZ In Depth know their stuff and can help you create a personalised itinerary tailored totally to your every want and desire. Swimming with dolphins in the wild? No problem. Staying overnight on a boat eating freshly caught crayfish in a remote fjord? They can hook you up.
If you want to plan the trip of a lifetime, sometimes it’s worth letting someone else handle the logistics, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy it. You’ll receive a folder with every last detail you need, down to road maps to get you to your next destination. Speaking of which, driving is easy in NZ, since they drive on the same side as the road as us. Take it in turns behind the wheel because the changing scenery is breathtaking at every turn.
Thrill-seekers will want to spend time in adventure capital Queenstown, where you can bungee jump, jet boat and sky dive to your heart’s content. For something more romantic take a hot air ballon ride together or go stargazing.
Leave a few days for some downtime at the beach before flying home – Abel Tasman National Park (south island) and Bay of Islands (north) have some of the country’s best beaches. Or head to Waiheke Island, just a ferry away from Auckland where you can taste the local wine and kick back and chill. Like I said, there’s definitely something to suit everyone in New Zealand, so you won’t have to compromise too much. The perfect start to married life.
Fly to Auckland with Emirates via Dubai
Right, I know it’s not a traditional honeymoon destination and in fact more associated with stag parties and quickie weddings, but as probably the world’s greatest adult playground, what could be more fun than a trip to Sin City?
Full disclosure, I dragged Joe there as the third stop on our honeymoon as I wanted to see my queen Celine Dion perform at Caesar’s Palace. But the more I thought of it, the more I thought it was a fantastic honeymoon destination, and I was right. First, it’s totally opulent. Rooms in Vegas are generally quite fab, so you don’t have to spring for the honeymoon suite to experience ample space and fab amenities.
Next, the food and drink is out of this world – there’s nothing you can’t have, and there’s so much variety. There are shows on just about everywhere, so that’s entertainment taken care of, and there’s the gambling – amazing craic as long as you’re not spending your life savings.
There’s also brilliant shopping, sights to be seen in all the resorts and the architecture and scope is incredible. As well as downtown, we loved the Neon Boneyard that contains lots of old signs from the 60s, and frankly we wish we’d stayed longer than three nights there.
We didn’t darken the door of a single nightclub, but we had an absolute ball just the two of us, and it’s a fab trip on its own or combined with another US destination – there are direct flights to New York, LA, San Fran and Chicago.