Cliffhanger, a property on the Greek island of Antiparos

Rental as anything | private bubbles

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Keen travellers making up for lost time are seeking holiday homes that promise seclusion, mindfood and a wellbeing upskill…

A dazzling Greek villa with lines sharp enough to slice haloumi … a Pacific island retreat with Tjapaltjarri on the walls … a bold new Bondi abode frocked up in perforated aluminium … The luxury holiday house in 2021 comes with a health-giving dose of art, architecture and ambience.

Luxury travel consultants report a burgeoning interest in private everything – from air travel, boat charter, island and resort buy-outs, villas, and trips spearheaded by private guides.

Says David Goldman, Joint Managing Director of premium travel advisers, the Goldman Group, “Nothing is going to stop resilient Australians from travelling, but they’re seeking self-containment, security, and a bubble of family and friends.”

With a chef, tennis coach, masseur, housekeeping, and a cultural concierge in the wings.

Underpinning the new desire for luxury holiday homes is a thirst for nourishment of both body and soul. We’re after gatherings that mean something other than an excuse to empty the bar fridge.

The luxury traveller wants a cocoon of literature, art, and hi-fidelity music. The sports-mad will be reaching for designer paddleboards, surfboards and serious bikes. Later, there’ll be a quarantini cocktail, stirred by a sprig of something herbal from the kitchen garden.

The coronavirus has recalibrated the top-drawer holiday around a YOLO mindset, says Goldman. “You only live once, so it’s all about experiences. While a dream house is the bones of a great holiday, there’s a real need to flesh that out with a connectivity to nature – hiking, walking, fresh air, the pursuit of health and wellness.”

These are three of our favourites.

A Grecian yearn

Antiparos is a small island in the southern Aegean, less than one nautical mile from Paros. Cliffhanger is a sculptural villa that looks as if it’s been towed into place there. With views to forever, sunsets not even an Insta filter could improve on, and that blistering blue Greek palette, it radiates raw, natural beauty.

Cliffhanger, on the Grecian island of Antiparos, offers a holiday to remember

One of a portfolio of holiday residences on Antiparos by Athens developers Oliaros, Cliffhanger has five bedrooms – the master bedroom is separate from the living areas and seems to be floating over the sea. A detached guesthouse has its own courtyard.

Cliffhanger is spacious, uncluttered and textural, with generous living areas. There’s a vegetable garden, rooftop lounge, and pool terrace, as well as a sheltered barbecue space with ants-pants chef’s kitchen.

The Antiparos landscape is one of amphitheatrical hills, seasonal streams, juniper trees and frigana vegetation; of pezoules (agricultural terraces) and xerolithies (dry stone walls).

Athens firm decaArchitecture and landscaper Thomas Doxiades dug deep to capture a spirit of place that blurred boundaries between built and natural landscapes.

The island is famous for its archaeology, notably the Cave of Antiparos, with its golden stalactites and stalagmites. The village (a kilometre away) and the waterfront are alive with cafes and fish restaurants, boutiques, bistros, and art and craft galleries. It’s a home away from home for several Hollywood stars.

Rates: $3,273 [2000 euros] per night, available May to October;

Lord of the Pacific

The local fishmonger has just stopped by Island House. He’s offloaded bonitos, yellowfin tuna, kingfish and winged snapper which will join the day’s harvest of carrot, sweet potatoes, bok choy, lettuce, celery and broccoli. Food for thought for Japanese chefs Kimie and Hiro Uemoto.

The South House, on Lord Howe Island, off the east coast of Australia

Island House, set in the natural wonderland that is Lord Howe Island, two hours’ fight from Sydney, is the new venture of Sydney businessman Michael Maxwell and his son, Tim.

It has a North House and a South House and a Transition space, all up accommodating eight guests. Set amongst a jungle of Kentia palms and ancient banyan trees, the retreat incorporates copper roofing and detailing (soak outdoors in a copper bathtub) with blackbutt cladding and oak floorboards, walls and ceilings. This is a gyprock-free zone.

The Island House’s north wing, set in relaxing, lush grounds

A staycation here is an immersion in nature, art, sculpture and solitude. The accoutrements showcase designs as enduring and timeless as the island itself, from mid-century Danish furniture to kiln-fired bowls by Japanese ceramicist Keiko Matsui. The abundant art includes works by Indigenous artists such as Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri and Regina Pilawuk Wilson. The South House features a 60-work installation by UK-born Danish artist, Tine Holsher.

This Pacific paradise (guest numbers are capped at 400) boasts waterfalls, crystal lagoons for fishing, serious hiking, or a gentle wade through schools of fish at Ned’s Beach.

The Adventure Room is the heartbeat. Every item here is best in class: from high-intensity training or mountain bikes to custom-made paddleboards with glass viewing windows, surfboards, snorkelling gear and all the accessories.

A staycation here is an immersion in nature, art, sculpture and solitude

Musical? Pick up the guitar, mandolin or didgeridoo. There’s hi-fi to satisfy the neediest acoustic nerds.
Says Tim Maxwell, who’s been holidaying on LHI for 15 years and has lived there for three: “We weren’t looking for a gap in the market, Island House is purely an expression of the way we like to travel ourselves.”

Rates: $6,600 per night for the entire site (minimum five days);

Bondi the bold

Holidaymakers in Sydney will love Bismarck House, a revamped post-war semi 10 minutes’ walk from Bondi and Tamarama beaches, and a stone’s throw from Sydney’s gritty, lived-in Bondi Road.

Watch the world go by from your Bondi home away from home

Dressed in drop-dead gorgeous pleated, perforated aluminium, this effortless oasis, created by Andrew Burges Architects, is oriented towards a laneway where kids skate, locals pick up from the health emporium, and tradies’ jag an illegal park. A huge sliding wooden window in the kitchen brings the outside in.

Named for the handsome palm tree set into the curve of the building’s north-facing façade, Bismarck House has, on the street level, a detachable studio apartment (queen bed) and fluid kitchen and living areas that make much of white tiles and American oak.

There’s a seamless segue to secluded courtyard gardens of cacti and native grasses created by the house’s landscape luminary owner, William Dangar, of Dangar Barin Smith.

The neo-industrial feel of Bismarck House in the heart of Bondi

An internal stairway of reclaimed bricks, its “balustrade” galvanised steel sheets, leads to the three bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. This level feels as if it’s been carved from a block of magic rock, with voids for light and oblique viewing lines that trace the laneway. Rendered, textured walls have been glossified with beeswax.

To augment its cushy-industrial aesthetic, the award-winning interiors have cool style pops: cork stool, origami side-table, a wooden spoon montage, 1950s bedside lights, and a wall-length rusty-red powder-coated cabinet for the TV. Not to mention the fetching Tuareg floor covering that weaves together leather and reeds.

Rate: From $1200 a night (minimum three night stay in low season; more during high demand times);

An edited version of this story appeared in Issue One of The Australian’s Travel + Luxury magazine


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.