TRAVEL TO COOK ISLANDS

The Cook Islands have a wide range of romantic places to stay, from luxury villas to resorts, hotels and holiday homes, to suit every budget. Most properties are small to medium sized and are often located by the beach in lush tropical gardens. Kiwis feel at home as they use NZ currency and speak English. Comprising 15 islands scattered over a vast area, Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the most popular islands and the easiest to visit. With its picturesque mountain peaks, white beaches and colourful reef, Rarotonga looks a lot like a Tahitian island. The best way to explore Rarotonga is to drive, cycle or bus around the island, as the coastal road circles past sacred marae, historic Ngatangiia village, whitewashed churches, seafood restaurants and idyllic swimming and snorkeling spots. The beautiful atoll of Aitutaki is quieter, more secluded and wrapped in a spectacular coral lagoon, where you can dive, kayak or cruise along in a glass-bottom boat. Part of the romantic adventure is finding a motu (uninhabited islet) where you and your sweetheart can swim and picnic in private.

TRAVEL TO FIJI

Fiji has long been a favourite honeymoon destination for New Zealanders. It’s easy to reach and explore, offers the Pacific’s largest choice of off-shore resorts, and comes with the Fijians’ famously warm and iconic ‘Bula’ friendliness. Of Fiji’s 333 islands, the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands are a good place to start your honeymoon search. These atolls and hilly islands feature postcard-perfect beaches of fine white sand, turquoise lagoons and a coral reef that attracts snorkelers and divers from around the world. The resorts, usually one per island, range from backpackers to luxurious Fijian-style thatched bures with private plunge pools, lounging pavilions and gourmet chefs. If you want more adventure or to explore Fiji beyond the small-island resorts, stay on the mainland of Viti Levu or head north to Taveuni. Both offer lush interiors and mountain vistas full of great hiking trails, waterfalls, and rare birds and orchids. Viti Levu also enjoys the best selection of golf, tennis, restaurants, kava-drinking ceremonies and Indo-Fijian culture.

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FIJI MAP

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TRAVEL TO SAMOA

Samoa doesn’t have a lot of man-made luxuries, but nearly everything beautiful about the Pacific is in abundance on the main islands of Upolu and Savai’i: from unspoiled rainforests, waterfalls and bush-clad cliffs to sandy beaches, waterholes and traditional Polynesian villages filled with flowers and gentle, Old Pacific ambience. Samoa offers a good choice of accommodation, including well-appointed resorts and open-air, thatched-roof budget huts called fales that are strung along many beaches. For a glimpse of Samoa’s colonial past, amble around the former homestead of Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous Scottish author of Treasure Island. ‘The first experience can never be repeated,’ he wrote about the wonders of the Pacific. ‘The first love, the first sunrise, the first South Sea island, are memories apart.’

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SAMOA MAP

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TRAVEL TO NIUE

This Pacific Island paradise is one of the smallest countries and also one of the world’s largest raised coral atolls, where you can easily and safely get away from it all. Like the Cook Islands, the island uses NZ currency and speaks English. With a rocky coastline of steep limestone cliffs around part of the island, Niue features unusually clear, deep waters and a coral reef where divers and snorkelers can marvel at colourful fish, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins and even swim in the winter with humpback whales, which come within 100 metres of the shore. Plus, the islands have the best and clearest view of the stars, having been named the world’s first ‘dark night sky’. Niue’s one international luxury resort, villas, motels and cottages accommodate a limited number of visitors, so you will feel more like a local as you drive or cycle along the coast and follow short walks to rocky coves, swimming caves and pools, scenic chasms and fantastic coral pinnacles – or dine on fresh tuna, coconut crab and taro at a casual waterside restaurant.

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NIUE MAP

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TRAVEL TO VANUATU

Vanuatu’s reefs, beaches and adventure activities rival those of other South Pacific islands, but this Melanesian archipelago of about 80 islands moves at a more languid pace, with more Old Pacific ambience and far fewer tourists than French Polynesia and Fiji. Port Vila, on the main island of Efate, has the most resorts, tours and adventure operators, and waterfront French restaurants. If you crave something unique, however, you should head to Pentecost Island, to see the land-diving ritual that originally inspired bungy jumping; to Espiritu Santo, to dive on the wreck of a World War II ship; or to Tanna, to peer inside a fiery volcano.

VANUATU MAP

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TRAVEL TO TAHITI

Tahiti and her islands, otherwise known as French Polynesia, comprises of five archipelagos with 118 islands and covers over two million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The most frequently visited are Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, and Rangiroa. Moorea is known as the island of love and Bora Bora as the romantic island. Bora Bora features lavish resorts with overwater bungalows and over-the-top comforts, but the island’s five-star natural beauty remains the greatest attraction. Dramatically set in a turquoise and cobalt lagoon encircled by a coral reef, the island slopes from sand-fringed islets and emerald hills to sheer cliffs and soaring, basalt peaks. These popular islands offer a good choice of hotels and resorts, and such activities as hiking, diving, snorkeling with sharks and sting rays, pearl farm tours, Tahitian dance performances and dining on exquisite, gourmet French cuisine.

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TRAVEL TO NEW CALEDONIA

A charming mix of French and Melanesian influence, New Caledonia is a wonderland for couples that love a little culture, fine wine and food, picturesque landscapes and marine wonders. The largest island in New Caledonia, Grand Terre, is surrounded by a lagoon that is a registered World Heritage Site, and offers a wonderful mix of water sports from kayaking and sailing, to diving, whale-watching and snorkeling in the most spectacular underwater coral world packed with wildlife. On land, hiking, cycling, and exploring beautiful caves such as the popular Grotte de la Reine are popular activities. The capital city Noumea is less than three hours from Auckland, and is the most cosmopolitan city in the Pacific. Shop the markets or luxury French boutiques, visit museums, galleries and theatres, and dine at the beautiful seaside restaurants. Alternatively, stock up on French cheese and wine for a great price from one of the local supermarkets and enjoy a picnic at the beach! For a slower-paced and romantic experience, pop over to the Isle of Pines, 70km off Grand Terre, where lush rainforest, breathtaking lagoons, turquoise beaches, and archaeological remains await you.

the top 15 best tropical islands in the world

NEW CALEDONIA MAP

the top 15 best tropical islands in the world

TRAVEL TO SOLOMON ISLANDS

The Solomons is a stunning archipelago of nearly 1000 islands covering more than 800,000 square kilometres of ocean. The country is best known for its world-class diving and as one of the battle grounds of the Second World War, and these days the Solomons is attracting adventurous honeymooners wanting a Pacific paradise that’s both idyllic and off the beaten track. There are a number of accommodation options available, from exclusive luxury resorts to eco lodges and boutique hotels.

The unspoilt coral reefs of the Western Province are a snorkeler’s haven, and easily accessed by hiring a speedboat and boatman from Gizo, the province’s main commercial hub. A favoured low-tide experience for adventurous visitors to the region includes snorkeling over a submerged World War II American fighter plane called ‘Betsy’. Hiking, village and heritage tours, surfing and diving are also extremely popular in the Western Province.

SOLOMON ISLANDS MAP

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TRAVEL TO TONGA

Traditional culture, including the last Polynesian monarchy, remains strong in the Kingdom of Tonga, and it doesn’t have the same kind of conveniences and tourism infrastructure as other Pacific destinations. But if you travel from the mainland to the Vava’u or Ha’apai islands, you will find the kind of pristine waters and empty beaches that beachgoers, yachties and adventurers all dream of. In the clear, fjord-like harbour around the hilly islands of Vava’u, you can also see or swim every winter with Tonga’s biggest attraction, migrating humpback whales. Vava’u caters more for tourists, with a greater selection of accommodation and activities than relatively unspoiled Ha’apai.

TONGA MAP

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TRAVEL TO NEW ZEALAND

Your honeymoon is the perfect time to fall in love with New Zealand again, as our two main islands offer so much beauty, variety and romance for couples. From dramatic alpine landscapes and tranquil lakes, to pristine beaches and stunning vineyards, New Zealand lets you experience it all if you want to, and you won’t have to travel far. The bright lights of Auckland and Wellington offer plenty of exciting experiences for couples wanting a city escape, where you can treat yourself to luxury accommodation, culinary delights and access to relaxing day trips, such as the wine regions of Waiheke Island and Martinborough, or magnificent west coast beaches. If adventure is more your style, head to Abel Tasman National Park, Queenstown or Rotorua to get your dose of adrenalin-pumping activities like bungy jumping, river rafting, mountain biking, skiing and more.

The Bay of Islands and Coromandel are the perfect places to visit for those secluded beaches and water-based activities, while sunny Hawke’s Bay, Waiheke Island and Central Otago are hotspots for food, wine and romance. Everywhere you go you’ll find beautiful accommodation options to suit your taste and style, from a castle in Dunedin, to luxurious hotels and boutique lodges, or you could even hire a campervan and hit the road, just the two of you.

Honeymooning in New Zealand gives you the opportunity to be a tourist in your own country and tick off those must-dos, such as walking the Tongariro Crossing, visiting Te Papa Museum, admiring the magical Waitomo Caves, whale watching in Kaikoura, sky diving in Queenstown or catching the sunrise over Roy’s Peak. You have the perfect excuse to splash out on things you wouldn’t normally, whether it be a scenic helicopter or hot air balloon ride, a sailing trip, horse trek or pampering day at the spa. Whatever you do, you’re sure to create unique and lasting memories to treasure forever.

NEW ZEALAND MAP

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Great escapes HOP ON A PLANE AND HEAD FOR SUNNY, SANDY PARADISE SHORES 

 

Poseidonion Grand Hotel SPETSES, GREECE

 

A short boat ride from Athens, this Greek island is known for its pine tree-lined beaches and indulgent spa treatments. The wedding team at this oh-so-chic hotel are full of great ideas on how to make your day special, from naming the tables after local places to favours such as jars of fragrant throubi – a herb that signifies the spice of life. poseidonion.com 

 

Skiathos Princess Hotel SKIATHOS, GREECE

 

Set on a gorgeous stretch of coast on the south of the island, this is the place to live out all your Mamma Mia!-esque wedding fantasies, complete with a beach ceremony and wooden altar. The hotel’s chic taverna-style restaurant will dish up a Greek feast or, for a more feet-in-the-sand experience, go for a gazebo with fairy lights. santikoshotels.com/hotel-skiathos-princess 

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Atlantis THE PALM, DUBAI 

 

This mega-resort, with its two coral-hued towers and kitsch design, is based around the idea of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. For a dinner party extravaganza, serve the ‘Taste of Atlantis’ menu – featuring dishes from Nobu, Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and Lebanese restaurant Ayamna – in the Grand Atlantis Ballroom. Children of all ages will love the pools and man made beach and waterpark next door. atlantisthepalm.com 

 

Kurhotel Skodsborg NORTH ZEALAND, DENMARK

 

Only 20 minutes from Copenhagen, this contemporary spa hotel near the beach was once the summer home of King Frederik VII. After the ceremony – held in the forest, on the jetty, or the hotel’s rooftop – dine in Villa Rex. Ask the pastry chefs to design your cake: they swept the board at the annual Cake Of The Year competition. skodsborg.dk/en

 

The Mulia NUSA DUA, BALİ

 

There are not one but two chapels to choose from here: the first floats on a lake; the second has Indian Ocean views. For a wedding breakfast with a difference, the seven restaurants include al fresco tapas at Sky and teppanyaki at Edogin. The newest space is beachfront Unity Garden, looking out to the iconic Balinese Geger Temple: it’s a little piece of heaven for a reception under the stars. themulia.com 

 

Pullman Bunker Bay MARGARET RIVER, AUSTRALIA 

 

Fancy swapping bleakest winter for surf and sand? Then fly your gang Down Under to the Margaret River region, three hours from Perth, where you can get wed in the garden amphitheatre in front of 140 guests or on Sugarloaf Rock, overlooking the Indian Ocean with just 25 of your faves. The restaurant terrace with a view of Bunker Bay is ideal for sundowners. pullmanbunkerbayresort.com.au 

 

Almar Jesolo LIDO DI JESOLO, ITALY

 

This modern waterfront hotel is just an hour from Venice. Kick off with cocktails in the minimalist River Lounge Bar; host your reception and dancing in the Almar Room; and cut your cake on the boardwalk that leads to the beach. almarjesolo.com 

 

Grand Velas Riviera Maya PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MÉXICO 

 

 Lush Mayan jungle or blue Caribbean sea views while you say your vows: that’s the only tricky decision you’ll have to make at this all-inclusive Yucatán Peninsula resort (there is an indoor chapel, too). Afterwards, mariachis and Mexican harpists will provide the music, while the option of aerial drone filming ensures you’ll take home spectacular panoramic shots. rivieramaya.grandvelas.com

 

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The Lygon Arms WORCESTERSHIRE 

 

This is a quintessential Cotswold coaching inn set in the charming village of Broadway, full of period features from wood-panelled walls to a coat of arms in the Charles I suite (the king once stayed here before going into battle). Add to that roaring fires, cosy lounges and picture-postcard grounds, and this place is a winner. Plus dog lovers needn’t worry – four legged friends are welcome, too. lygonarmshotel.co.uk 

 

The Swan Southwold SUFFOLK 

 

Fresh from a refurb in 2017, the hotel is at the heart of the high street of this lovely seaside town. The Reading Room is ideal for an intimate do; while the space is re-jigged for the reception, stroll down to the sand dunes for photos by the beach huts (the hotel will pack you the most perfect picnic). Special touches include pink gin and beer from Adnams brewery, which owns the hotel. the swan southwold.co.uk 

 

Haymarket Hotel WEST END, LONDON

 

The Shooting Gallery and Library, where weddings are held, are super stylish – just add Bloomsbury Flowers centrepieces to the tables and handmade macaron favours and you’re good to go. Book the pool for the evening: scatter floating candles and lily pads in the water or cover it over to create a unique ballroom floor. firmdalehotels.com 

 

The Wild Rabbit OXFORDSHIRE 

 

This restaurant with rooms is part of the Daylesford farm family, which means the food is guaranteed to be off-the charts and made from locally sourced produce (Wootton Estate beef sirloin, baked apples with cinnamon crisp). Hire it out for exclusive use or book The Chicken Shed, a private dining room for up to 20. thewildrabbit.co.uk

 

Town Hall Hotel BETHNAL GREEN, LONDON 

 

Once an Edwardian town hall, this hotel is one of the coolest hotspots in east London (no wonder it was a film set for a decade). The largest of the licensed spaces is Bethnal Hall (great for dinner and dancing) but there’s also the original Council Chamber and the contemporary De Montfort Suite. The lobby’s sweeping staircase is a must for photos. townhallhotel.com 

 

Glazebrook House DEVON

 

 This quirky hotel is designed like a 19th-century collector’s home with a Wonderland twist.There’s a lavish red marble bar that’s part gentlemen’s club, party speakeasy; nine bedrooms including the White Rabbit, which has a huge sheepskin bed; and enchanting gardens. glazebrookhouse.com 

 

The Rectory Hotel WILTSHIRE 

 

There aren’t many weddings held at this 18th-century rectory-turned-hotel, which makes those that are even more special (take note: it’s only available during the week). With 18 bedrooms (three in a cottage next to the outdoor pool) and a low-key vibe, it feels like a home from home – albeit one with delicious modern British food and cocktails on tap. The Potting Shed across the road is perfect for a next-day family lunch. therectoryhotel.com 

 

The Kings Arms DORSET 

 

Brides is currently crushing on The Kings Pavilion (part of The Kings Arms hotel in Christchurch), a vintage-style ceremony space with bunting draped from the ceiling and a bowling lawn out front for Champagne toasts. Award-winning chef Alex Aitken (as former director of food at Lime Wood Hotel, he cooked at Jamie Cullum and Sophie Dahl’s wedding) will create a bespoke menu: hero dishes include crab croquettes and slow-cooked Dorset lamb. Nearby Christchurch Quay is the spot for waterfront snaps. harbourhotels.co.uk

Introducing Euridge Manor, a classic English venue so enchanting it will take your breath away.

 

DREAMING OF A VINTAGE-INSPIRED TRAVEL set in the rolling English countryside? This exquisite property, the former hunting lodge of Sir Walter Raleigh, is the perfect location. Sitting pretty in the heart of the Cotswolds, on the edge of Castle Combe, this magical venue could be straight out of Alice In Wonderland. Take, for example, the grounds of the Secret Garden Orangery: artfully pruned topiary, fountains, a Gothic maze and row upon row of scented roses. 

 

Think Champagne and canapés on the lawn, followed by romance after dark, with candles flickering on banquet tables as music plays. With capacity for up to 250 guests, there are several areas within the grounds licensed for weddings, including the property’s cloisters, the Secret Garden Orangery and the boat house – a stunning space beside the lake with views out to the hills beyond. 

 

Perhaps most spectacular of all is the ballroom, which has a beautiful ancient grotto attached to it. And if you’re dreaming of a traditional church ceremony, there’s a village church in nearby Colerne. With 500 acres of private woodland, a picturesque boating lake and a sweeping valley backed by a historic castle, Euridge Manor is one of the most glamorous venues we’ve seen in a long time. Book now for 2020 dates. You’re welcome.

 

15 Best Places to Visit in UK Photo Gallery

Coworth Park BERKSHIRE

 

The 10-acre wildflower meadow is Coworth Park crowning glory – and makes a pretty big-day photo backdrop. The ethereal vibe continues in the Oval Room, a blank canvas with fresh white walls that looks splendid when adorned with flickering church candles. After tucking into modern British food with a twist, cast open the glass doors to the private patio, festooned with fairy lights. Top marks for romance. dorchestercollection.com

 

The Hurlingham Club PUTNEY, LONDON

 

Tucked away within 42 acres on the banks of the River Thames, this private members’ sports and social club feels like it’s in the middle of the countryside rather than SW6. Make a slick, James Bond-style entrance by boat before heading to the glass-domed Palm Court in the Georgian clubhouse (for smaller gatherings, the Terrace Room has commanding river views). The Sunken Garden is a green oasis for cocktails. hurlinghamclub.org.uk

 

Kew Gardens RICHMOND, LONDON 

 

If there was an award for the leafiest loveliness in the capital, the restored Temperate House would claim first prize, hands down. The largest Victorian glasshouse in the world, it makes for a sensational evening setting as guests dine and dance among some of Kew Gardens’ 10,000 species of plants. Other options are the Nash Conservatory and the Orangery, which also tick the botanical box and offer an abundance of natural light. kew.org/venue-hire

 

Port Lympne Reserve KENT 

 

Fancy adding some animal magic to your big day? Then Port Lympne, Kent’s largest wildlife reserve, is for you – after all, not many people can say they got married and took their guests on a VIP safari to feed a giraffe! There’s also a Moroccan Courtyard decorated with antiques for afternoon tea and treehouses for a buffet with views of the rhinos. aspinallfoundation.org

 

Thirlestane Castle BERWICKSHIRE, SCOTLAND 

 

This ancient castle with a sandstone facade and majestic turrets is as pretty as a picture. The sumptuous State Drawing Room overlooks the Rose Garden; the cobbled Courtyard is superb for an al fresco celebration (book a marquee so you don’t have to worry about the weather). Then spend your first night as newlyweds in The Maitland Apartment – the setting is sublime. thirlestanecastle.co.uk 

 

Borthwick Castle MIDLOTHIAN, SCOTLAND 

 

This restored 15th-century keep, 30 minutes from Edinburgh, was once a refuge for Mary Queen of Scots, no less. A wedding here is about full-on Scottish flavour: saying your vows in the Garrison, a medieval banquet (or more casual barbecue), bagpipers and ceilidhs and, at the end of the night, drams of whisky in front of a roaring fire. Kilts for the groom’s party: optional. borthwickcastle.com 

 

Kensington Palace LONDON 

 

Home to our favourite young royals, Kensington Palace is literally fit for a king. The beautiful Orangery where Queen Anne once hosted lavish balls has a south-facing terrace; the Sunken Garden is special in spring for drinks when the tulips are in bloom; and the red King’s Gallery gets our vote for dinner. The shop has some inspired ideas for bridesmaid and usher thank-you gifts, too. hrp.org.uk 

 

Achnagairn Castle SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

 

 Part of the Achnagairn Estate in Inverness, this castle has an ornate vaulted ballroom that seats up to 200 for dinner (fun fact: it’s one of the largest venues in the Highlands). Not keen on formalities? Tie the knot under the grand stone arch in the grounds before exploring the maze – just be back in time to raise a glass for the toasts! perfect-manors.com 

 

Osborne House ISLE OF WIGHT 

 

Once the family home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this palatial property by the sea is exquisite. Have your ceremony on the private sandshingle beach, Champagne on the Belvedere Terrace and dinner in the grand Durbar Room, among a glittering collection of treasures given to the Queen as musicians play from the gallery above. No wonder this special house has the royal seal of approval. english-heritage.org.uk 

 

Blenheim Palace OXFORDSHIRE

 

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to stellar spaces at this Baroque beauty. From the Orangery overlooking the Duke’s Italian garden (it was once used as the Marlborough family’s private theatre) to the Long Library with 10,000 books, each room is as enchanting as the next. The best place for a party? The L-shaped Water Terraces, which have space for bands and dancing. To really make an entrance, why not arrive by helicopter? blenheimpalace.com 

 

Ashford Castle CO. MAYO, IRELAND 

 

No request too large, no detail too small’ – that’s the attitude of the planning team at this 800-year-old castle, just outside the village of Cong. Guests will be wowed by views of Lough Corrib before gathering in traditional Oak Hall, all red walls and gold-framed paintings. And did we mention the wine cellars for tastings and the Reagan Presidential Suite, with its antique four-poster? ashfordcastle.com 

 

Clearwell Castle GLOUCESTERSHIRE 

 

 This castle in the Forest of Dean has seriously cool credentials, as it was once a recording studio for Led Zeppelin and Queen. It also has a showstopping 75-foot aisle (the perfect excuse for a long dress train) in the Ballroom, a Drawing Room with a baby grand piano, and a cellar bar with a dance floor. On warm days, kick things off with cocktails on the terrace and afternoon games of croquet. countryhouseweddings.co.uk