If there’s anything that will get kids excited it’s the promise of animals. Big, small, furry, scaly – it doesn’t really matter to the short people as long as they get up close and personal with the wild things. Boutique travel experts Mr & Mrs Smith have donned their pith helmets and/or jodphurs to find the best creature-feature holidays.
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, Blue Mountains, Australia
Style Outback ultra-luxe
Setting No expanse spared
The rooms at Blue Mountains boutique hotel Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, near Sydney, are so effortlessly chic and their views so show-stopping you’ll never want to leave. Luckily, you don’t have to. Let the staff know you’ve got kids coming with you – the property is only suited to those older than eight – and ask them to tee up some bespoke animal-oriented activities, from horse-riding across the grassy plains to noctural wildlife safaris where they’ll spot possums, wombats and wallabies.
Sleeping There are 40 suites in all, each constructed with wood, stone and glass, and boasting its own private plunge pool. They’re arranged for privacy and augmented with every luxury imaginable. Families will love the two-bedroom Wollemi Suites, with their large living room, separate dining room and two bedroom suites (the second can be configured with twin beds) with ensuite bathrooms.
Activities It’s all about the great outdoors here, with 4,000 acres of pristine wilderness on the doorstep. For mum and dad, a trip to the Timeless Spa might be in order, while the kids busy themselves on some of the organised activities. There are horse rides (in the arena for under 15s; out in the bush for older kids), a Junior Ranger programme that teaches them basic bush survival techniques, animal tracking and Aboriginal culture, as well as mountain biking rides and Nature Walks where they’ll see birdlife and native animals.
Feasting The relaxed Country Kitchen serves breakfast and snacks during the day, while the casually elegant Wolgan Dining Room hosts the main meals, including gourmet offerings drawing on seasonal, locally sourced produce, in the evening. If it’s a warm night, ask to sit out on the veranda.
Sassy savings Perhaps rose petals aren’t what you’re looking for on a break with the kids, but book the two-night Romance Package through Mr & Mrs Smith and you’ll receive breakfast, lunch, dinner, all non-alcoholic beverages and a range of local beers and wines with meals, two on-site nature-based activities for each person each day, a bottle of Bollinger, a chocolate indulgence and aforementioned petals, plus breakfast in bed on one morning included in the rate. This offer must be booked for a minimum of two nights at least two days before the start of your stay and is valid until 1 January 2014.
Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia
Style Rustic Malay restoration
Setting Lagoon-side Pantai Cenang
Eight renovated stilted wooden houses make up Langkawi boutique hotel Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort in Malaysia. But the manicured surrounds and traditional villas aren’t what your kids will love. Owner Narelle McMurtrie, an expat Australian, has also set up an animal sanctuary next door and lots of the cuddly kitties she’s given a home to like to snooze around the hotel. Most of them are rather partial to the odd pat or two, as well.
Sleeping Each of the antique timber houses is unique and has views of the pool and lagoon. Traditional Malay fabrics and antiques and carefully chosen design details add to the authentic vibe. For those who like to bath alfresco, five of the villas have open-air bathrooms with freestanding wooden tubs. Cots and extra beds can be added to the rooms at no charge.
Activities Beautiful beach Pantai Cenang with its two-kilometre stretch of sand is just five minutes’ walk from Bon Ton. For those who want to see what’s going on under the sea, head to Underwater World Langkawi where there’s a 15-metre glass tunnel that takes you through a tank of sharks and turtles. Some kids, of course, will be happy splashing about in the pool with its shallow end, inflatables and pool toys. Older ones might want to go next door, where the sanctuary always needs helpers to take care of the dogs and cats.
Feasting The on-site restaurant, Nam, is known as one of Langkawi’s best and serves an inventive menu blending Eastern and Western styles. While the kids are busying themselves with the pooches and pusses, Mr & Mrs Smith might like to treat themselves to a Short Island Iced Tea at Chin Chin lounge bar.
Sassy savings Book your stay at Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort through Mr & Mrs Smith and you’ll receive the best possible rate as well as the Smith extra of a welcome lime margarita on arrival.
Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Style Northern Thai splendour
Setting Three-country crossroads
Think you’re a bit been-there-done-that? We’ve got news for you. Faced with the elephants at Chiang Rai retreat Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa you’ll be as gob-smacked as your kids. These gentle giants, who live at the camp next door, will make this a holiday you never forget.
Sleeping Calming vistas of the lush tropical jungle, gardens and Lanna-influenced design – dark teak floors, raw silks and local art and carvings – come as part of the package in all 77 rooms. Cots and extra beds can be added to rooms or book interconnecting rooms if your brood is a little bigger.
Activities Just try keeping them away from the elephant camp where they can take the elephants for a bath in the river, go for a trek through the forest looking for birds and small animals, or learn about elephant driving from one of the mahouts. Of course, there’s plenty of other activities on offer including tours in longtail boats and visiting hill-tribe villages. The big curvy pool is also a drawcard in warm weather.
Feasting There are two restaurants: the grand and airy Sala Mae Nam, which serves a hearty breakfast and regional Thai dishes, and the intimate Baan Dahlia, with its Italian fare. Kids are welcome at both – high chairs are available as are kids’ menus.
Sassy savings When you book a stay at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa through Mr & Mrs Smith, you’re guaranteed the best possible rate, plus, as a Smith extra, you receive complimentary airport transfers in a car and longtail boat.
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Simply visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or call the expert Travel Team on 800 905 236. What’s more, BlackSmith membership is now free for life, so book through Smith to receive life-enhancing extras and exclusive offers at 1,000 hotels and holiday houses around the world.