On The Road

Our Guide To The Most Luxurious Family-Friendly Hotels

Seven stylish holiday spots with activities for kids as well as R&R for their old man this Father’s Day

  • View of the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort. Photograph courtesy of One&Only Resorts

Fatherhood has its moments – the birth, those first tentative steps, the attempted indoctrination into your chosen niche field of music or sport. There’s a lot to like. But there are times when you just want to be yourself: pause, reflect, lose yourself in a book, sleep in past 6.00am. Time when you need a holiday.

And for most people, a holiday is a step away from the daily grind. But for parents with young children, a vacation can end up simply a more intense version of your day-to-day, only hotter, and with more sand. Or that was how it traditionally was. The family holiday has changed, gone up in the world: some of the best resorts and hotels on Earth, in some of the most sumptuous locations, now not only cater to the whims of parents, but provide distractions for your offspring, too. From wildlife excursions to arts and crafts or cooking activities, these are well-appointed spots that come with the magic words: “kids’ club”.

So then, ahead of Father’s Day, here are seven of the world’s finest destinations that really are for the whole family.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

  • Yuku Suite at Mashpi Lodge. Photograph courtesy of Mashpi Lodge and Black Tomato

Mashpi Lodge itself might be an astonishing feat of steel and glass perched in the foliage of Ecuadorian Chocó cloud forest, but it plays second fiddle to the natural wonders peering back at you through the floor-to-ceiling glass panels. Hence, you can expect to have your breakfast – fresh regional fruits – to a chorus of velvet-purple coronets, your dip in the Jacuzzi interrupted by a curious howler monkey and your new-found relaxed demeanor rivalled only by the resident sloths. The resort was founded by an orchid enthusiast, who bought an expanse of tropical woodland to protect it from foresters (it’s thought that 10 per cent of the world’s orchid species can be found within this wider Andean pocket). Built on the only flat land the area, not a single tree here was felled for its construction. Family activities include hikes through this untouched biodiversity hotspot, taking in plunging waterfalls, or riding cable cars and sky bikes that skim the treetops. Plus, while your progeny learn about ecology firsthand in the on-site Kids’ Lab, you can enjoy the luxury surroundings, at the top of the jungle canopy.

  • The Dragonfly cable car experience. Photograph courtesy of Mashpi Lodge and Black Tomato

What to pack

  • Patagonia Baggies Lights DWR-Coated Ripstop Shorts

  • Arc'teryx Konseal FL GORE-TEX and Ripstop Hiking Sneakers

Airelles Gordes, La Bastide, France

  • View of Airelles Gordes in the village of Gordes. Photograph courtesy of Airelles Collection

If this was a fairy tale, a place known as the “Kingdom of Children” would not end well. No such fears here; this sumptuous retreat, peering over one of the most aesthetically pleasing villages in the Luberon, and the backdrop for A Year In Provence, boasts facilities fit for a prince or princess. Children have their own swimming pool, away from those meddling adults, while the games room will keep them occupied should the weather turn. A regular schedule of treasure hunts and age-specific Olympiads allows them to burn off energy, while the specially tailored kids’ menu encourages refueling with the healthiest foods. All of which gives you time to enjoy the astonishingly teal pool and the maze of buildings, terraced gardens, olive groves and vineyards, once home to various counts of Provence. So, while your offspring are off acting like Little Lord Fauntleroy, you can take the weight off (or put some on).

  • Outdoor cinema. Photograph courtesy of Airelles Collection

What to pack

São Lourenço Do Barrocal, Portugal

  • Outdoor pool at São Lourenço do Barrocal. Photograph by Mr Ash James, courtesy of São Lourenço do Barrocal

This plush estate of whitewashed buildings has been in the same family for some 200 years. Still run as a working farm, the age-old methods, and assemblage of animals, should prove a source of fascination for inquisitive young minds. Set against a fragrant meadow, the pool is child-friendly, as is the roster of activities, including picnics and hot-air balloon rides. The self-contained cottages are gloriously private (deadening the sound of any tantrum), and all have access to a playroom full of books and toys. And while the whole family goes out on horseback, dad can borrow a Pinarello bike and go for a quick spin on the perfect roads past Neolithic dolmens and through some of the historic villages that dot this region – and make the most of the rather lavish spa facilities upon his return.

  • Sack racing. Photograph by Mr Ricardo Bravo, courtesy of São Lourenço do Barrocal

What to pack

  • Mr P. Camp-Collar Striped Linen and Cotton-Blend Shirt

  • Oliver Peoples Sheldrake Round-Frame Acetate Polarised Sunglasses

Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort, Oman

  • Beachfront retreat at the Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort. Photograph courtesy of Six Senses

Cut off from the rest of the planet by craggy mountains and sea that looks like a CGI rendering, this Six Senses looks like the location for a James Bond rendezvous, and has facilities to match. (It is indeed possible – and highly recommended – to arrive via speedboat.) But one man’s (dad’s) secluded paradise is another child’s vision of boredom, which might explain the great lengths the team here have gone to keep younger guests occupied. As well as a babysitting service, the Chaica Club offers those between the ages of four and 10 a host of adventures, from water polo and sand-castle construction to henna painting and Arabic classes. Teens, meanwhile, can pick up all manner of useful skills, with lessons in capoeira, archery, raft-building and survival, which should set them up nicely for when they declare their intentions to stay here forever and not to return home with you.

  • Kayaking. Photograph courtesy of Six Senses

What to pack

  • Orlebar Brown Bulldog Mid-Length Printed Swim Shorts

Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort, Australia

  • View of the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort. Photograph courtesy of One&Only Resorts

Deep in a canyon in New South Wales’ Greater Blue Mountains, this wilderness remained largely uncharted up until the 1990s. Now home to Australia’s foremost luxury resort, you’re still unlikely to get mobile network coverage (although there is free Wi-Fi), meaning you’re banking on in-the-present pursuits to keep kids enthralled. Handily, the One&Only delivers, largely thanks to its Junior Rangers programme, which offers archery, mountain biking and fossil hunting. (The site does indeed resemble an otherworldly Jurassic Park.) Sunset wildlife tours make it clear who really owns this swathe of land, though: kangaroos, notably, but also wallabies and wombats. And, despite the level of luxury that touches on opulent in this high-end, ski-chalet-like ranch, the entire enterprise is carbon neutral, employing solar energy and recycling water to minimise its impact on this corner of the world. What better lesson to teach your kids?

  • Stargazing and campfire experience. Photograph courtesy of One&Only Resorts

What to pack

  • Brunello Cucinelli Linen and Cotton-Blend Cargo Shorts

Gleneagles, Scotland

  • The Sovereign Room at Gleneagles. Photograph courtesy of Gleneagles

Hallowed turf when it comes to golf, but much more besides. There are a zillion other things for papa, too: cycling; falconry; fly fishing; shooting; not to mention off-roading. Now is the beginning of the season at Gleneagles – heralded with an enormous garden party – and the hotel is in full swing, with the multi-million-pound refurbishment now complete. It is like a theme park for adults. There’s more to this five-star resort than outdoor pursuits, however. Parents will appreciate the food at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant – though there are in total eight eateries and bars to choose from – and the sublime spa facilities. Kids can check into Little Glen, the on-site crèche, with an indoor treehouse, as well as games consoles, a cinema room and a giant snakes and ladders board. Other distractions include ferret racing, pony rides and off-roading in miniature Land Rovers. All of which might make a father jealous if it wasn’t for the American Bar, which might just be the world’s most splendid Art Deco 19th hole. In all, Gleneagles is one of the finest hotels in Scotland and one of the best in the world.

  • Kids’ golf. Photograph courtesy of Gleneagles

What to pack

Trisara, Thailand

  • Ocean-front pool villa at Trisara. Photograph courtesy of Trisara

In Sanskrit, the name means “the garden in third heaven”, which might make you question the grading system in the afterlife. A tranquil beachside sanctuary sprawling across a sequestered corner of Phuket’s upmarket north-west coast, Trisana comes with a series of private pools, should the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea be just that stretch too far. And, of course, this divine realm comes with a fantastic kids’ club, open till 5.30pm every day and offering an itinerary that includes sailing, cupcake-making and Thai dancing, or, alternatively, books, films and video games. For grown-ups, yoga and Muay Thai boxing sessions are available, and the resort has its own fleet of yachts, but we won’t judge if you spend your time by the 45m pool, instead. The Ocean Pool View Suites can be converted to accommodate your brood – although every room here boasts sea views, and there’s not a duff option. Here’s hoping the next world is something like this one.

  • Kids’ sailing course. Photograph courtesy of Trisara

What to pack

  • Auralee Camp-Collar Cotton-Georgette Shirt

  • Álvaro Antonio Leather Sandals

Travel essentials

  • Fabbrica Pelletterie Milano Spinner 53cm Leather-Trimmed Aluminium Carry-On Suitcase

  • Soleil Toujours Organic Sheer Sunscreen Mist SPF50, 177ml

  • Anderson & Sheppard Grosgrain-Trimmed Straw Panama Hat

  • Native Union Cosmos Cable Collection