Essential travel bucket list items that everyone should try in retirement – adventure awaits for all your hard work – from braving the wilds of the Amazon to heli-skiing Russia’s forbidding Kamchatka Peninsula.
Retirement brings with it an abundance of free time, which is no doubt best spent travelling the world. Indulge in the late-life luxuries you’ve listed as travel bucket list endeavours, and reap the rewards of your hard work. From staying on one of the planet’s most remote campsites to exploring the Galapagos by royal yacht – plenty more essential bucket list travel items below awaits you.
WITH KENDALL HILL
1/ Record a song at Abbey Road
Is it ever too late to find fame as a recording star? Find out at London’s Abbey Road Studios, where mere mortals can make like megastars (The Beatles and Adele, among many others) in a three-hour recording session guided by vocal coaches and sound engineers.
2 / Sail the Greek Islands by superyacht
Imagine sidling up to Santorini in your own (borrowed) superyacht. There are dozens to choose from, ranging in price from a hundred thousand dollars a week to more than a million. New for summer 2021, Rebecca is a 41-metre, five-cabin head-turner with glass infinity pool for unforgettable Aegean escapades.
3 / View the Monarch butterfly migration
Hearts won’t be the only things fluttering as you head into the fir forests of the Mexican highlands, on foot or horseback, to witness tens of thousands of Monarch butterflies take flight. Small groups led by veteran guides ensure maximum awe factor.
4 / Rent a decadent New Zealand villa
There are many phenomenal villas in New Zealand but The Landing has the advantage of four on-site stunners including the five-bedroom Cooper Residence, described by Barack Obama as ‘magical’ after his 2018 stay there. This immaculate, 1000-acre estate in the Bay of Islands is a haven of privacy, personal pools, estate-grown wines and superb cuisine. Not to mention torch-lit kiwi hunts.
5 / Drink the best travel bubbles
Between May and October each year, luxury-brand behemoth LVMH opens the doors to three of its most exalted Champagne houses for private cellar tours at Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart and a vertical tasting at Moet & Chandon in a Napoleonic salon. Spa appointments, fine French dining and elevated accommodation round out this enriching Reims experience.
6 / Take Manhattan in a penthouse suite
Designer-hotelier Kit Kemp’s midtown address The Whitby occupies a dress-circle site minutes from Central Park, MOMA and the Magnolia Bakery, best enjoyed from the penthouse suite – a two-bedroom affair of marble showers, silver bathtubs and sweeping terraces onto the dramatic city skyline.
7 / Watch the Northern Lights in a place like no other
Witnessing the wonder of the Northern Lights needn’t be an extreme sport. Despite its forbidding location marooned in the icy mountains and glaciers of Alaska’s Denali National Park, the five-bedroom Sheldon Chalet offers an incredible base for aurora borealis light shows, complete with Champagne, fine food and helicopter transfers.
8 / Keep a private jet on call
Commercial flights can be fraught with issues, not least during a pandemic, so platinum travellers are opting for peace of mind with private jet charters. Sydney-based Jetcorp Australia, owned and operated by pilots, flies mainly in Australia and New Zealand but operates internationally via global affiliates. Say hooroo to the hoi polloi and embrace the world of smooth customs and immigration, and in-flight experiences tailored to your desires.
9 / Cruise the Amazon
Brave the wilds of the Amazon with ease aboard the soon-to-launch Aqua Nera, Peru’s most stylish river cruiser. With 20 suites, spa and jacuzzi and catering by stellar Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, this floating pleasure palace provides absolute waterfront access to the mighty river and the cradle of world biodiversity.
10 / Drink and fly to Flinders Island
Clover Hill vineyard in Tasmania’s picturesque Tamar Valley is renowned for its Champagne-style sparkling wines and, now, its heli-adventures. Drop in for a tasting of back vintages at the cellar door’s VIP room before flying over Bass Strait to Flinders Island, where you’ll meet fishermen and hand-pick crayfish to enjoy on a secluded beach.
11 / Stay in an amazing African treehouse
Botswana’s new 12-room, US$30 million Xigera Safari Lodge has been dubbed “the Versailles of the African bush”. Chief among its charms is a 10-metre baobab-styled treehouse above the Okavango Delta, home to herds of elephant, hippos and an ark of mammals and birds. The three-level structure showcases African design and art and has a roof deck for sleeping under the stars.
12 / Rock the Kasbah in Morocco
Theatre producer turned hotelier Thierry Teyssier knows how to create memorable moments. At his 19th century Kasbah hotel Dar Ahlam (‘House of Dreams’), every day is scripted individually for guests, every meal served in a different setting and there’s even a pop-up desert camp in the Saharan dunes.
13 / Find yourself in Newfoundland
At face value Fogo Island Inn looks like any other architecturally striking destination hotel. But at heart this 29-room emblem of the Canadian Maritimes is a social enterprise that’s run for – and by – the hardy folk of Fogo. Local residents greet guests at the airport, escort them on outings (fishing, hiking, iceberg-watching), and share insights into their lives in the North Atlantic.
14 / Trail blue whales in Baja
On Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, abundance is measured not in thread counts but in headcounts – of the various whale and dolphin species, Californian sea lions, rays and a vast aquarium of tropical fish. Baja Expeditions’ eco-friendly sailing yacht El Mechudo puts guests in the thick of underwater action on feel-good expeditions that support local conservation and research programs.
15 / Camp on the white continent
From Cape Town it’s a five-hour Gulfstream flight to one of the planet’s most remote campsites. The carbon-neutral Whichaway Oasis is an other-worldly arrangement of domes, anchored on an Antarctic plateau, that sleep 12 in plush polar comfort. Eight-day itineraries (for a cool US$96,000 per person) include ski-plane flights to the geographic South Pole and to Atka Bay to meet 14,000 pairs of Emperor penguins.
16 / Play polo on the Mongolian steppe
In deepest Mongolia, a ger encampment blooms in the World Heritage-listed Orkhon Valley each summer. The Genghis Khan Retreat is an ultra-comfortable capsule of nomadic culture offering horseriding and polo lessons, hiking and spa treatments, and pre-dinner piano recitals. Hot bubble baths, cashmere blankets and caviar soothe the rugged steppes setting.
17 / Ride the fabled Orient Express
Since launching in 1883 it’s established itself as the world’s most lavish train journey, but until recently passengers aboard the Orient Express couldn’t even take a shower. That changed in 2019 with the unveiling of three new Grand Suites, opulently appointed bedrooms themed after some of the train’s storied stops (Paris, Istanbul, Vienna) and, critically, equipped with showers. And unlimited Champagne.
18 / Borrow a billionaire’s island
Laucala might just be the most outrageously extravagant of Fiji’s 300-plus islands. You be the judge by arriving – via private jet – at this 1,400-hectare jewel of jungled hills and palm-fringed beaches, home to 25 astonishing villas, five restaurants and bars, and hundreds of attentive staff. Activities include an 18-hole pro golf course, no fewer than 14 boats and an in-house submarine.
19 / Forge new marine frontiers
Of all the deluxe vessels now plying the coral wonderlands of Raja Ampat archipelago in far eastern Indonesia, only one has the stamina to cross an ocean and the flexibility to satisfy hard-core surfers and divers as well as cultural adventurers craving one of the last great marine frontiers. The 50-metre Kudanil Explorer is a boutique hotel-cum-offshore expedition yacht, with breezy balcony suites, refined dining and resort-style facilities.
20 / Conquer Cannes
The penthouse suite at the Hotel Martinez, one of Europe’s largest, is the premier address in the French film capital of Cannes. Its panoramic terrace over La Croisette promenade and the Mediterranean could host an opening night party. Its two suites – recently renovated by French design guru Pierre-Yves Rochon and hung with works by Picasso and Matisse – are the height of Riviera excess.
21 / Discover the greatest barrier reef
Epic Private Journeys combines two elite Queensland islands, Orpheus and Lizard, for an exceptional reef experience. The private Orpheus, a helicopter hop from Cairns over dazzling reefs, is a fantasy island of beachfront villas and palm-strung hammocks. Stay as long as you need then transfer, via Orpheus’s motor yacht Flying Fish, to Lizard where the ridge-top pavilion offers utter privacy and a stunning, 280-degree sunset deck.
22 / Tailor a multi-country air safari
Safaris needn’t to be single-country affairs, nor confined to land. Kenya-based Scenic Air Safaris can pull together almost any itinerary in sub-Saharan Africa, whether it’s visiting Kilimanjaro and the Kalahari Desert in one hit or tracing the Zambezi all the way to Victoria Falls.
23 / Snorkel with ‘sea unicorns’
Narwhals, the horned whales that inspired the myth of the unicorn, abound in the Arctic. Arctic Kingdom’s seven-night expeditions to Baffin Island, led by Inuit guides, offer the rare chance to snorkel and kayak among them on the edge of an ice floe. Polar bears are an added bonus.
24 / Stay on a sheep station
A homestay at the 130,000-hectare Trilby Station in far-north NSW – literally the back of Bourke – is a highlight of Classic Safari Company’s new Outback Loop private-plane itinerary. Station host Liz Murray is the sister of pilot Phil Hines, so warm welcomes are guaranteed when guests (max eight) touch down in the red dirt. The six-day air excursions also take in the Flinders Ranges and sunset drinks in the Simpson Desert.
25 / Travel the Galapagos by royal yacht
The dazzling wildlife and islands of the Galapagos deserve to be seen in style. The 16-passenger motor yacht Grace, a wedding gift from the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis to Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco, marries elegant nostalgia with the mod cons of a 2017 makeover. On-board perks include two dining areas and bars, a sundeck and jacuzzi, and the Grace Kelly Suite, the same one enjoyed by the royal honeymooners.
26 / Ski volcanoes in Russia’s far east
Snow sport locations don’t come much more extreme than Russia’s forbidding Kamchatka Peninsula. Access to this icy expanse of active volcanoes is notoriously fraught but made much easier aboard La Datcha, the 77-metre, 12-berth expedition yacht of Russian billionaire Oleg Tinkov. It’s available for charter at one million euros a week and comes fitted with two helicopters for swift access to volcanic slopes on the peninsula and in the Sea of Okhotsk.
27 / Rent a private island at the end of the world
Marooned in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel facing Bruny, Satellite is a self-described “tiny, wild, private island” with a 10-bed summer house and separate boathouse, both decked out in coastal chic for photogenic stays. Add seaplane transfers for extra wow factor.
28 / Hike the Himalayas
What better cure for post-Covid isolation than the natural highs and heart-soothing views of the Himalayas? Mountain experts Shakti Himalaya lead high-end hikes to Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim, the Buddhist kingdom bordering Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. Walkers stay in village houses beautifully transformed to western tastes; days unspool into cardamom fields and rhododendron forests via monasteries, markets and even a red panda sanctuary.
29 / Float on a frozen river
Moored in the frigid Lule River in far-north Sweden, the whimsical, log-crusted exterior of Arctic Bath brings the lap of luxury to Lapland. The ring-shaped main building features saunas and a central pool for icy dips, while guests sleep in 12 minimalist cabins – half on water, half on land – Sami-style beneath reindeer skins.
30 / See the world’s southernmost coral reef
About 600kms off Australia’s east coast lies Lord Howe Island, an earthly paradise regarded by UNESCO as a place of outstanding universal value. The beauty of its volcanic-forged landscapes is well-known; not so much the world underwater. Lord Howe is fringed by the Earth’s southernmost coral reef, home to many endemic marine species among its 500-plus fish species and dozens of corals. Stay in the Lidgbird Pavilion at Capella Lodge for mesmerising views of a Jurassic land lapped by deep-blue Pacific.
31 / Write your own run diaries in Bermuda
How far would you go for a drink? Fairmont Hotels have a tempting offer in the Caribbean, tracing the rum cultures of Barbados and Bermuda. The ‘Original Rum Run’ tour takes guests behind the scenes at Barbados’s 350-year-old St Nicholas Abbey Rum, arranges rum-blending sessions and even a massage of rum-infused herbs.
32 / Sleep with the fishies in the Maldives
Dial up the Maldives romance on a three-night voyage aboard Azimut, the 30-metre pleasure cruiser of the exclusive Cheval Blanc Rhandeli resort. The yacht charts courses to the mostly uninhabited Lhaviyani [correct] islands and the teeming waters of the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, for idyllic days of diving, snorkelling and desert-island picnics.
33 / Steer a Lamborghini through Tuscany
One for the supercar enthusiasts. Australian-owned Ultimate Driving Tours arranges dream-come-true driving holidays at home and in Europe, none more appealing than its Tuscan itinerary of grand hotels, Michelin-starred dining and a fleet of elite vehicles comprising Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and more. Drivers switch seats to compare the performance of each marque on country roads and mountain passes between Florence and Siena.
34 / Lose yourself in the Utah desert
They may well be the world’s most expensive tents. The $4,500 [US$3500] canvas pavilions at Amangiri’s new Camp Sarika come in one- or two-bedroom configurations with plunge pools and firepits and front-row seats to the mesas and buttes of the Utah Badlands. Yoga and meditation, horseriding and hiking and hours of quiet contemplation fill the desert days.
35 / Join the caviar cognoscenti
When it comes to caviar, is Imperial Ossetra or Iranian Beluga better? You decide during a caviar appreciation class run by Hong Kong’s Royal Caviar Club. Fish-egg fanciers get five types of caviar to taste, with optional chef’s pairing menu.
36 / Fly-fish in the Chilean lakes
Cradled by the Andes, the Rio Palena Lodge in Chilean Patagonia offers seven suites and rare access to some of South America’s most exhilarating angling. The glacial waters of the Palena River brim with spirited trout – both rainbow and brown – or try heli-fishing in the remote alpine lakes of the Andes.
37 / Have a private audience with the Alhambra
The crowning glory of Moorish Spain, the Alhambra is part-citadel, part ornate palace and part perfumed gardens. As one of Spain’s most popular monuments, visits are usually timed and heavily touristed, but Blue Parallel’s six-night sweep through Andalucia includes a private viewing with ample time to admire the magnificent decorations.
38 / Meet our northern neighbours
Papua New Guinea is our nearest neighbour and our least-known. Get to know the folks upstairs on an 11-night expedition with French-owned Ponant cruises. Itineraries trace the cultures of the islands, coast and highlands of PNG, with bonus stops in the Solomon Islands.
39 / Retrace the silk route
The caravanserais have been replaced with comfortable hotels but the architectural glories of the silk route through Central Asia endure undimmed. Abercrombie and Kent’s 15-day small-group itineraries through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan traverse palaces and mosques, mountains and deserts, mausoleums and minarets with expert guides to rekindle the romance of centuries past.
40 / Make the most of the Great Migration
The World Heritage-listed Serengeti National Park is one of the best places to behold the Great Migration, the annual African jamboree involving millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle – and their feline predators – swarming across the savanna. To guarantee pole position, opt for mobile camps; century-old operator Cottar’s does a lovely riverbank bivouac that gives guests ringside access to the greatest show on Earth.
41 / Go off-grid in Iceland
The fabulously named Troll Peninsula is home to Deplar Farm, a turf-roofed, troll-friendly hotel in Iceland’s remote north. Wellbeing is the buzzword here, with spa treatments, yoga and meditation set against a bleakly beautiful backdrop. At the end of each day, soak in the geothermal pool (with swim-up bar) beneath a blinding night sky.