Turkey is most certainly on the list of Europe-based sun and fun, but it may not have ever been number one on your list. It wasn’t on ours. The likes of France, Italy and Greece beat it to the punch on most days. However, they really don’t have to. Hillside Beach Club, on the country’s South-West coast, is one of the best reasons this is so.
Hillside Beach Club is a smooth, affable and very well conceived resort. Found in a wonderfully exclusive private cove in Fethiye, south of Bodrum, it’s just an hour from Dalaman airport. Yes, it’s an all-inclusive family offering, but don’t hold your preconceptions against it. The beach club everything-is-right-here approach works, and it’s highly likely to be the travel answer you’re looking for, especially if your kids have more energy than covid-shorted patience does.
Yes, we know, all inclusive holidays are not for everyone, but stick with us. There are private, adults-only (phone-free) silent beaches, spas and treatments which would not be out of place in W1 and some highly conducive cooking and some enticing cocktail bars. Not to mention, you’re offered the chance to tip your kids into the water somewhere on day one, and come back for them when it’s time to leave a week later. You can be safe in the knowledge there’s a pretty reasonable chance they’ll still be there, in one piece. The Hillside bay is gloriously clean and safe, and the watersports offering is nothing short of amazing, you see. Finally, and not that it’s an indicator we’d look for, but there are enough super-yachts moored out there (those non-residents afloat come ashore to drink, dine and play), to make St Tropez blush. If it’s good enough for the eastern-med’s super-set, it’s probably getting something right.
Heading for a long weekend in September, we landed on a Thursday evening and were swiftly gathered into a smooth and cool private transfer. We’re now fully of the opinion that this is a crucial start to any trip – a sparklingly clean Mercedes with powerful aircon, a curated playlist, chilled water, wifi and space to recline. A friction free and really quite pleasant hour’s journey. It was much needed and very welcome after a short-haul flight that, at four hours and change from Gatwick, is on the slightly longer side. We didn’t get to the resort until 11pm or so, but we were greeted with an open-air cinema (a picturesque screen floating on the flat-calm sea), an open bar and midnight bbq on the beach. All very smooth, very cool.
Next morning, waking up to swaying pines and a sparkling sea view pre breakfast and hammam treatments, we noticed a small but vital bag of contact lenses and prescription meds had been carelessly left in London. Bugger. Surely we’re screwed here. It’d take days to get those ordered, by which time we’ll be home. Amazingly, not so. Tim, our designated weekend consigliere, was on hand (via whatsapp, so simple) to help. A two minute visit to the resident doctor and both meds and lenses were ordered, zero fuss. “They’ll be waiting for you at breakfast after your massage”. Huh? What? Yup, no joke. Stress-melting, happy-making service. Full marks, and that was before the massages.
Hillside Beach Club, it’s hard to overstate, has seriously good spa facilities and treatments. We made two visits over the weekend and that should be a mandated approach for anyone and everyone. First up was the Luxury Hammam treatment at the Sanda Day Spa. This was a traditional hamman treatment which was so stunningly good it was practically an out-of-body experience. Oils, ablutions and acquiescence – we positively floated out back into the sunshine and on to a late breakfast.
Next on this arduous agenda, the stunning (and child-free) Serenity beach. Sounds like bliss before you even get there, right? It didn’t disappoint. A jaunty little boat ride round the point or delightful walk through the shaded pines gets you there and a small yet uncrowded beach is waiting with open arms. Day beds, hammocks and a petite yet perfectly formed cocktail bar. No noise, no kids, no crowds. Peace and, funnily enough, serenity. A beach BBQ is on hand at lunch and there are some inviting spots tastefully settled into the cliff face, under shade, to rest and digest in. It really is a dreamy spot to while-away a day and get gently holiday-sozzled.
After a tough day of bliss, a wander back to our hillside villa pre-dinner was on the cards. En route, however, we were accosted by some passing pina-coladas and then lured into stand-up paddle boarding. We had no choice in the matter. Big kids. Being very silly in the waters of the shallow bay. It felt like the first chance to forget the responsibilities of living in 2020.
Freshened and relaxed via balcony showers and a chilled flute of champagne, we watched the sun set into the bay and ventured to our tasting diner at Pasha – one of Hillside Beach Club’s four restaurants. A veritable cornucopia of a Turkish specialities was offered up under candlelight as we sat, bare foot, at our peaceful waterside table with fish gently rising in the shallows. It was really very special.
Saturday morning and why change what was a perfect start to the day before – massage and breakfast. Well breakfast then massage, to be exact. And the some of the best examples of both. Fresh Turkish bread from a wood-fired oven was a simply life-affirming lead in veritable full-team effort of a breakfast and then we got to test out Silent Beach. Serenity, obviously not being enough for some. Silent beach is a small and ultra-private cove with a spa, magically suspended in the trees above it. We opted for a couples massage and came out hazy eyed, hypnotised and 100%, completely devoid of stress whatsoever. Couldn’t even define the word for you. Brain meltingly pleasurable. We whiled away the rest of the morning in rhapsodic silence, with the sea lapping at our toes.
A change of pace was now in order though, as we’d not fully taken advantage of the water-sports on offer – and time was running out. To sail, to water ski, to dive, to snorkel? There’s enough to keep you entertained for days. There’s the option to get qualified too, which is far more attractive here than in the chilling English Channel. We opted for wake surfing and spent an exhilarating and hilarious hour or two getting to grips with a new, rewarding and adrenalin pumping, challenge. The team of instructors were warm, friendly and helpful – they clearly loved to get people on their feet and having fun. It’s tough to see how they wouldn’t enjoy their work, they spend their days on a speedboat, in a warm Mediterranean bay surrounded by very big smiles.
Hillside Beach Club is a package that wins. We were unsure what to expect and, as we packed up to leave, we were sure that we’d return. It is a very, very, good way to spend a long weekend with or without kids, and a whole week would be a joy.
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