“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Augustine of Hippo.
In 2015, I was fortunate to add many thrilling chapters to my travel adventures. The experiences were remarkable and diverse. Driving an authentic, circa-1851 stagecoach in the Western frontier. Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean while the sun rises over South Beach, then retreating into the world famous Ritz-Carlton to be warmed and restored by a “Taste of the Tropics” massage. Boating alongside a bull moose swimming across a lake in Canada’s boreal forest. Catching an elusive tarpon from the banks of a tropical island. Indulging in 5-star dining on the ocean’s edge, savoring fillet mignon and fresh-caught grouper while dolphins jumped in the distance.
A different destination provided each of the above encounters and, by doing so, landed a spot on this year’s “Best of the Best.” Of course, it takes more than just one highlight to make the list; each of these hotels and resorts provides impeccable service, first-rate amenities and accommodations, and gourmet dining in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. In short, they are places that if you ever have the opportunity to visit, you simply must.
Here are the Top Five destinations of 2015.
Ritz-Carlton, South Beach
I avoid traveling to the same place twice. Life is too short, and the world is too big. I’ll be dead and gone in 70 or 80 quick years, and when I am there will be too many magnificent places I didn’t have time to see. Besides, two of my greatest joys in traveling are discovering new experiences and meeting fascinating people who live differently than me.
And yet, when my wife and I traveled to the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach several years ago, we came to a realization that made us re-evaluate our “no returns” policy. Our discovery was simple: The Ritz is such an incredible place that the more times we can possibly return, the better.
In truth, if you like the beach, nightlife and up-scale amenities, there’s nowhere better.
Click here to read the full story of my stay at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, and see why this famously cool hotel became the first place ever to make the annual “Best of the Best” list in two separate years.
The Ranch at Rock Creek
One of the best places in the continental U.S. to marvel at Mother Nature and also interact with her is The Ranch at Rock Creek.
The all-inclusive, 5-star luxury ranch encourages guests to partake in two guided activities per day, providing ample opportunity for lucky visitors to experience the magnificence of Montana’s great outdoors. Adventures include horseback riding, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, fly fishing and sporting clays, plus skiing, snowshoeing and sleigh rides during winter months.
Or, you can simply listen to Rock Creek gurgling alongside your glamour camping “glamping” tent or sit by the fire in the +100-year-old main lodge. Either way, this is the quintessential American experience of old, with some modern luxury to boot.
Click here to see a photo essay on my adventures at The Ranch at Rock Creek.
Sioux Lookout, Ontario
Fireside Lodge is special in many ways, from the owners (Alan and Audrey Brandys) to the fellow guests to the wilderness that surrounds the 111-year-old main lodge.
There’s also the beautiful cabins, delicious food and outstanding service––not to mention word-class fishing. The rustic resort sits on Little Vermillion Lake, one of the best smallmouth bass and tiger muskie lakes in Ontario. Better yet, Little Vermillion is just one lake on a diverse, seven-lake system so you can spend every day of your trip fishing pristine water with no one in sight.
Click here to see the full story of my adventure to Fireside Lodge, including video of a young bull moose swimming across the lake.
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
Off-Shore from the Florida Keys
Welcome to paradise island. If you’re looking for a tropical island experience without spending days in transit to the South Pacific, it doesn’t get any better than Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.
Little Palm was once the favored fishing camp for old-time movie stars and U.S. presidents, dating back to Harry Truman. In the past couple decades, the 5.5-acre island resort has opened its doors to a select number of discerning guests, offering 30 two-person, thatched-roofed bungalow suites with ocean views and private beaches.
“Little Palm boasts a very tenured staff that is accustomed to serving high profile and celebrity guests with the utmost privacy, as well as quiet and gracious service,” said Bill Foster, Area Director of Sales & Marketing at Noble House Hotels & Resorts. “It’s a well-loved and well cared for family owned business where every detail is approved by the owners themselves.”
Little Palm is spectacular in every regard; one of its greatest powers is its ability to make you forget all about your main-land life back home.
Click here to read about my adventure at Little Palm Island, including snorkeling, catching sharks and cruising on stand-up paddleboards.
Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour
Bal Harbour, Florida
Relax. Restore. Rejuvenate.
Spotlights illuminate these three words in glass showcases at the new Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour in Miami. Guests at the 5-star, oceanfront hotel have an easy time following these three cardinal rules, as my wife and I discovered during our visit this May.
“The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami combines a small boutique inn feel with large resort style amenities in a tranquil environment that feels miles away but is close to it all: shopping, nightlife and entertainment,” said Hotel Manager Winfred Van Workum.
We intentionally try to highlight varied experiences and different parts of the globe, so we were reluctant to include two Ritz-Carltons in our Top 5. But the fact is, the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is arguably the top hotel in North America, and this new Bal Harbour Ritz-Carlton is simply too outstanding not to include in the list.
Click here to read the full story of my visit to the Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour.