Sometimes it’s the story behind a place that helps us make sense of the world we live in – like the century-old tale of Norwegian explorers who traded guns for an entire Pacific island or the glamorous film actors who built a Los Angeles movie palace back in the 1920s.
By staying in places with history we begin to find meaning in the countries, cities and island getaways we visit. In her travels, New Zealand travel writer Jacqui Gibson found stories-a-plenty in these five world best heritage hotels.
1. Tavanipupu Private Island Resort, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Tavanipupu Private Island Resort in the Solomon Islands is a Pacific Island heritage resort with a colourful past.
Once home to local Marau Sound tribespeople, the 13-hectare island was sold to Norwegian traders for ammunition in the late 1800s, before becoming a coconut plantation and later a luxury resort fit for royalty (Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stayed there in 2012).
Today, anyone can stay in the resort’s 12 luxury bungalows, stroll its manicured lawns and snorkel or kayak its vast turquoise lagoon. They can even visit the tombs of the original traders whose gravestones can still be seen among the island’s tall grass. All it takes is a 25-minute flight from Honiara (the Solomon’s capital city) and you’re there.
2. ACE Hotel, Downtown, Los Angeles
While it’s just a few years old in its latest incarnation, the ACE Hotel at Broadway and 9th Street in Downtown Los Angeles has been around a while – since 1927, in fact.
Originally built by silent film stars (including the likes of Charlie Chaplin) and later owned by one of the city’s most popular television preachers, the historic United Artists building is an exemplar of the Spanish-Gothic style theatres that sprung up during the so-called Golden Age of Downtown Los Angeles.
Revamped by the trendy Ace Hotel chain and opened for business in 2014, the building now features 166 guest rooms, 16 suites, a restaurant and bar, a remodelled theatre – and an exquisite rooftop pool with views over the ever-changing cityscape beyond.
Book a stay to see the ornate interior of the renovated theatre for yourself. Be reminded of an era when film royalty filled the space with a nightly audience of thousands.
3. Galle Face Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s Galle Face Hotel might have started out as a meeting place for colonial gentlemen more than 150 years ago, but the simple Dutch villa soon became one of the country’s best-loved heritage hotels.
Today the two-storey luxury hotel is home to a wide range of suites, restaurants, a large lobby, ballrooms, a library and – even – a museum. Stay to enjoy high tea on the open air balcony in the afternoon or cocktails on the croquet lawn at sunset.
Located on the seafront in the heart of Colombo, the hotel has hosted politicians of all persuasions from Indian pacifist leader Mahatma Gandhi to America’s 37th president Richard Nixon to Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.
The staff are extra special, too, with doormen like Mr Rathnayaka Banda who, in 2016, clocked up 50 years’ loyal service with the hotel.
4. Hotel Del Coronado, Southern California, USA
Located at 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, Hotel Del Coronado undoubtedly ranks among the world’s best heritage hotels by any measure, and is one of the few remaining examples of an American architectural style known as the wooden Victorian beach resort.
Opened in 1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world at the time, eventually becoming a United States National Historic Landmark in 1977, as well as a film and television set. Films such as Some Like it Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe were filmed there, as was the fourth season of popular television series Baywatch.
By staying at the Del, you’ll follow in the footsteps of United States presidents, royalty and celebrities. And you’ll add your name to a roll call that includes the likes of Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama.
5. The Laundry, Wairarapa, New Zealand
Possibly unlikely to make it on everyone’s list of world best heritage hotels, this tiny, self-contained cottage located deep in the countryside of New Zealand’s North Island most definitely has a story to tell.
Called The Laundry – in reference to the character building’s former use – this intimate, two-person retreat has been remodelled and restored to fit the heritage landscape that surrounds it. (The Wairarapa was one of the first regions settled by the European pioneers who came to New Zealand in the mid 1800s.)
And what it lacks in size, The Laundry certainly makes up for in stunning views.
You’ll find The Laundry on a romantic, rural hilltop surrounded by bush valleys in a region as much known for boutique wineries as the historic homesteads and cottages that dot the landscape.
With views of lakes, mountains and valleys, The Laundry is an eight-minute drive to the Wairarapa’s main wine district of Martinborough and a lovely retreat to a bygone era.