The best thing about summer in New York is the tradition of ‘Summer Fridays’ — wherein the entire town practically shuts down around lunchtime every Friday from May to September, in order to allow everyone to get out of the city and onto the beach. It gives summers in the northeast such a sense of occasion, as if every weekend was a super short summer camp.
Even though Zach and I are working in Miami for most of the season, we decided to claim one recent ‘Summer Friday’ afternoon off anyway and popped down to the Bahamas for a few days’ escape. Best call ever.
The flight lasted less than an hour, and yet we found ourselves suddenly encamped in another world entirely: tucked into the lush enclosures of the One&Only Ocean Club, one of the oldest and most venerable institutions in the Bahamian Islands.
Specifically set on the tranquil shores of Paradise Island, where gentle tradewinds ripple across balmy blue waters, One&Only commands a spectacular stretch of pure white sand beach, plus acres of gardens that scatter, catapult, and roll down to the sea — luxuriously ebullient everywhere you look.
It’s extraordinary to find oneself in a beach resort of such polished sophistication. In many ways, the place reminded me of other old Colonial hotels I have loved around the world — from the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas in Iguassu Falls, to the Rosewood Hotel in Bermuda, Tortuga Bay in the Dominican Republic and even the Waldorf Astoria in Boca Raton — but this spot took their old world elegance to an especially glamorous next level.
The secret-something is the hotel’s epic, historic, intimate grounds, with which few places in the world can compete.
Construction on One&Only Ocean Club began in the early 1940s and continued into the late 1950s; it was designed to be the private paradise of Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren. Built as a magnificent estate with intricately landscaped gardens inspired by those at Versailles, he originally christened it Shangri-La.
In 1962, Wenner-Gren sold his estate to Huntington Hartford II, heir to the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company fortune. Hartford transformed the property into a 52-room hotel — gracing the property with terraced gardens, fountains, bronze and marble statuary imported from Europe, and a magnificent 12th-century Augustinian cloister, shipped piece-by-piece from France. He rechristened it ‘Ocean Club’ — the grand opening of which was attended by William Randolph Hearst, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and a host of dukes, earls and ambassadors.
To this day the hotel still boasts an equally glamorous guest list (while we were there that included a foreign prince and a major pop star) — and indeed its quiet elegance makes everyone feel like royalty.ABOVE| an adorable mother-daughter duo BELOW| wearing Tom Ford sunnies, Carolina K earrings, TM Rio de Janeiro kimono, Mara Hoffman swimsuit (as seen on Instagram!) ABOVE| early evening in the 12th-century Augustinian cloistersABOVE| quiet time in the cloisters, wearing Tom Ford sunnies, Blaiz earrings, JW Anderson shirtdress, Forever21 bodysuit, Miguelina pants, No21 slippers BELOW| the Balinese-inspired spa offers eight lavish treatment villas, nestled within blooming tropical gardens and featuring dreamy outdoor bathtubs ABOVE| wearing Tom Ford sunnies, Blaiz earrings, JW Anderson shirtdress, Forever21 bodysuit, Miguelina pants, No21 slippers BELOW| a young guest with her grandmother ABOVE| wearing Blaiz earrings, Rodebjer tunic, Miguelina pants BELOW| Tom Ford sunnies, vintage tuxedo shirt, Forever21 bodysuit ABOVE| Tom Ford sunnies, Blaiz earrings, vintage tuxedo shirt, Paloma Blue pants (similar)