The drive from Nadi to Suva takes in the Coral Coast, Sigatoka and Pacific Harbour regions and along the way Craig Osment found several good excuses to prolong the journey … and a splendidly elegant colonial surprise at the end.
Probably one of the most driven roads on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu is Queens Road between Nadi, home to the international airport and Suva, the nation’s capital. This scenic highway takes in the island’s western and southern coastlines and passes through the renowned resort areas of the Coral Coast and Pacific Harbour via Sigatoka.
While the total distance is only 190kms and can be done in around three hours, it can also be taken at a more leisurely pace. On a recent ‘pub crawl’ down this easy stretch of sealed tarmac I took in half a dozen of the best resort hotels on the coast and wasn’t disappointed in any although each one offers individual style and facilities from family friendly to sophisticated and stylish.
The starting point was the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa Hotel, which is among my favourite destinations in the Nadi area and great for both business and pleasure. The resort sprawls over several hectares of beachfront on the impeccably groomed Denarau Island and features 296 rooms, all of which enjoy private balconies and five-star inclusions. The resort is host to three restaurants, a café and a selection of bars. Indoors you can choose from the very chic V, the signature fine diner, while Lagoon is a family-friendly buffet style room with live cooking stations and fresh island fare. Outside on the beachfront is Salt where you can sit under umbrellas sampling the local Indian and seafood specialties while watching the water-borne activities at the adjacent Adrenalin water sports facility. From here it is just a few steps to the enormous in-ground pool and lounging area.
If you’re here on business then you’ll appreciate the comprehensive WiFi connectivity, the self-service business centre and the conference facilities. For details visit: www.accorhotels.com
From here it was on to the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, about 50kms south. This self-contained slice of paradise sits on the shores of Natadola Bay, one of ‘the best beaches in the world’.
Here you’ll find all the five-star luxury you’d expect from this chain as well as an 18-hole championship golf course which has twice played host to the Fiji leg of the PGA Tour of Australasia tournament.
Apart from the beach and three pools, the choice of restaurants ranges from Navo which serves fine fare in elegant surroundings overlooking the lagoon, to Toba Bar & Grill which sits on the huge infinity pool adjacent to the beach and provides a relaxed and casual atmosphere accompanied by wood-fired pizza, burgers and grills. Or there’s Sanasana which sits alongside a refection pool and the old sugar cane rail track which threads its way through the resort. Here you can enjoy buffet breakfasts, á la carte lunches or themed buffet dinners. Then there’s the higher altitude Vatu Lo Bar and Restaurant which sits atop the rise behind the main resort and adjacent to the golf course with stunning views over its own pool and the Pacific Ocean.
And, as the name suggests, there is the inevitable spa which in this case is located in the serene and lush grounds and features a full menu of pampering and revitalising treatments combining Asian, Eastern and Western techniques. For bookings and more see: www.fiji.intercontinental.com
The Coral Coast
Another 50kms down the coast, just south of Sigatoka is Fiji Hideaway Resort and Spa set on another white sand, palm-fringed beach. This boutique resort is on the Coral Coast and offers a selection of air conditioned bures and villas from deluxe beachfront to garden-view. Dining takes place by the pool overlooking the lagoon and the chef here cooks up selections that cater to all tastes from local to traditional international favourites and offers wine from a well-stocked cellar of Australian and New Zealand varieties. For evening drinks you can retire to the Coco Bar.
Also on offer here are an array of activities from diving to fishing, snorkelling and surfing as well as kava ceremonies, fire walking displays, village tours and culinary cultural experiences where you’ll learn how to cook Fijian style in an underground oven of Lovo pit. See: www.hideawayfiji.com
Next stop is The Warwick Fiji which is only another 12kms down the road and part of a large international chain with several properties in the Pacific; this is a hotel of substance with a grand foyer and impressive entrance driveway.
There are five unique restaurant choices, three bars and a romantic private island bure dining option. The culinary landscape covers Japanese, Italian, local seafood specialties, and the brasserie style Bula restaurant.
Apart from the beach there are two pools, a kids’ club and a full suite of activities from kayaking and canoeing to fish feeding and glass bottom boat tours. There’s also a floodlit tennis court, two squash courts, a gym, an archery range, bicycle tours and village tours. For something more relaxing, there’s the spa set on the water’s edge where you can luxuriate in a range of treatments from aroma salt and milk baths to tropical manicures and pedicures using Pure Fiji and Pevonia Botanica products. So plenty to amuse the entire family.
More can be found here: www.warwickhotels.com/fiji
Twenty-minute’s drive towards Suva is the Pearl South Pacific Resort which has been around for a while and is undergoing a major expansion at the moment. This is due for completion by December this year and will add 110 rooms and suites to an already impressive offering. You can choose from garden rooms, ocean view rooms or one of their six individually themed penthouse suites which take in views of the ocean and the nearby islands of Nanuku, Beqa and Yanuca. There is also access to their own championship 18-hole golf course.
As the resort is located on the Beqa lagoon one of Fiji’s top dive sites, a bit of underwater activity is a must. At an additional cost guests can strap on their scuba tanks at Beqa Adventure Divers, located on-site which offers a range of PADI dive courses for both beginners and experienced divers.
The dining options here are numerous with five restaurants or bars on the premises with a wide selection of food and ambience from alfresco at the Beach Bar through to overlooking the 18th hole at the golf club. Among the other facilities are a cinema, conference centre, gym, nanny service and the Pearl Spa. Like all the other hotels mentioned The Pearl will arrange and host weddings and offer the services of experienced wedding planners and co-ordinators so that you can get hitched on the beach, in the garden or the Country Club.
The last 50kms brings us to Suva and the spectacular Grand Pacific Hotel which is the Grande Dame of Suva’s hospitality industry and rightly claims to be where ‘elegance meets history’.
With its colonial Raffles-esque main building the Grand Pacific has been at the heart of Suva’s social life and high society since its opening in 1914 when the room rate was eighteen shillings and sixpence per night. Since then it has hosted royalty (Queen Elizabeth – three times, and has a suite named after her), actors, authors and aviators and an opera singer – specifically Burt Lancaster, Somerset Maugham, James A. Michener, Charles Kingsford Smith and Dame Nellie Melba. It has also suffered the indignity of having fallen into disrepair, decrepitude and closure for 22 years before a glorious revival after a multi-million dollar renovation and re-birth in time for her centenary last year.
The original 37-room main building built by the Union Steamship Company has been restored to its former glory and the grafting on of a modern new wing has expanded the accommodation to more than 100 rooms. The splendid galleried foyer with its louvred doors and antique brass ceiling fans gives on to an elegant verandah overlooking the pool and Suva Harbour. Here you can sit on white rattan chairs and enjoy either or both of the hotel’s happy ‘hours’, the first runs from 6pm to 8pm with the second kicking in at 10pm, so no excuse to be un-happy.
Eating and drinking here means making decisions, will it be at the Prince Albert Restaurant & Terrace (royal references abound here and the address is Victoria Parade)? Or the Levuka restaurant, or the Na Toba Pool & Bar Restaurant, the Victoria Lounge, the Steamship Bar, or the Swiss Bakery? Here you’ll find yummy pastries and breakfast on the outdoor terrace with views to Albert Park opposite and in close proximity to the extremely ‘quaint’ doorman in his trad livery.
If it was once good enough for HM and her consort, then after the restoration it’s good enough for a return visit and even if you’re not a resident of Buck House, you’ll feel like royalty here. Go to: www.grandpacifichotel.com.fj