Travel

Extend Your Summer on This Beachy Spanish Island

But minus the summer tourists.

pixelliebe/Shutterstock
pixelliebe/Shutterstock
pixelliebe/Shutterstock

Every summer, literal millions (including, hello, the Love Island cast) make their way to Mallorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands. Found south of Barcelona and east of Valencia, it’s one of the hottest vacation destinations in the Mediterranean. That means during the peak season between June and August, the small island is brimming with tourists overflowing on the incredible beaches, packing into the well-known party scene, and jostling to try the amazing culinary offerings.

But something magical happens around the end of September in Mallorca, when summer peaces out. Come autumn, the triple-digit temperatures finally disperse, leaving cooler weather that won’t zap your energy, and fewer tourists arrive to battle for restaurant, hotel, and car rental reservations. After all, the island is in between the size of Delaware and Rhode Island, so you do the math. Plus, visitors at this time of year can still enjoy the top attractions that make the island so special while also being around for the fun fall festivals. Here’s what to do on the Spanish island this fall.

Balate Dorin/Shutterstock
Balate Dorin/Shutterstock
Balate Dorin/Shutterstock

Go town hopping

You might not think it because of how small Mallorca is, but there’s a world of difference between the experiences you have on the island depending on where you are. Many towns have totally different vibes. The good news is that you can easily get around from place to place thanks to the island’s short driving distances.

If postcard-worthy villages stacked up terraced hillsides sound like your thing, then it’s off to Dei脿 and Banyalbufar you go. Another charming mountain village is Valldemossa, famously called “the most beautiful place in the world” by piano composer Fr茅d茅ric Chopin. Set in a valley, S贸ller is an attractive town with a bustling plaza, and from there you can take a historic tram to the seaside Port de S贸ller. Of course, seeing the island’s capital, Palma, is a must with its nightlife and shopping. Other worthwhile stops on your island tour include Pollen莽a, Port De Pollen莽a, and Art脿. Since it only takes about an hour to drive across the island, you might just be able to get to them all.

DINS Santi Taura
DINS Santi Taura
DINS Santi Taura

Celebrate food all season long

Whether you’re at a restaurant or fall festival, the harvest is ready for feasting across the island. Choose fresh seafood from the counter at La Parada del Mar in Palma, like the famous S贸ller red prawns cooked to order. For a more elegant dining experience in Palma, reserve a table at the adults-only, Michelin-starred DINS Santi Taura. To try typical Mallorcan cuisine, visit the massive Restaurant Es Cruce, where you’ll find loads of locals eating dishes like arroz brut (a rice dish made with vegetables and meat) and tumbet (a dish of eggplant, potatoes, and bell pepper with tomato sauce).

Look at the island’s festival schedule, and you’ll see that fall is truly the time for foodies. In October there’s the Mostra de Llampuga in Cala Ratjada dedicated to the dorado fish; the Feria de la Sobrasada in Campos, which celebrates the local raw, cured sausage; and the Feria del Piment贸n in Felanitx, which is all about the red pepper. In November, you can appreciate olives at Fira de l’Oliva in Caimari, pumpkins at Fira de sa Carabassa in Muro, honey at Fira de la Mel in Llub铆, and mushrooms at La Fira de l’Esclata-sang i de la Muntanya in Manacor de la Vall.

zixia/Shutterstock
zixia/Shutterstock
zixia/Shutterstock

And don’t forget the wine (plus grape throwing)

Mainland Spain has Rioja, and Mallorca has its Binissalem DO region. Found near the centre of the island, it’s a playground for wine lovers with plentiful tasting opportunities at top wineries including Bodegas Jos茅 L. Ferrer, Bodega Biniagual, Maci脿 Batle, and Vins Nadal.

If you come right at summer’s end, you can see La Festa des Vermar, the annual grape harvest festival in the village of Binissalem. The event’s highlight? The wildly fun mess that is the Battle of the Grapes, where it’s encouraged to play with your food as crowds throw grapes at one another. Then, in November, you can enjoy the first wine of the harvest at Santa Maria del Cam铆’s Fira del Vi Novell.

el lobo/Shutterstock
el lobo/Shutterstock
el lobo/Shutterstock

Spread out on Mallorca’s bounty of beaches

Hear “island,” and you probably think “beaches.” Yup, Mallorca has plenty of those, ranging from pebbly ones in rocky coves to white-sand stretches in big bays. In the peak of summer, finding a towel-sized piece of real estate to call your own can be difficult depending on where you go, but come in autumn and you’ll have more than enough space to stretch out-and crystal-blue water at a temperature that’s still lovely to dip in.

Two of the island’s most scenic beaches are Cal贸 des Moro and Sa Calobra. Both are pieces of paradise, where a small sandy strip abuts turquoise water and jagged cliffs. Other popular spots to sunbathe and swim include Cala Torta, Cala Mesquida, and Beach S’Amarador.

Marina Kryuchina/Shutterstock
Marina Kryuchina/Shutterstock
Marina Kryuchina/Shutterstock

Hike without sweating or waiting around

In summer’s sweltering heat, going for a hike that’ll leave you soaked in sweat probably ranks low on your list of things you want to be doing. But when things cool off in the fall, it’s a perfect time to explore the Serra de Tramuntana, a mountain range that stretches from the southwest to the northeast of the island. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can explore it by taking the Ruta de Pedra en Sec, or Dry Stone Route.

Not down for an extended hike, but still want to appreciate the island’s natural beauty? Check out iconic viewpoints like Mirador Es Colomer, Mirador De Sa Foradada, and Son Marroig. All are pretty low-effort destinations, especially considering your reward of amazing panoramic views where land meets sea. Bonus for coming outside of the busy season: fewer hordes of tourists to elbow to snap the perfect photo.

Cap Rocat Hotel
Cap Rocat Hotel
Cap Rocat Hotel

Where to stay in Mallorca

Whether you want upscale accommodations in the island’s bustling capital or you’re looking for something quieter amidst nature, Mallorca has lots of enticing options. The thing is, planning a trip to Mallorca in the summer requires a good amount of advanced booking if you want to have your pick of said options. With autumn trips, it’s easier to find openings at some of the island’s best stays.

Can Bordoy Grand House & Garden is a 16th-century manor house turned high-end, boutique hotel that stands out as an oasis in the heart of the city of Palma. For even more luxury, there’s the ultra-private and romantic Cap Rocat, which is situated in a 19th-century fortress in the middle of a protected nature reserve. Other superb places to serve as your home base include Agroturismo Alquer铆a Blanca in Bunyola and Predi Son Jaumell Hotel Rural in Capdepera.

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Cindy Brzostowski聽is a freelance writer and editor based in Berlin. In addition to聽Thrillist, her work has been featured in聽TripSavvy, The Points Guy, Greatist, Time Out, Roadtrippers, and more. Follow her on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for 鈥楧ome Life鈥 in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie聽

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of 鈥榖ig city life鈥 has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays 鈥榦ff-grid鈥.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time鈥攕oft or adventurous鈥攊s positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom鈥檚 Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours鈥 drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly 鈥榦ff-grid鈥. In the figurative 鈥榳ellness travel鈥 sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply鈥攂olstered by solar鈥攁nd rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom鈥檚 Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into 鈥楽OS ONLY鈥. Apple Maps gives up, and you鈥檙e pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It鈥檚 great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it鈥檚 not far off that 鈥Welcome鈥o Jurassic Park鈥 jaw-dropping moment鈥攜our futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You鈥檙e almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree鈥nstead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a 鈥榝uture-proof鈥 form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they鈥檙e also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they鈥檙e an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom鈥檚 Creek Nature Domes鈥 owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It鈥檚 also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer鈥攅xperienced in renewable energy鈥攁nd that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire鈥攜our campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You鈥檒l need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you鈥檙e at it). There鈥檚 a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S鈥橫ore packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet鈥攏one of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there鈥檚 no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there鈥檚 plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It鈥檚 these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom鈥檚 Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region 鈥攁 new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They鈥檝e already got one couple鈥攚ho honeymooned at the Domes鈥攔eady and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom鈥檚 Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the 鈥楳ountain Top picnic鈥 is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you鈥檙e encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I鈥檒l leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don鈥檛 actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom鈥檚 Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom鈥檚 鈥攍acking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll鈥擨 finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

鈥業 am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I鈥檓 grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.鈥 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom鈥檚 Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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