NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – DECEMBER 28, 2020
This week: Heliopolis on Ile du Levant, near Le Lavandou, France
In the category of beautiful places that most of us can’t get to right now, one of our top rankings goes to a place that amazingly few people seem to even know about – especially outside of France. Heliopolis is a real village, with shops, bars, hotels, a hairdresser, a post office, and several amazing restaurants, perched on the end of Ile du Levant off the Mediterranean coast near Toulon. Once considered Mecca of the French naturist pioneers, today it’s a sleepy little island where the city noise of automobiles and scooters has been replaced by the incessant chirping of cicadas. (No cars other than service vehicles allowed on the island!) There are over 250 “naturist resorts” in France, but this is not one of them. This is an actual village, where nudity is allowed almost everywhere We particularly adore the charming proprietors of our favorite restaurant on the island, La Fourmi, who wait tables wearing nothing but an apron and a smile. We love the long walks along the sea in the early morning, and lazy naps over rosé near the pool or the sea in the afternoon. In time, we’ll post additional reviews here about our top choices for dining and lodging, but suffice it to say, a holiday on Ile du Levant is true bliss – like nothing we’ve experienced anywhere else.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? Well, you gotta really wanna get there! The most direct route is from the seaside town of Le Lavandou, from which ferries sail to Levant and the adjacent island several times a day, depending on the time of year. (See ferry schedule here.) You can catch a circuitous bus route to Lavandou from Marseille, but we typically drive. There is also a parking lot right on the port where you can leave your car. Sometimes, we have more belongings in the car than we want to lug out to the island, so we reserve a spot in this little garage near the port where our car is totally secure. Peace of mind! (Check their hours though – they aren’t open on week-ends and holidays.) Depending on the routing, it takes 30-60 minutes to get out to the island. From there, you can make the trek up the very steep hill to your hotel or rental on foot, or you can meet the mini-bus that will take you and/or your luggage right to the door – for a fee, of course. Finding English speakers is hit and miss, though if you simply have a document to point to, there aren’t that many places to get lost on the island. 🙂
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? We usually see a few families with kids on the island, though it’s a pretty sleepy place. If they’re old enough to snorkel or dive, you could have a really amazing vacation here, especially if your rent one of the many self-catering villas, but there won’t be organized activities. There are a couple hotels on the island that very discreetly cater to, eh-hem… “adventurous couples,” though that’s easy to avoid if you simply do your Trip Advisor research first. This is not a throbbing night-life kind of place, but instead, a quiet little hamlet where you can hardly avoid an amazing view of the sea.
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? The hospitality sector has grown tremendously since the island finally got electricity in 1989! There are several very comfortable hotels with poolside restaurants, a few more in the budget category, and many choices of guesthouses or self-catering villas. The nicer hotels now have air-conditioning, which is mostly helpful in abating the mosquitoes that can be a problem on the island, especially at night. Heliotel is our personal favorite spot in the luxury category, though we’ve also had good stays at La Gecko and L’Esplanade. There’s even a small campground right in the middle of the village.
*Google indicates La Gecko is permanently closed, but they still have an active listing on Naturist BnB. We hope the latter is correct.
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? Our typical day on Ile de Levant goes something like this: Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea is followed by a brisk (naked) walk down the hill to the coastal path to trek the wandering trail over the craggy coastline. There are several places that provide access should you want to take a quick morning dip. No worries, you’re likely to dry off in the arid morning sun in a matter of minutes. Sometimes we’ll double back across the port, wrapping in a pareo to get across the pier, then naked again to the little Grotto Beach, before heading back up the hill for a “strenuous” day of reading and floating in the pool. There are two small markets on the island where you can purchase provisions like wine, cheese, and charcuterie, but we love visiting the little restaurant at La Gecko for a simple lunch and their homemade rum for dessert. For dinner, you can have your hotelier book restaurant reservations for you. There are several on the island, reasonably priced compared to what you’d pay for a meal like that at home. The biggest challenge is moderating wine consumption knowing that you’ll need to walk back up the hill to your hotel – in the dark – once your three-hour dining extravaganza is complete.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – DECEMBER 21, 2020
Shangri-La Ranch Clothing Optional Resort, near Phoenix, Arizona
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We encountered several people during our weekend at Shangri La Ranch who most definitely call this desert oasis their absolute Naturist Nirvana. In fact, one could not help but overhear folks chatting in the pool about their experiences here, versus those at another renowned nudist place near Tucson. “Oh, the people are so much friendlier and real here! I felt at home the minute I arrived!” That points to an interesting dichotomy amongst people seeking out clothing-optional travel: those who are seeking a community where they can socialize and belong; and others who simply want to soak up Vitamin D near the pool with a good book – in solitude. Community is Shangri-La’s strong suit, undoubtedly integral to the charter of the family who’s been running the place for the past twenty-five years. As a destination resort, however, there are a few ragged edges. Mainly catering to RVers, the “updated rental accommodations” are showing their age, and the grounds are dotted with refuse materials (old appliances and such) that would be better hidden behind a fence on the back forty. We could look past that, however, for the virtue of the grapevine of hiking trails up the hill into the cactus gardens, where the golf carts don’t go. As a new generation of management is working to bring the place up to snuff, it will be fun to watch the place evolve in the years to come.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? Located about ten miles north of Phoenix, I can’t imagine getting there without a car (or perhaps, an RV?) There are few amenities nearby, so even if you arrived by taxi, you’d likely feel isolated as the onsite restaurant is typically only open on weekends, and the boutique store in the office only sells towels, hats, sodas and such. Since we had a self-catering rental, we were pleased that it was only a 20-minute drive into the suburbs where you could find just about any shopping mecca you could want for.
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? Having visited on a fall weekend, we noted evidence of children having been on the grounds, (old playground equipment and Little Tykes toys) but the place was devoid of young families during our stay. The pool complex is lovely, with a large (but cool) conversation pool, and a warmer pool (seems counter-intuitive, I know) where the volleyball net resides in its permanent home. In addition to retired folk who have planted their RVs here for the long haul, this is one of those resorts that serves as a local escape for those seeking community and companionship on the weekends. Observations from our visit suggest the crowd is largely in the 50+ demographic, as there simply may not be enough going on to keep an eight-year-old entertained.
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? We stayed in a Park Model unit that had been designated as recently renovated. There were new fixtures in the kitchen, and a few other cosmetic updates to make the place livable, and it was reasonably priced for what it was. That said, we find that self-catering options at American naturist places are not the bread-and-butter of those establishments, as most of the regulars reside in elaborate RVs with all the comforts of home. This is one such place, with rental accommodations suitable for a decent night’s sleep while allowing you to cook for yourself, but would it make muster if you were renting a cabin outside of a nudist park? A recurring theme in the world of clothing-optional recreation, particularly in the US.
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? I referenced Shangri La – in a very positive light – in a previous post about the sense of community in American nudist places, telling the story of a couple who hadn’t intended to move to a nudist camp, but that was all that was available to them when they were seeking a place to park their RV. This is a community, and clearly a refuge of belonging and happiness to the people who are regulars there. That’s an important distinction in the world of nude recreation. Despite a few quirky things about the place, if that’s what you’re seeking, you could hardly do better than Shangri La Ranch.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – DECEMBER 14, 2020
Koversada Naturist Resort, Vrsar, Croatia
We’ve been going to Koversada since 2005, sometimes for a day visit while staying across the Fjord at Valalta, other times taking an apartment perched on the hillside overlooking the sea. People say the place doesn’t live up to the reputation it once held back in the day – when Croatia was still part of communist Yugoslavia, but we love the place, nonetheless, for the long walks along the shore, the bars and restaurants with fresh seafood and amazing views, and especially the quiet little island where only tent camping is allowed. The nearby village of Vrsar is quaint, with a few charming restaurants if you’re willing to put your clothes on. (Our favorite is Petra, on a quiet side-road leading into town.) There are two small markets on the grounds, and a sundry store where you can purchase water -shoes, floaties, and the usual beach apparel. You could easily survive a couple weeks there with a pareo and a pair of flip-flops. If you’re a devoted naturist, you owe it to yourself to visit this legendary resort.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? You really need a car, though you probably won’t use it much once you get there. It’s about a six hour drive from southern Germany, (Munich) or less than an hour if you want to fly into Pula or Lljubliana, Slovenia. There’s also a fast-ferry that crosses the Adriatic from Venice to Rovinj or Poreč, but you’d still have to hire a taxi to the resort.
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? This is most definitely a family resort and you’re likely to see lots of families with young children, (not so many teens) especially during July and August. The weather is still good in May, June, and September, though mornings can be chilly during the shoulder season. Overall, the family naturism thing seems more popular in France, but most kids would still have a really great time here, especially if you invest in an inexpensive rubber raft!
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? There are many options, ranging from tent camping, to smallish caravan sites, to studio apartments without cooking facilities, to full apartments with wifi and kitchens. You have to pay for wifi by the day or the week, but I’ve always had good connectivity, so it’s been well worth the money. Also nice to have a car so you can stock up on groceries at the Consum super-market in town. The apartment complex is at the end of the resort up a pretty steep hill. We enjoy the exercise, but that might be a consideration for some.
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? This is a great place, especially if you are seeking a quiet place to read a book next to the deep blue Adriatic sea. Even if you’re staying across the Fjord at Valalta, it’s most definitely worth hiring a water taxi to make a day visit and have lunch at the fish restaurant. Most definitely one of our happy places!
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – OCTOBER 5, 2020
Skinny Dippers Naturist Retreat, Campos, Mallorca
Skinny Dippers is a truly exceptional retreat for – as they say – the discerning naturist. The first clue that you’ve stumbled into something special is when you try to book, only to find that most of the twelve rooms have already been reserved since the previous summer, as repeat guests are the lifeblood of this little hamlet nestled in the Mallorcan farmland. The place is run by Grant and Jordi, a gregarious couple who have made food and hospitality their livelihood. Breakfast is included in the room tariff, while lunch and dinner are available most days for an extra charge. Dinners are clothing optional, and always of a gourmet quality. You are only a short drive from the famous naturist beach, Es Trenc, and there are several villages in the region if you choose to venture out for dinner or other touristy endeavors. Best of all, we’ve met some of the most interesting people here over the meal table, including couples from Europe, America, Israel, and lots of Brits. Great conversation is guaranteed!
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? Well, while officially part of Spain, Mallorca is an island, which requires a bit more planning than jumping in the car. There are loads of cheap flights from the European mainland, though we’ve twice taken the car ferry for an overnight crossing, with a small cabin on board. We’ve enjoyed alternating lazy days by the pool with exploring the island, and a car is absolutely necessary should you wish to trace our steps for long, naked early morning walks along the shoreline path that stretches for miles. (Read about our naked walks!) We’ve known people to take a 40-minute taxi ride from the airport and borrow bicycles upon arrival at the inn, but I think we’d grow a bit restless with that after a few days.
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? We’ve never seen children at Skinny Dippers, as it’s mainly a couples place, though our young-adult daughter did join us there one year for several days and fit right in. I don’t know if they have an adults only policy, but if so, it has nothing to do with the decorum expectations on the property. Nightlife here consists of a little too much wine and laughter at the communal dinner table, noting that most guests are of the “empty-nester” variety.
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? Rooms vary in size and amenities, but most have a small fridge and access to a full service kitchen should you wish to ramp up the self-catering thing and save yourself some money. There’s no air-conditioning, but opening the windows in the evening has typically been absolutely comfortable, even in the dead of summer. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, the pool is huge, and there’s lots of space to find a quiet corner to yourself should you so desire. (There is also a second complex, somewhat more modest, with several apartments, though we’ve never stayed there.) Be sure to book a massage during your stay. Heaven!
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? By the second visit, you will come to know some of the regulars who return year after year and stay for two or three weeks. Both Grant and Jordi have a keen memory, seemingly able to remember where they sent you for dinner or on an excursion two years ago. This is the kind of place that makes you want to stop traveling the rest of the world simply so you don’t lose your place in the annual queue. Will be interesting to see how they weather all the disruptions of both COVID and Brexit.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – SEPTEMBER 28, 2020
Gavdos is quickly becoming a fleeting memory of everything that was good about the age of nomadic hippies camping naked on the beach! There’s still a bit of that to be found on this remote island, but more and more tourists have found this amazing hideaway as well. Bummer! We’ve been twice. Once on a day trip, then later for a stay lasting the better part of a week. You can be naked on the beach almost anywhere (if you avoid the crowded ones with families) and I found little reason to wear clothes when walking the long trails through the scrubby brush toward the sea. You could walk naked for hours each day. This is not a luxury resort kind of place, but the legendary “naked Greece” people talk about from decades ago.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? As far as I know, there are only two. A small ferry (maybe 20 passengers, max) sails from the port of Chora Sfakia most summer days if the weather is cooperative, while a car ferry sails from that same port, or from Palaiochora – in each case, one or two days a week. But here’s the rub! If the water is too rough, the boat doesn’t go, which makes it a bit tricky to reserve a room on the island as you can’t be totally sure when/if your boat will sail. We had good luck in each direction, but made sure we had a Plan B on each end in case we got stranded. Having rented a jeep on Crete, that was an excellent vehicle for getting around the island, noting that there are no gas stations on the island, so you need to plan accordingly. Then again – the island is less than 20 miles long.
WHAT’S THE FAMILY VIBE? We saw a lot of families on Gavdos, though none of them were naked. The family areas were the places you were most likely to get the stink-eye for taking off your clothes, and in mid-summer, that crowd can easily overwhelm the island. Other than that, there’s no reason not to bring the kids along, especially if they enjoy hiking and exploring a new beach every day, but ours would have surely found that to be a little under-stimulating. This is a very quiet, chillax kind of place.
HOW ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS? There are several little inns on the island with simple accommodations, and typically, with a taverna attached. To my knowledge, none of these are designated as naturist, though our innkeeper was fine with us being naked on our private terrace. Don’t expect a swimming pool with a swim-up bar! And since the options are limited, inn-keepers can afford to charge a good bit more than you’d expect to pay at a similar place on Crete or mainland Greece. Supply and demand!
ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? I adore Gavdos, and can’t wait to get back, if only for the naked trekking alone. (My wife was less willing to hike naked, not wanting to offend the locals. But we didn’t pass many people on our walks, and those we did seemed unoffended by me.) Again, provisions are limited on the island, but there are many tavernas, usually near the beach, frequently with little stores attached to meet your basic needs. Click through the links below to read our full narrative review about Gavdos, as well as that by a travel writer who documents her time there, including a link near that bottom of her page that takes you to a guide of all the naturist beaches (she could find) on and around Crete, including Gavdos.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – SEPTEMBER 21, 2020
Sky Farm Nudist Resort, New Jersey
Where is it: Just under an hour west of New York City, in the suburban hills of New Jersey.
How did we like it?: A great little “members only” club with a great mix of folks and a welcoming environment. A few folks own cabins in the woods, and tent camping is possible, but this is really a week-end visit destination.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
Ada Bojana Naturist Resort, Montenegro
Where is it: On the southern tip of Montenegro, just across the river from Albania.
How did we like it?: This must have been a really great spot back in the day. The beach is still amazing, (which makes it all worth it,) but the apartments are looking a little tired. Great dining nearby if you’re willing to put clothes on.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – SEPTEMBER 7, 2020
Sun Eden Naturist Resort – South Africa
Where is it: About 45 minutes from Pretoria; 90 minutes from the Johannesburg airport. You need a car to get there.
How did we like it?: One of the nicest places we’ve visited, with cabins to rent to match every budget. The weather is perfect in January and watching the wildlife is amazing.
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – AUGUST 31, 2020
Solair Family Nudist Resort – Connecticut
Where is it: Northern Connecticut, almost to the Rhode Island border
How did we like it?: One of the original “legacy nudist camps,” established in the 1930s on over 300 acres of land. A mountain lake, beautiful walking trails, and a modern clubhouse and pool. Nice place!
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – AUGUST 26, 2020
La Jenny Naturist Resort – France
Where is it: About 45 minutes west of the Bordeaux, Merginac airport, on the southwest coast of France
How did we like it?: Absolutely our go to place in France when it comes to nakation. A sprawling holiday village amidst the pine trees that parallel miles and miles of naturist friendly beach. We will always think of La Jenny as the place that made family naturist vacations a reality for our kids
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – AUGUST 17, 2020
Oriental Beach Village – Phuket
Where is it: About 90 minutes north of Phuket International Airport
How did we like it?: It’s sort of a funky resort with spacious condo units, a gorgeous pool complex, and access to the beach at one of the few (if only) places in Thailand where you can get away with naked beach combing. A bit pricey for what you’d expect to pay in Thailand, but a truly unique naturist place
NAKED PLACE OF THE WEEK – AUGUST 10, 2020
Abbott’s Glen Naturist Retreat – Vermont
Where is it: Southern Vermont, USA
How did we like it?: Loved it! Beautiful Setting. Lovely hosts. Nice mix of people, including a few “younger” couples. Great walking in the woods down by the stream. And it’s also near The Ledges; a well know naturist beach. Most definitely one of America’s best naturist destinations!