All aboard to Phuket

Words: Winsor Dobbin
There is reggae music coming from the beach bars. The massage ladies are in full voice and the food stalls are back in business, travel editor Winsor Dobbin reports. Phuket is ready, willing, and able to host Australians once more.  

Regular visitors to Phuket tend to have a favourite beach area to which they return. There is Patong for party lovers, Kata, Karon, Surin or Kamala for those looking for a more chilled vibe.

But there are also a host of other Phuket beach accommodation options depending on what holiday activities you have in mind. Here are a few I have just road tested.   

For families
Guests staying at the recently upgraded Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas (close to the airport but with zero noise) get two resorts for the price of one. 

Just 15 minutes from Phuket Airport, 300 metres from the beach and directly opposite the Turtle Village shopping centre, Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket is seriously good choice for travellers with children. 

There is a huge range of activities for young ones, along with a kid’s club that offers child-minding while Mum and Dad enjoy some “alone” time.

Guests can also utilise all the facilities at sister property Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, a beachfront luxury resort with its own chic Anantara Spa – where you can enjoy a decidedly adult cannabis spa treatment among other treats.

Avani + guests can also dine at the Anantara restaurants and bars in addition to a range of Avani + on-site dining options ranging from some excellent seafood at Claws & Co to tasty al fresco Asian beer garden fare at Chop Chop.  Avani+ Mai Khao Phuket Suites & Villas is described as “a tropical island setting” with suites, pool suites and pool villas ideal for family groups and a large pool, the kids’ club and playground at the centre of activities. 

In addition to a very chilled vibe, there are plenty of activities on offer from early-morning bike rides to a tennis court, gym. climbing wall and plenty of walk options. The more adventurous might like to try their hands at Muay Thai boxing. 

To get a true taste of Phuket, I’d recommend taking the Asian Trails Jai Yen Yean Rum Factory tour, which visits a local distillery, a cashew nut factory and the island’s imposing Big Buddha. 

All accommodation features a large balcony or terrace, big living and dining spaces, kitchens with utensils, washing machines and dryers, en-suite bathrooms with double basins, rain shower and oversized bathtubs, LED TVs with international channels in living areas and all bedrooms, a coffee machine/plunger, hair dryer, in-room safe and complimentary wifi. 

Here is the link to some special deals: 

For peace and quiet
Family owned and operated Sunsuri is located at Nai Harn Beach at Promthep Cape, just 10 minutes from Kata but a world away in pace. 

Here you feel like you are in Thailand, rather than a resort enclave. Sunsuri offers stunning sunset views because it is in the deep south of Phuket, on a hillside but just a short stroll to an unspoilt beach and local shops and food stalls. For lovers of nightlife, busier Rawai is just a short tuk tuk ride away.

The hillside location means Sunsuri rooms and villas offer superb vistas of the ocean and the local lake (popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists). Nai Harn Beach is recognised as one of the best beaches in Phuket (SeaBreeze is a lovely little cafe) and there are also several massage options. 

Sunsuri’s location means it is a little cooler than resorts on the waterfront. Older guests might need to use shuttle buggies to get around as the resort is spread across a wide area and features a few climbs.

When fully operational (as an independent hotel Sunsuri was badly hit during Covid), the hotel features 128 rooms with eight buildings and 22 sensational pool villas designed in a contemporary Thai style.

Each of its accommodation units has a wide balcony with views and the rooms are very spacious. There are two restaurants, two bars, a wine cellar, five swimming pools with a kid’s area, slide and 4-metre diving platform. 

There is free high-speed wifi Internet access throughout the hotel (much faster than in the inner west), a spa, games room, a lounge for early arrivals and late departures, a fitness centre, recreation and sport activities and free bicycles for guests.

There is a talented kitchen team equally adept at Thai, fusion, and European cuisine. 

There are several local attractions, which include some lovely off-the-beaten track beaches, a delightful local temple, and the waterfront Rawai fish market. 

For gourmets:
Looking for a Phuket resort that also offers a range of gourmet experiences? 

Put The Slate into your diary. Not only does the resort have a unique ambience created by leading designer Bill Bensley, but it also features a unique restaurant that is recommended by the Michelin Guide, as well as offering cooking classes and serious wine choices. 

Located at Nai Yang Beach – not far from Phuket Airport – The Slate is within walking distance of food stalls, beach bars and massage options; meaning guests can combine a luxury retreat with some authentic Thai experiences.

The laidback vibe is another bonus. 

The Slate has an impressive collection of suites and villas, including pool villas and the spectacular Bensley Suite, all surrounded by pools and gardens. 

The Thai cuisine at Black Ginger is a standout, along with Sunday brunches at Rivet restaurant.

Black Ginger – worth a visit even if you are not staying at The Slate – appears like an ancient Thai village floating above a floodlit lagoon and is only accessible by raft. 

It is a delightful setting where chef Anongrat “Piak” Meklai uses locally sourced ingredients to reimagine authentic southern Thai recipes. 

Choose from a degustation menu or a la carte and dishes including sun-dried baby prawn with shredded mango tossed with cashew nut; spring rolls with crab claw meat and pork strip; crab meat curry with cha plu leaf accompanied by rice noodle; pork belly with soy sauce Phuket style and Massaman braised beef in thick spiced peanut curry, potato and onion. 

With some Californian chardonnay and a taste of Argentine malbec, this was among the finest dining experiences of my recent Phuket visit. There are several other wining and dining options on site; perhaps a private tasting in The Cellar, with a high table, six stools and a global selection of wines. 

Coqoon Spa, meanwhile, showcases a customised selection of organic essential oils for its wide range of treatments.

Activities range from yoga to Muay Thai, flower arranging or snorkelling lessons, or simply strolling along the shores of Nai Yang Beach. See

Off the beaten track
Just an hour north from the popular beach resorts of Phuket, visitors can discover a different side of Thailand. Think deserted stretches of sand with a hammock to call your own, white-water rafting and award-winning restaurants in which you may well be the only non-Thai in the room. 

For a slice of authentic Thailand that’s not too far off the beaten track, Khao Lak delivers plenty of variety. Khao Lak is in Phang Nga province and is known for its palm trees, endless golden sand beaches and long winding roads into the hills. 

if you are looking for somewhere stylish to chill out that also offers plenty of activities for younger family members – including a kid’s club and a dedicated pool for youngsters – then the recently opened Avani+ Khao Lak Resort delivers.

The 327-room seafront property on Bangsak Beach offers the chance to stroll almost deserted beaches but also enjoy modern luxuries within the resort – including some superb villas with their own plunge pools and some rather excellent cocktails at sunset.

For more active types, the property is home to an AvaniFit complex offering endurance and resistance training, aerobics, and high-intensity interval training. Guests can also sign up for boxing or tennis classes or try their hand at hanging yoga and indoor or outdoor climbing walls. 

Outdoor activities include kayaking, on-property PADI lessons and surfing nearby. But there are no jet skis or noisy motorbikes.

The on-site AvaniSpa offers pampering treatments and healing therapies, while the two-storey AvaniKids club, Khao Lak’s largest, is complemented by a splash park and a skate park – both well away from the accommodation. 

It is the many local experiences on offer, however, that set the resort apart. 

Enjoy a cycle trip along the coast to check out nearby Bang Niang market or take an excursion to the Similan Islands, Phang Nga Bay or Koh Phi Phi. 

Maybe take a day trip to the Takuapa Old Town or go rafting on bamboo rafts through a local forest. 

Two of my favourite activities, both arranged through the hotel, were exploring the ‘Little Amazon’ of Khao Lak rafting along the Wang Kiang Ku River, and the authentic southern-Thai Chinese-influenced cuisine at Nai Mueang Restaurant, where I believe I was the only tourist tackling the spicy, tasty food. 

For bookings, deals and further details see: 

# The writer flew with Jetstar, which has resumed regular direct flights from Sydney direct to Phuket.