Where does a worldly entrepreneur who has been everywhere go to really relax? Founder of the Virgin empire, Richard Branson spreads his time between the British Virgin Islands and London, with stints in Australia, Africa and the Swiss Alps in between. We rounded him up to find out where he really escapes to when he gets the chance.
How lucky are we? One of Richard Branson’s favourite destinations is right here in Australia. He has a strong affinity with Australians and the Aussie way of life, and this, combined with his love for the ocean mean Richard is drawn to beautiful Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. It’s also home to his Australian getaway: Makepeace Island – a heart-shaped hideaway, removed from the hustle and bustle, surrounded by water, and home to a thriving community of koalas (a conservation effort to regenerate populations in the area).
There are few places where Richard can truly escape from the bustle of the modern world, and Bali is one of those places. His son Sam has spent a lot of time surfing the island’s breaks, and like many Australians, the Branson’s love the laid back, yet active Balinese lifestyle. With an appreciation for the Balinese culture, Richard’s house on Necker Island was designed with distinct Balinese flair.
Virgin and Hong Kong have a long history. Virgin Atlantic has been flying to the city for decades, meaning that Richard has spent a lot of time doing business there and enjoying its bright lights. He loves how dynamic the city is, yet how steeped in culture and traditions it is too. And he’s very much looking forward to Virgin Australia opening up new routes, connecting Hong Kong and Australia.
Whenever he visits LA, Richard likes to stay on the beach at Santa Monica. It’s close to the action of LA, but removed from the commotion. A keen ocean conservationist, he loves to be by the water, and there’s not too many places in the world where you can be in a city but stay on the sand. It’s scenic and relaxed, but brimming with great restaurants and bars. Santa Monica is also home to Virgin Produced, and not too far from Virgin Galactic’s and Virgin Orbit’s offices in Long Beach.
Richard fell in love with the BVI in his 20s, when he wooed his then love interest–now wife, with a trip to Necker Island. Now, he and Joan call the pretty Caribbean island home. The BVI will always have a special place in his heart, as he has watched his kids grow up there, and is now enjoying spending wonderful summers in the sun with his grandchildren there. Richard is also very invested in the local community, through conservation and sustainability initiatives and through mentoring local entrepreneurs.
Where it all begun… Richard moved to London from Surrey, aged 16, to start his first ever business, Student magazine. From there sprung Virgin Records – with a single store opening at the ‘wrong’ end of Oxford Street. Despite this tough start, Virgin’s history is embedded in London – particularly West London. Whenever he gets a break in his busy travel schedule, Richard visits London to see his children and grandchildren, and pop in to the various Virgin businesses that still call London home.
Richard is a keen skier, and loves to get away at least once every winter to Verbier in the Swiss Alps. This is where his children learned to ski, and now where his grandchildren are learning to ski. The family love Verbier so much that they have a chalet there called The Lodge. The mountain retreat is also a great summer retreat for the family.
When Richard’s children were growing up in London, their favourite summer escape was Deià in Mallorca. They bought a property there that they later had to sell. It was a decision that Richard always regretted, as the family had so many fond memories there – so much so that his son, Sam, named his daughter Eva-Deia. Despite having to sell the property, the family still returned to the island for holidays. And just last year they bought back the estate, under the name Son Bunyola.
Having had a few false starts and eventually launching his Virgin Global Challenger adventure from Marrakech, Richard fell in love with Morocco and its people. During that time his parents came across a beautiful run down property in the Atlas Mountains, and together they bought it and restored its beauty, transforming it into a magical holiday retreat, called Kasbah Tamadot. Today, his mother Eve runs her charity organisation, the Eve Branson Foundation from Kasbah Tamadot – improving the lives of young people in the Atlas Mountains through entrepreneurship. Richard visits whenever he can, giving back to the local Berber communities who supported him on his ballooning adventures.
Like Hong Kong, Virgin has a long history in South Africa, flying to Johannesburg for decades, and operating Virgin Active Health Clubs throughout the country. Colourful and scenic, Richard loves Cape Town. He loves the active lifestyle, the energy of the ocean, and the spirit of the people. He spent a lot of time in Cape Town meeting with Nelson Mandela during the Aids crisis and also convincing him to join The Elders. Plus Richard loves to escape to nearby winery, Mont Rochelle, to unwind, and play a game of tennis.
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