Spain, Ibiza: Can you enjoy Ibiza in your 40s? I did

I was never really a raver. I went to a few clubs in London in my 20s. I enjoyed those hedonistic, stay-up-till-sunrise sessions listening to '90s house music but I never got to the clubbing capital of Ibiza. So it's a little surprising to find myself on a cheap flight headed for the Spanish party island when I am very much on the wrong side of 40. A music-loving, and otherwise completely grown-up, friend has decided to stage his 50th birthday party in Ibiza and so here I am.

If you think Ibiza is neon-lit hotels, shouty billboards and gaggles of girls in matching hot pink crop tops, you'd be right. I see all of these things in the first 24 hours. But it turns out that the Baleriac island is much more than the sum of its cliches.

Ibiza has always had astonishing beaches and celestial sunsets but now that the original ravers are middle-aged – younger club-goers head to the cheaper Greek islands – Ibiza has responded with upscale hotels, farm-to-table dining and wellness experiences. Choose wisely and your hotel will likely have a juice bar and offer sunrise yoga sessions that you'll be urged to attend whether you were tucked up in bed at 9pm or 4am.

Still, don't expect the best of Ibiza to immediately reveal itself; like a prickly fruit you'll need to work to find the best parts of this 571-square-kilometre island. But even if you do find yourself surrounded by glow-stick wielding teens – or British lager louts – you're never far from an experience that is much more like a Spanish Saint-Tropez.

A friend who has lived here for a decade after marrying a local says that even in San Antonio – generally regarded as a town that represents the very worst of Ibiza – you'll find tiny local bars where you can chat to the owner while he pours an albarino or godello just one street from the madness.

If it's food you're after, down a winding rocky path on its own private cove at S'Estanyol is the charming, rustic Cala Bonita. Chef Pau Barba cooks simple Meditteranean-style dishes – local produce and seafood – on a charcoal grill. Spend an afternoon here dining in the beachside restaurant in between dips in the ocean. Launch yourself off a low wooden pier or avert your eyes when nudists gather in front of a row of brightly-painted fisherman's huts and, as the sun dips in the sky, dance as a DJ plays soulful and retro beats.

Although it's on a hill adjacent to busy Ibiza Town the "walled city" of Dalt Vila is astonishingly quiet. With gothic Catalan buildings that date back to the 12th century, you'll likely see almost no one on its uneven cobblestone laneways. The peach-coloured 15-room Relais & Chateaux Mirador Dalt Villa was once owned by a wealthy local family and it still feels like someone's home. It is decorated with Roman busts, gilt-edged watercolours and over-sized chandeliers making it feel grand without being fussy. There's a tiny pool and a street-side restaurant serving deconstructed fare and impressive European wines.

Ask a local where they go to watch Ibiza's renowned sunsets and they'll say Sunset Ashram. A Gaudi-esque building carved from orange rock overlooking Cala Conta on the island's west coast, it has a laid-back bohemian vibe and, inexplicably, an Asian fusion style menu as well as a line-up that can include some of the best Baleariac DJs.

Talking of DJs, if you're in Ibiza, I'm sorry, but you are going clubbing. Head to one of the "mega clubs" such as Pacha or Ushuaia or the famed DC10 where you feel the dancefloor vibrating as planes come in to land overhead.

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Our club of choice is Hi-Ibiza to hear the legendary David Guetta on the decks. I'll admit that when we arrive and spot twentysomethings – who appear to be in their underwear – and pay for an undrinkable $20 glass of rosé we have our doubts. But it turns out to an incomparably brilliant night.

On Ibiza a stylish recovery is important. If you're not lucky enough to be staying at Nobu Ibiza on the Bay, you can book a double daybed, including a bottle of Laurent Perrier Rose champagne, mineral water, a fruit platter and sun cream – by the pool here for €200 (€300 in June and July.) With its soothing decor of white, blue and gold, mimicking the views of sand, sea and sun in Talamanca Bay, you'll happily lounge by the pool here listening to chilled Balearic beats.

The chef at the hotel's restaurant Chambao (literally "beach shack") is from Valencia, the home of paella, and his lobster paella is a must-try. If you're heading out again that night and you've got nothing to wear the boutique stocks sparkly dresses and kaftans by Ibiza designer Virginia Valt.

TRIP NOTES

Lauren Quaintance was a guest of Mirador de Dalt Vila and Relais & Chateaux.

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FLY

Qantas flies direct from Sydney and Melbourne to London daily. British Airways flies non-stop from London to Ibiza. See qantas.com

STAY

Mirador de dalt Vila has panoramic views of the Mediterranean. See relaischateaux.com/us/spain/mirador-baleares-ibiza

DISCOVER

Take a day trip to Ibiza's little sister Formentera. An easy 35-minute ferry ride away, the smallest of the Balearic islands has stunning untouched beaches, rustic bars and long lunch spots. At Juan Y Andrea barefoot waiters serve platters of seafood and pans of paella to diners at tables right on the island's best beach, Illetes. Known as Ibiza's Notting Hill, the village of San Gertrudis appeals to ex-pats because of its boho charm. Browse boutiques before settling in at one of the outdoor bars with a Negroni.

See also: Experience an even wilder side of Ibiza

See also: Seven backpacker party towns that have totally changed

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