New Yorkers have a new, nature-based getaway a few hours — and a world away — from the city. Christina Ohly is one of the first to have a look around.
GARDINER, New York – So, can the Hudson Valley get any hipper?
Yes, apparently it can.
Wildflower Farms, the latest addition to the Auberge Resorts Collection portfolio, sits on 140 bucolic acres in the Catskill Mountains and has been conceived as an ultra-luxury, nature-inspired retreat for harried New Yorkers and their aesthete friends. I was lucky to visit the property during its opening week — a time that could have been a series of quirks and imperfections (not to mention labor shortages), but I found a smooth, seamless escape — despite a rather inconvenient torrential rain.
Just under two hours by car from Manhattan, the property is perfect for weekend getaways or, I can image, private events, casual work retreats, and weddings. The central restaurant, Clay, has already become a destination within a few short weeks, where farm-to-fork cuisine and a bustling open kitchen make people feel warmly welcomed. A central outdoor fireplace serves as the epicenter of the resort, with stunning views of the Shawangunk Mountains in the distance. Cocktails and light bites are served throughout the day.
With 65 asymmetrical stand-alone cabins designed by LA architects Electric Bowery and interiors by Ward and Gray, what was once a tree nursery has been beautifully transformed into a design-led compound that is at once cozy, with warm local wood and stone and quilts made nearby, and cutting-edge in its fitness, food and spa offerings. Because the lodgings are so spread out, guests can feel as immersed or as isolated as they like, making it an ideal spot to hole up for a winter weekend.
Every detail at Wildflower Farms has been thoughtfully considered, from the farm tours with local grower Jax (kids will love feeding the on-site chickens) to the indoor and outdoor pools that will be huge draws throughout the seasons. Owners Phillip Rapoport and Kristin Soong Rapoport — themselves parents of young children in need of a city escape — considered all the small touches including chic Japanese tea kettles, minibars stocked with locally sourced snacks, and custom cedarwood soaps from SAIPUA. The whole experience feels understatedly indulgent, with muted tones and comfortable touches at every turn.
The foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains are not the Hudson Valley that you know. The ride to reach the property is a less picturesque than the one on the other side of the Hudson River, but once you arrive — bliss! The property has miles of hiking and biking trails for solo excursions, but you can also take advantage of guided treks, snowshoeing expeditions, flower arranging classes, cocktail-making courses, and much more. Wildflower Farms is leveraging its terroir, with many of the ingredients found on both the Clay and Green Room menus — not to mention in Thistle, the serene spa — sourced from their own gardens.
Upstate modern: glass everywhere, lots of natural wood, aluminum roofing. The effect is a compound that feels interesting architecturally as it strives toward sustainability.
What’s on Site
Thistle, with six treatment rooms and knowledgeable staff, will make you feel relaxed upon entry. Also of note is The Store in the soaring lobby that’s stocked with nature-inspired goods by Gardenheir New York, including gardening tools and gear, candles and incense, and local antiques. Food is central to a stay here, so be sure to check out The Maple house where you can learn about pickling and preserving, try foraging, and on and on.
The 65 rooms range in size and style — 28 Bower Cabins sit beneath the tree canopy; 32 Meadow and Ridge Cottages are set amid a sea of wildflowers. In addition, five expansive Ridge Suites with views of The Gunks each feature a circular central fireplace, a private terrace with a cedar hot tub, and an outdoor shower. The offerings are varied, but if you’re choosing, select a meadow room instead of one right under the trees (falling branches and acorns can make for a lively night). If you have heliocentric tendencies, request one of the more light-filled offerings (each house is situated differently) if you plan settle into a reading nook with craft popcorn in hand. All rooms come well-equipped with large screen TVs, excellent WiFi, robes and slippers, and probably anything else you left at home.
Food and Drink
You will find plenty of both, but I most enjoyed eating outside by the central fireplace, even in the cooler weather. The menus at Wildflower Farms are not expansive, but what they offer is done well: a garden milk bread appetizer stuffed with tomatoes and topped with Maldon salt; a main of Dancing Mackerel finished with farm radish, thyme, and mirin. Chef Rob Lawson previously worked at Kaijin in Bangkok and includes Asian influences in his menus. The bar in the main restaurant serves an extensive wine list and endless local craft beers and has a great feel, reminding me of a 1970s ski lodge. My room service breakfast found me savoring an excellent cappuccino and house-baked bread with the soothing sounds of the Shawangunk Kill in the background.
The menu is a bit limited if you’re staying for longer than a day or two and I found myself wishing for something simple like a Caesar salad or a club sandwich. (Yes, I powered through.) Also, they don’t serve no Diet Coke (or anything in tacky, mass-produced, environmentally unfriendly packaging, for that matter), and for anyone who knows me, no DC is major.
This Place Is Perfect For
Couples looking for a quiet place to read by the fire; outdoor enthusiasts — particularly rock climbers — who love the terrain here; families who want to spread out and let kids frolic (sort of) freely. Also great for anyone who likes a good workout (excellent equipment in the spacious gym, plus yoga classes) or a rigorous massage. I loved going on a Japanese-inspired forest bathing excursion led by local healer Tenney Gravatt, who encouraged me to leave the stresses of the real world behind.
But Not So Perfect For
Anyone who needs action. The food offerings are limited and you aren’t likely to want to eat off-property, so plan accordingly.
I loved the spare, sleek fitness center, the lovely garden (and learning about everything from chamomile to heirloom tomatoes to dahlias), and particularly the staff — everyone is trying so hard at this brand-new property and I found myself grateful for being so well looked after. Also of note is the seamless check-in and check-out process. In fact, you will rarely make a transaction once you’ve been given your round chip to access your home away from home.