Flockhill Unveils the Latest Vision in Ultra-Luxe New Zealand Lodging

An exclusive preview of the imminent feast for the senses at Flockhill, New Zealand's latest luxury lodge.

Flockhill. Lisa Sun Photography

New Zealand could never claim a shortage of luxury lodges. Indeed, the famously adventurous nation practically wrote the book on magical backcountry cottages. Deep-pocketed adventurers have had no trouble finding solace here ever since a swanky boom era began in the early 2000s. Now, a new lodge, Flockhill, is ready to unveil the dramatic next chapter in that ongoing story. 

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Since 1857, the property has existed as a working sheep station, scattered across 32,000 acres of corrugated wilderness. Until recently, it was known only by a few local farmhands. That all changed in 2022, when new investors cut the ribbon on a four-bedroom, $10 million standalone villa, nestled at the foothills of the Southern Alps mountain range. The modernist shrine suddenly found itself as a global destination for deep-pocketed jetsetters and A-list celebs like John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. Most of them now land by helicopter after a 20-minute ride up from Christchurch, 50 miles to the east. 

Although the $11,000-a-night residence comes with a dedicated staff of butlers and a professional chef, it feels more like an impossibly opulent bed and breakfast than a proper hotel. This will change come December 2024, with the opening of seven multi-bedroom villas, next to a spa and gym, fanned out across a river valley below the existing chalet. It all arrives alongside a Michelin-grade dining concept called Sugarloaf. Here’s an exclusive preview of this imminent feast for the senses, which can be booked starting at $2,400 per night. 

The Homestead entrance. Sam Hartnett

“The space and climate on the property make our culinary venture quite unique,” Taylor Cullen, executive chef for Sugarloaf, tells Observer. “We intend to harness the station’s microclimates to grow, forage and harvest produce. We will provide our own honey, meats, vegetables—even our own clay [for the cooking vessels].”

Menu development is currently underway, so Cullen can’t disclose any flagship dishes just yet. But he has a penchant for cooking fresh ingredients, simply and strikingly, over fire. Think seared venison with thyme, rosemary and horopito pepper, under a drizzle of South Island olive oil. Most recently, he honed his skills working at Chiswick—among the top-rated restaurants in Sydney.

A sneak peek. Brad Japhe

He partnered with the design team at Flockhill to build out a workspace custom fit to his specifications, meaning a sizable hearth in an open kitchen, directly under the gaze of guests. 

The surrounding ranch is home to approximately 12,000 sheep and 450 cattle, so land-based proteins will never be in short supply. But during the cooler months (temperatures can regularly dip below freezing from June through August), Cullen will stockpile plenty of pickled vegetables, vinegars and jams to keep clientele on a locally-sourced meal plan.

Sugarloaf. Lisa Sun

Both Sugarloaf and the new villas speak to a markedly modern, minimalist design sense. Edges are sharp and geometric, and metal beams and rafters are exposed in the lofty interior of the restaurant. Yet it still strikes a comfortable balance with the native vernacular. Angular exteriors conform to the topography, suggesting they are a part of this rural landscape; that it has been here, lived in, for years. 

And that’s quite literally the case with the property’s new speakeasy bar. It occupies an old schoolhouse dating back to the late Victorian era. The wooden shed was plucked from a defunct coal mine in the neighboring valley and moved on wheels to its current location—facing the back patio of Sugarloaf. The historic structure is quaint and modest in stature, but large enough to accommodate what will soon be the country’s most exclusive whisky tasting room

A look inside. Lisa Sun

The walls will be lined with more than 50 bottles of specialty malts, amassed primarily from Scotland. But it will also lean into hard-to-find releases from across New Zealand’s nascent craft whisky scene. Cardrona, Scapegrace and Waitui are three standout producers in the space. A private dining room will adjoin the cozy drinking space.

It presents an appropriately rustic way to unwind on a property where your days are typically spent surveying the scenery on horseback. Guides moonlight as shepherds, and often take guests across the acreage for an intimate sense of what that activity actually entails—although, the dogs do most of the work. Alternatively, you can hike over and through the neighboring limestone blocks of Castle Hill: stark protrusions of earth, which prompted the Dalai Lama to call the area the “spiritual center of the universe” during a 2002 visit. No big deal. 

Spiritual, indeed. Prudence Upton

For Cullen and his team, then, the challenge here is an outsized one: to bring to the table a caliber of cuisine befitting this grand landscape. He’s eager to rise to the task. “The flavors that our kitchens will create from high country produce are wholly unique to the property itself,” he promises. “Plus, it’s not often you find a speakeasy whisky bar in the middle of nowhere.” 

Indeed, kicking your boots up at Flockhill is a singular experience. It is a seamless integration of rugged and refined; an unmistakably New Zealand pronunciation of modern luxury. And though you don’t have to go so far as the Dalai Lama in your own appraisal, you will undoubtedly perceive a real sense of magic in the air while here. Or maybe that’s just the next set of guests arriving by helicopter.

Flockhill Unveils the Latest Vision in Ultra-Luxe New Zealand Lodging