Wildflower Farms Offers a High-End Escape for Nature-Starved New Yorkers

Part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, this is the first luxury brand hotel to open in New York’s Hudson Valley.

>> Book now: Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection

New Yorkers have been migrating north in the summer to avoid the city’s brutal heat for decades. In the early 20th century, the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and other titans of industry built spectacular vacation homes known as Adirondack Great Camps in the remote wilderness of Upstate New York. When New York City’s Jewish community wanted to get away in the 1960s, there were so many resorts in the Catskills Mountain region to choose from it became known as the Borscht Belt.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, demand from weary city dwellers looking for easy access to fresh air and the outdoors was accommodated by a hotel boom in the Catskills and Hudson Valley that had been simmering for a few years, thanks to small local brands like Foster Supply Hospitality, which began transforming historic properties into boutique hotels back in 2014.

When Auberge Resorts Collection opened Wildflower Farms in the Hudson Valley in September 2022, it marked the arrival of luxury hotel brands to the region, cementing its transformation from a summer hot spot into a year-round escape for New Yorkers.

Spread out across 140 acres on a former tree farm below the Shawangunk Mountain Range in Gardiner, New York, Wildflower Farms is just a 90-minute drive north of Manhattan but feels worlds away. In addition to 65 freestanding cottages, Wildflower Farms is also home to Thistle, an Auberge Spa, as well as three miles of trails and a working farm that provides seasonal vegetables, eggs, and yes, wildflowers to Clay, the on-site fine-dining restaurant. Of course, five-star service and amenities come with five-star prices. When the hotel opened last fall, nightly rates started at $1,000. (For those suffering sticker shock, stays are available for less during the winter months.)

Maple Lane at Wildflower Farms

Maple Lane is a reminder of the hotel’s former life as a tree farm.

Courtesy of Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection

Though other luxury hotel brands may have set up shop in New York City before moving upstate, Wildflower Farms is Auberge’s first hotel in the state. The Hudson Valley was a natural choice for this brand, which is known best for its one-of-a-kind resorts in popular U.S. vacation spots like Napa Valley and Telluride. Wildflower Farms’ aesthetic—envisioned by West Coast architects Electric Bowery and New York–based design studio Ward and Gray—is bucolic, evoking the muted color palette and style of Eyvind Earle’s midcentury illustrations in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and blends in beautifully with the natural surroundings.

Wildflower Farms differs from other Auberge Resorts Collection hotels: It doesn’t have the sharp lines and mountain modern decor you’d find at the Lodge at Blue Sky in Park City, Utah, nor will you find the Provencal elegance on display at Auberge du Soleil in California’s Napa Valley. But like those other Auberge properties, Wildflower Farms offers a luxurious retreat with top-tier service for nature-starved city dwellers. Here, wellness doesn’t mean just a spa treatment or two and a yoga class; it’s a chance to truly immerse yourself in nature by going forest bathing and even picking your own eggs from the chicken coop each morning.

Checking in

I arrived at Wildflower Farms on a warm autumn afternoon late last October. As I drove through the small downtown of Gardiner, passed signs for the Tuthilltown Distillery, and turned off to the resort that had opened a few weeks prior, I noticed the digital clock of my rental car said it was an unseasonable 70 degrees outside.

After winding down the long driveway, I pulled my car up to the valet stand at the Great Porch, a covered open-air lobby connecting the hotel’s restaurant, Clay, with its check-in desk and spa area. While the valets tagged my luggage, I stood mouth agape at the view beyond. The pitched barn-style roof of the Great Porch framed the Shawangunk Mountains—referred to affectionately as “the Gunks” by hikers and rock climbers—in the distance. The foliage had lingered longer than expected and the mountain ridge was still alight in reds, oranges, and yellows. After taking in the view, my eyes settled on the nearly 10-foot-wide firepit at the center of the Great Porch surrounded by velvet couches with light wood frames and tweed armchairs topped with denim-patchwork throw pillows. I was already dreaming of cozying up around the firepit with a book and a cocktail later that evening during sunset.

A bathroom and bedroom at Wildflower Farms

New York–based design studio Ward and Gray is responsible for the rich, natural look of the cabins and cottages at Wildflower Farms.

Courtesy of Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection

After the valets drove my car to the parking lot, I declined an offer for a golf cart ride to my accommodations, a 650-square-foot Meadow Cottage a few minutes’ walk down the hill from the Great Porch. In addition to Meadow Cottages, there are also similarly sized Ridge Cottages featuring that gobsmacking view of the Shawangunk Mountains, plus 475-square-foot Bower Cabins located under the forest canopy at the southern edge of the property. (Other than size and location, the main difference between the cottages and the cabins is aesthetic: Cottages are wooden structures with wood-clad ceilings while cabins are more rustic metal structures with textured-canvas walls that bring to mind camping tents.) For multi-generational trips, you can also book a two-bedroom Meadow Cottage or a Ridge Suite, both of which have over 1,000 square feet of space for families to spread out.

Each cottage and cabin comes with floor-to-ceiling windows designed to let the outdoors in so you can stay connected to the natural wonders of the area, even when you’re watching the sunrise from underneath a custom-made patchwork quilt or unwinding in the deep soaking tub after a hike. Even the raw edges of the stone countertops in the bathrooms evoke the horizontal quartz ridges of the nearby Shawangunk Mountains that have drawn rock climbers to the area for decades.

Private patios with an array of seating arrangements like Adirondack chairs and daybeds are also standard across each room category. I quickly settled in on the daybed on my cottage’s back porch to catch up on emails, still unwinding from my NYC mentality. It rained briefly—cooling off the temperature to something seasonally appropriate—but the pitched roof of the cottage protected me, my computer, and my glass of red wine as I let my mind drift from emails to the deer leaping through the meadow into the forest beyond.

Indoor saltwater pool

The indoor saltwater pool allows for year-round swimming.

Courtesy of Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection

Immersing yourself in nature is a theme across the resort. In addition to an indoor saltwater pool, six treatment rooms, an herbal steam room, and a dry sauna, Thistle, an Auberge Spa also has two outdoor hot tubs for year-round use and a large outdoor pool for warm-weather visits overlooking the Gunks. When it’s time for a massage or facial, you’ll find that the treatments are done with hand-harvested, small-batch oils and scrubs made with local medicinal plants and herbs. Other traditional wellness elements include a 3,000-square-foot fitness center and yoga studio with complimentary movement classes each morning like mat pilates, yoga, and meditation.

Those who truly want to get out into nature can walk three miles of trails right on the property itself. Maps are provided at check-in for self-guided hikes through the woods and along the river that hugs the property, but I recommend joining the guided Japanese-style forest bathing walks to tap into your five senses and learn about the aromatic benefits of local plants like Eastern hemlock. The half-mile walk takes about 45 minutes and is available on Thursday mornings for free. In the spring, guests can look forward to ramp foraging outings in these same woods. For those who want to venture beyond the resort, Wildflower Farms can also help book skilled, local guides for ice climbing excursions in the winter as well as hiking, biking, and rock climbing trips in warmer months.

Farmers holding produce and chickens

Farm tours are offered daily.

Courtesy of Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection

Of course, Wildflower Farms isn’t just a farm in name—there’s a working farm on the property with a greenhouse for tomatoes, plus beds of vegetables. If you were wondering, they do grow wildflowers here, too. But when I arrived in late October, one of the property’s farmers, Jax Hughes, told me the last blooms had just succumbed to the season’s first frost. In future seasons, Hughes said guests can also look forward to bounty from apple and pear orchards planted in 2022, along with a mushroom forest and berry bushes. (Hughes and the other farmer, Brady Loux, host complimentary daily farm tours at 1 p.m. for any guests curious about the farming process.)

The hotel’s restaurant, Clay, and its executive chef Rob Lawson reap the benefits of having an on-site farm. Each morning, guests are invited to meet at the chicken coop at 8 a.m. to feed the hens and roosters, gather eggs, and bring them back to the restaurant where they’ll be cooked and delivered to your table in the form of omelets, breakfast sandwiches, or any way you like. (I highly recommend the breakfast sandwich—the chef slathers strawberry jam between the runny eggs and bacon for a sweet-savory combo to die for.) The tomatoes were yielding the last gasps of their season when I visited in October. Since they weren’t salad-worthy, the chefs took them and baked them into a milk bread served with miso butter and Maldon sea salt. I had that twice during my stay and I still dream about it.

Tomato milk bread and the interiors of Clay restaurant

The garden milk bread with summer tomatoes and miso butter is a must-order at Clay, the restaurant at Wildflower Farms.

Courtesy of Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection

During my farm tour, Hughes also introduced me to the property’s four Berkshire pigs and let me feed them a few beets we dug up earlier. In addition to eating table scraps, the pigs also helped keep the hotel sustainable when the walk-in fridge failed before the hotel’s opening. (I heard they particularly enjoyed a wheel of fine cheese.) Since this is farm-to-table in the truest sense, in the winter, the pigs moved from the pasture onto the menu as Wildflower Farms Pork Chops served with chicory, Anson Mills grits, and lardo.

The hyperlocal food chain is serious business here, and Wildflower Farms will also participate in the brand’s Taste of Auberge culinary series; an upcoming weekend features cooking classes and meals with Gramercy Tavern chef Michael Anthony, and other chefs from New York and around the country will be tapped to host similar future events.

As I drove home after my two-night stay, I felt that familiar tinge of sadness that follows the best kind of trips. (I yearned for another serving of tomato milk bread and already missed my daily morning walks in the forest.) But alongside that melancholy was another feeling: contentment. I was well-fed, well-rested, and more relaxed than when I arrived. The true sign of a vacation well spent.

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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