In The Shadow of a Magic Mountain
Flanked by New Zealand’s majestic peaks, Flockhill Homestead blends refined luxury with rugged pragmatism—whether you’re sampling freshly foraged produce or kicking back beside an open fireplace. Prepare to be beguiled.
Beyond Lake Pearson and Sugar Loaf peak, the rose-gold brushstrokes of early morning spread slowly across the sky. It’s a moment of magic, turning the expansive lake into a liquid mirror that reflects the dawn’s brilliance in a flood across the land—all the way from Arthur’s Pass to the delicate mounds of feathery brown tussock at my feet that glow in the whispered light of daybreak.
I’m not always an early riser, but I can’t resist this dramatic daytime welcome to Flockhill Homestead, tucked in the Craigieburn Valley on New Zealand’s South Island. I’d arrived via a 75-minute drive from Christchurch in the velvety darkness of night, beneath a canvas of stars drawn over the region like a Merino wool blanket. Where I stand now, on my room’s private terrace, the only sounds are birdsong and the occasional bleating of sheep. The hustle-bustle of everyday worries seems a million miles away.
For these reasons and more, I’m not the only person drawn to Flockhill. The 14,600-hectare working sheep station and experiential luxury lodge in the magnificent Southern Alps blends into the alpine landscape as if it’s always been here. The result is a feeling of being in your own national park, where you can spend your day adventuring among scree slopes, limestone outcrops and braided rivers, returning to your elegant room and a delicious meal showcasing the flavours of the rugged and wild region. Flockhill’s remote location makes guests feel like they have the national park to themselves.
Aotearoa, the country’s Māori name, has long appealed to travellers wanting to indulge in the nation’s raw nature and relaxed attitude. Once they do, many have chosen to move here, to fulfill their career and lifestyle ambitions in equal measure in a true life-work balance—a need that became heightened during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2023, for example, provisional migrant arrivals from the United States to New Zealand grew to 4,264 from 1,479 in 2022, and, according to the World Bank, it’s the best place to do business. Tech billionaire Peter Thiel has become a citizen, and Chance the Rapper has long been vocal about his plans to move to the country.
New Zealand is now also easier to get to from the United States, thanks to new direct flights to Auckland from New York on both Qantas and Air New Zealand. United Airlines recently launched direct flights to Christchurch from San Francisco, and convenient direct flights from Sydney to Christchurch abound on Qantas and Air New Zealand.
Introduced in 2022, after a build of two years, Flockhill Homestead sits among the natural beauty of this sprawling landscape.
“We are refreshingly new, building a lodge that accommodates a modern way of living that does not disturb or infringe upon its surroundings,” says Andrew Cullen, Lodge Manager. The welcoming four-bedroom retreat, made with natural timber and stone, offers views of the dramatic surroundings, from Lake Pearson and Sugar Loaf Peak to Purple Hill and beyond.
The sumptuous interior is a refined counterbalance to the rugged outdoors, featuring art from New Zealand artists, blankets handmade from local New Zealand lambs’ wool, all-wool mattresses and handblown glass pendant lights from Auckland-based Monmouth overhanging the dining room table—itself made of black Mataī (black pine). Guests enjoy meals with the best foraged and sourced New Zealand ingredients (made using Nordic-style cooking techniques by the Homestead’s private chef), the finest wines from the country’s growing areas, and ample moments of relaxation on the outdoor terrace or in the swimming pool.
Adding to Flockhill’s barefoot luxury footprint, the property is introducing 14 villas and a restaurant, due to open in December 2024. Each villa complex will boast a lavish lounge and a fireplace with king rooms on each side, enabling larger families or groups of friends to be housed together. The calming palette, outdoor textures, welcoming fire and floor-to-ceiling windows promise to inspire guests to surrender to the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
Sugarloaf, the new restaurant, is named after the iconic Sugar Loaf peak that towers on Flockhill’s horizon like a guardian angel. The eatery’s location between the west and east coasts of the country’s South Island allows chef Taylor Cullen to forage and procure native, local and home-grown produce from land, sea and freshwater realms—giving guests the chance to experience New Zealand’s rich essence.
New Zealand-born and European-trained, Cullen hails from big-name restaurants in Sydney, most recently as Head Chef of Chiswick in Woollahra, with Matt Moran. “It’s the dream,” says Cullen. “To study, play with and live amongst this immersion of nature, food, architecture, adventure and wild terrain littered with native ingredients—what a daily gift it is to share it all with others.” Cullen’s goal is to grow and use upwards of 90 percent of produce on the station and be able to sustain the restaurant’s needs year-round.
All the optional activities within the station’s property bring guests back to nature; get a tour of the farm, focused on the station’s creatures and habitat; experience a day in the life of a flock by attending a station muster, where a farmer and his dogs herd sheep from high-country scrub and pastures; take a mountain-bike tour among the Flockhill wilderness; brave chilly water to climb smooth boulders in the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve; hike along the waterfall trail or to a boulder field with 360-degree views of mountain ranges, basins, pasture and limestone outcrops.
“I grew up on the Canterbury Plains with Flockhill on my doorstep,” says Tim Heine, Flockhill’s new Activities Manager. “The ever-changing geography and sense of beauty and wilderness here is unparalleled.” Heine is especially excited about pack rafting, a new activity launching in December 2024, which will explore the entire southern edge of the property, including three distinct gorges on the Broken River.
Guests interested in getting deeper into the culture by embarking on a Flockhill culinary adventure can fly via helicopter to the heart of Canterbury’s limestone country and join dogs sniffing out prized truffles that will be incorporated into a refined lunch. For an intimate look at the art of Māori pounamu (greenstone) carving, a rail journey on the TranzAlpine brings you to the studio of a longtime artist who gathers pounamu from local rivers and mountainsides on the West Coast.
It’s a rare gift to make time seem to stand still, but Flockhill does it so seamlessly. The property’s efforts to keep the balance between luxury and pragmatism in this remote wilderness ensures that this land will be preserved for generations to come. Even while standing here to witness the effects of the spinning
Earth, I feel connected to the land in a deeper way. It’s a feeling I’ll take home with me, nourish, and perhaps—if I’m lucky—return to see again.
Homestead rates from NZ$9,200
per night (around $8,500), two-night
minimum. Villa rates from NZ$3,450
per night (around $3,190),
Photography by Lisa Sun
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