At a Glance
Imagine four villas – from a historic homestead to an ultra-modern showstopper – folded into 4,000 acres of a working farm that is also located in one of New Zealand’s most picturesque bays, and you have a sense of the amazing discovery that is Annandale.
- The incredible sense of remoteness far from civilization
- The innovative in-villa dining, all farm-to-table, of course
- The superlative star gazing
- The sunken hot tub at Seaside villa, beside a modern, rectangular gas fireplace
What is difficult to picture before you’ve been to Annandale is that the “working farm” part is neither gimmick, petting zoo nor tourist attraction. Owner Mark Palmer dreamed of owning a farm first and foremost, and that is what drives the revenue. Depending on the season, there are some 7,000 sheep and 700 cattle here, which are bred for wool and meat sales. Wherever you go—either hiking or four-wheel driving—you encounter herds of animals dotting the Annandale pasture, located high above the ocean, with large rolling hills and dramatic cliffs that plummet into the sparkling water below.
Guests arrive at the Homestead, a lavishly restored manor house that is surrounded by glorious gardens and overlooks Pigeon Bay. This was the original villa that Palmer, a Kiwi who is based in Texas, restored and outfitted for his family. It’s a sumptuous centerpiece, complete with an infinity pool, gym, tennis courts and several massive gardens—all accessible only to guests renting this four-bedroom villa. Instead of placing the three additional Annandale villas alongside one another on the same bluff however—that would have been too easy—Palmer added two of them in utterly secluded coves and the third, a romantic charmer for two, on top of a hillside surrounded by pastures.
The latter, called Shepherd’s Cottage, occupies a restored, historic home, and its single bedroom has beautiful views towards the sea. It’s as quiet as can be—after all, even this villa is a 30-minute drive from the Homestead.
The true showstoppers on property, however, are Scrubby Bay and Seascape, both designed by award-winning Auckland architect Andrew Patterson. Scrubby, about a 45-minute drive from Homestead, is a low-lying, cabin-style villa with three master bedrooms and a bunk room for the kids, as well as a pool, hot tub, massive living room and fully outfitted kitchen. The wood-paneled doors all slide open so that interiors and exteriors blend into one continuous place.
Seascape, a cove over but seemingly worlds removed, is a couples-only haven. With its mix of slate, concrete, pine and an abundance of glass, it looks like something James Bond and Sir Norman Foster co-designed. The open-floor living room-kitchen-bedroom is framed by massive, floor-to-ceiling windows, leading to a terrace that fronts a bay that is entirely yours for your stay. The rectangular gas fireplace—opened by the push of a button —separates a comfortable, al fresco sitting area on one side from the sunken hot tub on the other, and every inch has uninterrupted views. It’s a stunning, contemporary hideaway, but once the care taker's car that dropped you here has disappeared up the steep rocky driveway, you are keenly aware just how far from “civilization” you are —staying here is almost like high-end back-country camping.
Make that very high-end back-country camping. When guests arrive, the stainless steel fridge is stocked with dinner, the next day’s breakfast and a nice selection of wine. This is how Annandale has, for now, solved the logistical challenge of distance and in-villa dining. Chef Paul Jobin pre-prepares multi-course meals and labels them with preparation directions. If this sounds like airplane food, it isn’t. On the night we visited, we dined on Moroccan chicken pie dressed in wild watercress oil. Next up was a 30-hour-cooked lamb shoulder with a smoked kumara puree, seasonal vegetables and a crisp salad (homegrown, of course). And for dessert, chocolate pecan pie with an avocado ice cream and rhubarb coulis.
The best addition to dinner, however, are the views and feeling of complete seclusion and privacy – the coves of Seaside and Scrubby Bay and the hillside of theShepherd’s Cottage are yours alone for the time you stay there. Indagare Tip: The “we cook, you serve” concept is innovative, chef Paul’s cuisine is absolutely delicious and the directions are as straightforward as an be – but people who do not cook at all back home might still find executing the meals a bit challenging. At Scrubby Bay, Seaside and the Homestead, having the chef come to your villa to prepare the food sur-place is also possible.
Who Should Stay
Couples, groups of friends and families who want bragging rights to having stayed in one of New Zealand’s most unique villa concepts, and travelers who are looking for a remote getaway. Activities on property include kayaking, clay pigeon shooting, hiking and farm-touring, but everything except hiking involves a long drive back to Homestead, which is where activities are based.
Ideal Length of Stay
Two to three nights, ideally at the end of a busy New Zealand itinerary when you just want to relax, unplug and recharge before heading home.
It’s a 90-minute drive (down some very windy roads) from the Christchurch Airport. Easier is an arrival via helicopter, which takes about 15 minutes.
Written by Simone Girner