The spectacular setting is 500 acres of rolling, verdant parkland owned by Somerset County. The lovely Raritan River runs through the park and is the inspiration for the hard-to-pronounce name. Need some help? NAH (rhymes with"law")-ti-rar is Raritan spelled backwards. The name was chosen long ago by one of the wealthy families that lived there. The centerpiece is a 1912 mansion on top of a hill that overlooks a protected view shed. It feels like you're on an English aristocrat's estate.
It will be the first spa with its own 12-acre working farm. Right now the farm supplies Ninety Acres, a highly successful farm-to-table restaurant in the property's historic carriage house on site. It raises its own poultry, sheep and pigs (who get to eat kitchen scraps). Ninety Acres will remain open to the public and be a add-on dining option for spa-goers. The exciting news is that the farm is large enough to supply the spa kitchens, too.
The farmers grow organic strawberries (almost impossible to find) and just about any herb or vegetable the chefs desire, like anise hyssop, lemon basil and Asian cucumbers. It produces its own honey. The kitchen makes its own bacon, and cooks with lard from its own livestock. There are even plans to grow herbs that will be transformed into Miraval essential oils for the spa.
Miraval at Natirar will offer an intimate luxury hotel experience, including twelve suites in the historic 1912 mansion and a new 56-room wing that evokes the mansion's Tudor-style architecture. The spa itself will be built into a hill to preserve the spectacular 60-mile views.
Expect it to be quite a bit more expensive than Miraval in Tucson. "Our low rates are $400 per person, all-inclusive, in low season," says Miraval CEO Michael Tompkins. "I'm spending that much to stay at the Marriott Newark."
The king of Morocco owned the property for 20 years but he basically ignored it until selling it to Somerset County in 2003. The house needs major work, so Miraval at Natirar is taking it down to the studs for a total renovation, with twelve suites going on the second and third floors. "We're bringing it back to life," says Bob Wojtowicz, the developer who leased 90 acres from Somerset County. Miraval is his partner in the venture, Miraval at Natirar.
A brand new building tentatively called The Manor will echo the mansion's architecture and have 56 more rooms, some with outdoor courtyards. They're also seeking approval for 20 more private villas where families will be welcome, down the hill from the main hotel. It seems likely to happen since they already have approval for cottages there.
The Manor will connect to a new 20,000 square foot spa, which will be built into the hill with a lawn as the roof. A processional stairway flanked by infinity water features will lead into the spa. It will feature the innovative services and programming for which Miraval at Tucson is known, such as Spirit Flight and the Equine Experience.
But Tompkins is also looking forward to offering things that aren't possible in Tucson -- snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fishing in the Raritan River. "It's a programmer's dream," he says. He's sure it's going to be a home-run, and it has everything going for it -- East Coast history, a stunning location, a functioning organic farm to supply food, easy access to NYC and New Jersey (huge spagoers) and exciting Miraval services and programs.