Unique camping destinations

“Been there, done that” when it comes to tents, trailers and cabins? There’s nothing wrong with roughing it, but sometimes we want more than the average camping trip can offer. “Glamping” (luxurious camping, that is) offers that same escape to nature with a few more perks and a lot more style. The wide variety of accommodations now available allow us to live out a dream or try out a different lifestyle, even if it’s just for a couple of nights.

While you can expect to pay more than your average campsite, the experience (and bragging rights) are worth the extra room in the budget. Here are some places to inspire your planning:

Dream in a drain pipe

Who would have thought concrete could be so comfortable? Austria’s Das Parkhotel turns refurbished drainpipes into unusual “rooms” to spend the night. The suites are sparsely furnished but larger than you might expect. At 6.5 feet in diameter, there’s plenty of headspace and room for a cushy double bed, side table, light and space to stow your luggage. Of course, there’s a back wall and front door that locks, not to mention a few decorative touches.

Though classified as a hotel, Das Parkhotel offers a camping feel. Now in two locations — with three suites in Otteneheim and five in Bernepark — its freestanding suites are located in parks near many amenities. Bedding is provided, but you’ll need to bring your own toiletries and rely on nearby public facilities for washrooms and showers.

What will a night in a drainpipe cost you? It’s up to you — Das Parkhotel has a “pay what you wish” policy.

Cozy up in a caravan

They aren’t your typical trailers. Traditionally decorated and fully restored, “Gypsy” or Romany caravans are now a feature at several campgrounds through out Europe. If you’re seeking a little peace and quiet, try a specialty site like the Wriggles Brook Gypsy B&B. Tucked away in a valley surrounded by farmland in Herefordshire, England, this unique B&B offers two “bow top” wagons which sleep two, and a “showmans” wagon with two beds for families. Outside, relax in a hammock or roast marshmallows over a traditional mill stone campfire. In the morning, a full breakfast is brought to your wagon.

Naturally, there’s a cabin with shower and bathroom facilities too. Expect to pay £75-£110 per night (including breakfast) depending the size of the wagon and time of week.

If you can’t get enough of sleeping on wheels, Holly Farm Holidays has a converted railway car turned sleeping quarters known as “Big Red”.

Relax in a roulotte

If you love the character of a caravan wagon but are looking for something a little larger, try a roulotte (as caravans were known in France). These caravans have the size and many of the amenities of a modest RV — including a bathroom, cooking area and sitting area — with the charm of a historic home. (Think rich furnishings, luxurious materials and ornate carvings.)

For example, the Roulotte Retreat has a selection of accommodations to choose from, all set in private estate near the Eildon Hills in Scotland. The three-acre estate allows a little room to spread out and explore, and the retreat is located near hiking paths and small villages. A stay starts at £90 per night, though the roulottes aren’t recommended for kids. (There are cabins onsite for families.)

Turn in at a tree house

Ever wanted to spend the night in a tree house? At Free Spirits Spheres, you can slumber in a large, wooden sphere suspended among the trees of Vancouver Island’s coastal rain forest. Inside these surprisingly spacious spheres, you’ll find a double bed, settee and table, and a galley area complete with fridge, counter tops and microwave. (Don’t worry — the spheres are tethered in a triangle of nearby trees for stability.)

Rates for double occupancy range from $155 to $225 per night, depending on which accommodations you choose. For safety reasons, the spheres can only accommodate people ages 16 and up. 

If you’re looking for a family-friendly adventure, try the Family Ecolodge in Batilly-en-Puisaye, France. Set in an old farm an hour outside of Paris, the lodge offers Tree Huts for families. (Think of them as cabins on very secure stilts.)  Be prepared to “rough it” a little — the huts don’t have running water or electricity, but do have dry toilets. Rates start at €79 per night.

Slumber in a safari tent

If your attitude towards tents is “go big or go home”, you’ll be happy to hear safari-style accommodations are popping up all over the world — like Yellowstone Under Canvas in Montana. Even the basic safari tents put your usual camping experience to shame with a cabin-sized space, a king sized bed, safari chairs, chest of drawers and side tables. The deluxe safari tents also come with a wood-burning stove, wood floors and your own private bathroom next door — in a tipi, of course.

Safari tents start at $189 USD per night while the deluxe go for $289 USD. (If you’re travelling with kids, you can set them up in a tipi next door for $59.) Since you’re so close to Yellowstone National Park, the resort offers packages that include a wildlife safari. “Honeymoon” packages are also available for a romantic getaway.

Doze in a geodesic dome

We’re all familiar with what traditional tents look like, but here a covered lattice of triangles forms a dome instead. On the outside, it means a sturdy structure with room to stand and plenty of space for a bed and other furniture inside. The construction of the domes makes them more resistant to heat and wind, and offers a part camping, part hotel feel.

For instance, the EcoCamp Patagonia in Chile offers accommodations in beautiful Torres del Paine National Park. Dine and relax in the large communal dome after a day of trekking, and retire to your own personal domed suite with a bed, wooden floors, private terrace and windows for stargazing. The camp lives up to its eco-friendly designation with wind and solar power.

Stays at the EcoCamp are part of vacation packages that include meals and various excursions. Prices range $1,313.00 USD per person (for a four-night stay) to $4,136.00 USD per person for a premium eight-night package.


Snooze in a shepherd’s hut

Loving the eco-friendly travel trend? Shepherds used this style of eco-friendly accommodations for shelter while tending their flocks at night — and where better to try them out than in the countryside of Devon, England? Dartmoor Shepherds Huts has recreated some of these traditional dwellings right down to the lamb’s wool that insulates the timber walls. The huts provide everything you need for a stay, including a cooking area complete with pots and utensils to take advantage of local produce.

The huts sleep two people, with the option of airbeds for the kids (or they can sleep in a nearby bell tent). Unlike many other glamping sites, Dartmoor Shepherds Huts does welcome dogs. Stays start at  £65 per night or £420 per week. (Add another £5 to bring the family pooch.)

Of course, there are many great getaways where you can spend the night — this list is a small selection to inspire you.

Before you book, there are a few things to consider:

Location. Are you looking for a country escape or something close to a major city? Both settings have advantages and disadvantages — like access to transportation and activities.

Amenities. Price doesn’t tell the whole story — look at what you’re getting for your money. Some places offer perks like electricity, private bathrooms, wireless internet access and air conditioning while others may be more basic.

Packing list. Will you need bring your own bedding, toiletries and supplies? The business’s website should be able to tell you what is provided, what can be rented and what you need to pack.

Rules and regulations. Like any campground or hotel, you can expect some restrictions like fires or noise. Many places don’t allow pets, but some accommodations aren’t suitable for children either.

Top photo: Free Spirit Spheres Inc. ©Tom Chudleigh
Second photo: Wriggles Brook Gypsy B&B

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