BAR HARBOR, Maine — “This was my first time camping or glamping,” said our hot tub buddy at Terramor Outdoor Resort. “It was fantastic!” he reported.
He didn’t mention the Frette linens, the Pendleton blanket, or the cool pebble tiles in the en suite shower, but then again, he was 6 years old. Young families and couples are a key demographic at Terramor, so making this little man happy definitely counts. Small fry were out in force on our late-summer weekend visit: splashing in the outdoor pool, cheating at corn hole on the green behind the lodge, and marveling at the tiny packets of peanut butter at the breakfast station.
It’s possible that these families would’ve considered a no-frills campground if Terramor hadn’t opened on Aug. 1, but the option to go glamping was a slam-dunk. “Our annual research found a huge interest in glamping,” says Whitney Scott, vice president of marketing for KOA (Kampgrounds of America) and Terramor Outdoor Resort. Glamping appeals to a set of travelers who want upscale amenities, she says. “They’re looking for a more hotel-like experience in the outdoors.”
They’ve found it here, at the doorstep of Acadia National Park and the bustling tourist zone of Bar Harbor. It’s an experience that’s perfect for these times, since the 64 canvas-and-wood tents are naturally distanced amid 60 acres of wooded land. The property — the first of its kind for KOA — was formerly a KOA campground. Gone are the rows of RVs — in their place are tents, a dog run (Terramor is pet-friendly), wooded paths, and a boardwalk that links tents to the lodge and pool area. “We put nature back in,” says Scott, planting more than 1,000 trees and repairing the natural environment, turning roads into trails and adding soil and sod as part of the transformation.
The price point, it should be noted, is hotel-like as well — more than $200 per night, as opposed to less than 20 bucks at a state park — another sign that this is “glamping” (glamor-camping), not camping.
You can show up with your clothes and a toothbrush — that’s how hotel-like this is. Terramor supplies bags of ice, firewood, and a cooler. “It’s taking out some of the ‘scaries’ of camping,” Scott says, noting that many people who’d love to try camping don’t have camping gear, and that’s a big barrier. And you don’t have to pack a big cooler of food; the lodge houses a restaurant (currently open for grab-and-go breakfast and counter-order dinner service), even a full-service bar.
To capture a beloved camping element, hanging out around a crackling campfire, each tent has a fire ring, surrounded by Adirondack chairs. There’s also a pavilion with gas grills, picnic tables, and a big wood-burning fireplace. Guests reserve this space during these pandemic times, and can either BYO food or buy one of the grilling kits prepared by the chef — kind of like Blue Apron for camping. You can even buy s’mores kits, or DIY at the local Hannaford supermarket.
But for those of us who camp often, there’s one feature that outshines them all: indoor bathrooms. In the tents! No clamoring out of the tent in the dark to make your way to the bathhouse (or the nearest tree). Even the outdoorsy-est among us is no fan of this. All but four of the tents have en suite bathrooms. (Those guests use a bathhouse located about 50 feet from the tents.) They also have king-size beds (no blowing up an air mattress here) with those luxury linens, and Wi-Fi. (Try finding that at a state park campground! We’re here to tell you: You won’t.)
Terramor’s tents are reminiscent of those you’d find in an African safari camp: made of canvas with a sturdy wood frame, with screened windows and porches. Set on platforms, the tents are designed for four seasons, but they’ll be used three seasons in Maine; Terramor will close in mid-October. Happily, they’ll offer heaters in tents when nights get cold (and that was already the case in early September — we were happy to have that heavy wool Pendleton blanket). Furnishings are custom-made or sourced from L.L. Bean, featuring lots of wood and rustic accents — even, happily, reading lights that will function during a power outage. The main bedroom faces the zippered front of the tent, with a bathroom/shower behind it. Showers are modern, and big enough for two people. Tents are designed for two people (with one King bed) or five (with bunk beds tucked into a space behind the main bedroom.)
Most guests don’t spend much time in their tents, though. Glorious Acadia National Park is a short drive away, with enough hiking to satisfy the most energetic family, plus scenic Park Loop Road, Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and the beach at Echo Lake. Happily, the park is big enough to disperse throngs of visitors if you’re willing to be flexible about where you go. Bar Harbor is as busy as ever this year (beware of crowds on weekends), and families queue up for lobster-in-the-rough at Beal’s and Thurston’s lobster pounds in Southwest Harbor.
All of that outdoor fun can be exhausting for little folks, though, and we noticed lots of families back at the glampground in late afternoon, unwinding at the pool and heading to dinner at Terramor’s lodge instead of going out. The lodge wouldn’t look out of place at Whistler or Stowe: It’s a vision of soaring timbers, with a stone fireplace and leather couches, with design touches we’ll actually steal (that wagon wheel chandelier!). The scale of the place makes it not too scary to hang out (wearing masks), and the outdoor patios offer al fresco dining with plenty of space. At dinner, they offer a couple of entrees, salads, small plates, and — the best bet — pizza, cooked in a wood-fired beehive oven. Everything is made in house, including baked goods. Price points are similar to what you’d find outside the park. Breakfast, including pastries, bagels, yogurt, fruit, juice, and coffee, is complimentary. For the 2021 season, Terramor will offer picnic lunches to go, and a full breakfast buffet, they say.
They’ll also offer a slew of pop-up experiences to “up” the fun quotient: “We’re looking at engaging communal happy hours with local artists, yoga, astronomy, mushroom-picking nature walks, scavenger hunts for kids, and other fun activities,” Scott says. “Editing activities due to COVID-19 has been challenging,” she says. During our stay, they hosted a pop-up Riesling tasting, and a visit by a costumed Sasquatch on the bridge to terrorize (ahem, entertain) the children.
A look around the parking lot reveals exactly what you’d expect: cars from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Maine, outfitted with bike racks and tiny bikes. Looks like the intended demographic — young urban and suburban families and couples — have embraced glamping at Terramor. “It’s an odd year for sure, but we’re getting a great response,” says general manager Gretchen Chauncey, formerly of Boston.
Guests comment on the great-looking lodge and the comfort of the tents, but there is one complaint, from those used to a more rustic backcountry experience. “Some people tell us, ‘But this isn’t even camping! You’re cheating!’” Scott notes. “We say, ‘That’s exactly the point.’ ”
Terramor Outdoor Resort, 1453 Route 102, Bar Harbor, Maine; 207-288-7500; www.terramoroutdoorresort.com. Rates from $250. Open mid-May through mid-October.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org