Cradled in a “human nest” made of twigs and branches, on a hillside above the Pacific Ocean, we drifted off to dreamland to the sounds of barking sea lions and crashing waves, a relaxation mix tape made by Mother Nature herself.
This is camping? Nope. It’s a kind of “glamping,” a.k.a. glamorous camping. While the human nest isn’t wildly luxurious, it’s certainly unique, one of the hallmarks of the glamping experience. “Yurts, treehouses, domes, eco-pods, barns, bell tents, cabins, and safari tents — whatever you choose, it’s going to be original,” says Katie Stearns of Glamping Hub (www.glampinghub.com), an online site with 1,200 listings. In addition, “you have an incredibly unique access to nature,” Stearns says. Intrigued? Here’s a look at some unusual overnights, for those who consider a tent so . . . summer of 2013.
Made of woven wood by artist Jayson Fann, the human nest at Treebones Resort in Big Sur, Calif., might well be the most eco-friendly campsite ever created. Guests climb up a wooden ladder to a rustic cocoon that might have been fashioned by an osprey, softened by a futon and sleeping bags. Two circular openings reveal views of the open ocean and rolling hillsides.
A night in a nest isn’t for everyone, especially for those who sleepwalk, make late-night potty visits, or simply aren’t keen on sleeping aloft. To that end, Treebones offers yurts and campsites, plus a heated pool, hot tub, and a sushi bar. (Well, this is California, after all.) The complimentary organic breakfast includes waffles, eggs, and house-made granola. $150 per night, www.treebonesresort.com
BUBBLES AND BUBBLY
Leave it to the French to give a sexy spin to what is basically a giant plastic bubble. Attrap Reve’s “Dreamcatcher” bubbles, a colony of five bubbles set in a Provencal pine forest near Marseille, offers “an unusual night for lovers,” they say, not to mention a “true poetic and sensory bubble experience.” Well, they’re definitely more romantic than the “alien hatching pods” we’ve got on Deer Island.
This is camping without the clammy tent and pesky insects: A blower brings a constant flow of fresh air into these bubbles built for two. Each is outfitted with a queen-sized bed and a telescope and constellation chart for stargazing. What else do you need? A bit of bubbly, of course! This concept has proven so popular that bubbles have popped up in the Netherlands and Italy. From about $192 (US) per night in high season. www.attrap-reves.com/en/
SLEEP ON A REEF
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is on many travelers’ bucket lists, and for good reason: It’s the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. Half the size of Texas, it’s even visible from space. Just being there is a thrill of a lifetime. Now imagine sleeping alongside the reef, under a canopy of stars.
That’s the idea behind Reefsleep, where you’ll “camp” on a 164-foot pontoon that’s permanently moored 40 nautical miles off the coast of Queensland. By day, you snorkel or dive the reef, and at nightfall (after a night dive, perhaps), you burrow into what the Aussies call a “swag,” a sleeping bag-tent hybrid with a see-through panel over your head so you can stargaze. Think of it as the coolest summer camp ever. Typically, guests go out for a day on the reef, spend the night on deck, and then enjoy another day at sea before heading back to the marina at Airlie Beach. Including meals, snorkel gear, and boat transfer, the cost is about $368 (US) for a single or double swag. Age 12 and up. www.awesomeoz.com
A TREE HOUSE FOR GROWN-UPS
It’s a childhood fantasy come to life: fabulous hardwood tree houses — one as high as 47 feet off the ground — reached by ladders, catwalks, and spiral staircases. The Out ’n’ About Treehouse “Treesort” in Cave Junction, Ore., is the brainchild of tree house builder extraordinaire Michael Garnier, to take advantage of the state’s most abundant natural resource.
Each tree house design is unique, and configurations range from two-person digs with off-site bathrooms to two-floor tree townhouses with modern conveniences like microwaves and refrigerators. Unless you’re afraid of heights, or have an aversion to tree puns (used freely here), you’ll have a good time, riding horses and zipping along a mile of zip lines (extra charge applies). From $130 per night (includes breakfast), two-to-three night minimum in high season. www.treehouses.com
TEPEE OR NOT TEPEE?
If your idea of the perfect campout includes making s’mores by the campfire, skip Yellowstone Under Canvas. This luxury tent camp is located just six miles west of the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, in the heart of bear country, so tent-side noshing is out. Nobody wants a late-night visit from Yogi. S’mores aside, this secluded campground is an ideal spot to unplug (there’s no electricity), unwind, and walk along the river as you plan the next day’s adventures at Yellowstone.
On the luxury side, they have roomy safari tents, complete with wood-burning stoves, but we like the tepees. Suitable for two to four people, they’re outfitted with cots, mattress pads, sleeping bags, linens, and a small table with a lantern, and they look just right under Montana’s big sky, with a backdrop of distant peaks. The closest airport is in Bozeman, 90 minutes away. Tepees from $99. www.mtundercanvas.com
GO CLIMB A TREE
Wander through a certain 80-acre woodland in Powys, Wales, and you might see barn owls, woodpeckers, red kites — and a 10-foot-wide orb, suspended from the trees. Could be a home for hornets on steroids, but no, it’s meant for people. The Red Kite Tree Tent, the first-ever tree tent in the United Kingdom, is set in a private forest alongside a stream, with a fire pit for al fresco dining. This adventurous accommodation is made of wool-lined canvas, stretched over lightweight aluminum.
To get inside, you cross a small bridge over a stream and climb onto a raised platform into the tent. Digs are snug, but there’s room for two, with a double bed, wood-burning stove, and porthole-like windows that offer a bird’s-eye view of the Welsh forest. An en suite deck has a sink and a toilet. There’s electricity for powering devices but, really? Here? About $497 (US) for two people staying three nights. www.sheepskinlife.com
YOUR DOME AWAY FROM HOME
Compared to a typical tent, a Dream Dome is fancy indeed. Located at Ridgeback Lodge on New Brunswick’s Kingston Peninsula, these geodesic domes (there are two) have king-sized beds, bathrooms, and small kitchenettes, plus barbecue grills outside. Each has a huge bay window, revealing views of a 185-acre wild forest, Kingston Creek, Belleisle Bay, and the Saint John River.
It’s a beautiful spot, and Ridgeback Lodge — there are a lodge and cabins on the property too — offers loads of ways to experience it, including canoes, hiking trails, and a swimming pond. But perhaps the best feature of all is the private wood-fired hot tub, best enjoyed with a bottle of wine. High season rates are about $140 (US). www.ridgebacklodge.com
IN A GLASS BY ITSELF
If you’ve traveled all the way to the Arctic to see the northern lights — the trip of a lifetime — why not make the most of it, and catch all the action from a glass igloo? The concept at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort near Saariselka, Finland (in Northern Lapland) is simple, but oh-so-cool: Stargazers stay in private glass houses that can accommodate two to four people, outfitted with single beds and toilets. (Showers and saunas are located in separate buildings.) Sprawl in bed, look up, and admire one of nature’s most spectacular shows. If this sounds too tame, book one of the resort’s snow igloos (for real). From about $224 (US), includes breakfast. www.kakslauttanen.fi