Yurts, campers, canvas tents and more for those who prefer to camp without rocks under their sleeping bags.
Each summer, countless city dwellers evacuate their suburban neighborhoods and take to their tents. After all, who doesn’t appreciate witnessing the Milky Way unpolluted by streetlamps? Or the opportunity to cleanse some of the smog from your lungs with pine-fresh air? That being said, many of us still find it difficult to surrender our beds or the modern miracle that is electricity.
“Glamping” (or glamorous camping) brings nature to our doorstep while maintaining small pleasures like floorboards, comforters and lamps. It allows us to enjoy the meadowlarks and mountain ranges without wrestling with tent poles or waging a losing battle against slowly deflating blowup mattresses.
So we’ve tracked down eight top-notch retreats, all within a couple hours’ drive of Silicon Valley, which will allow you to revel in untouched landscapes without the knots in your back or the grit under your fingernails.
Canvas tent-bungalows at Costanoa
The way these white tent-bungalows fleck the grassy clearings of Costanoa, an eco-adventure resort in Pescadero, holds a quirky resemblance to a flock of grazing sheep. During the daytime, those clean ivory canvas sides filter light for an airy feel. But when the sun retires for the evening, light fixtures eliminate unfortunate midnight misadventures fumbling around by flashlight for misplaced objects. Another benefit is the heated blankets on the beds to keep at bay the chill of ocean fog.
Communal areas provide more ways to keep warm, including hot indoor showers, heated concrete floors, a 24-hour dry sauna and a courtyard fireplace. The Costanoa property also contains a spa offering aromatherapy massages and a restaurant specializing in fresh California coastal cuisine. Offsite, follow pathways either to seaside cliffs and thriving tide pools or rolling coastal hills and flower-laden meadows.
Costanoa // 2001 Rossi Road at Hwy 1, Pescadero; 650.879.1100
Airstream at Autocamp Russian River
Perhaps you’re seeking a little more stability in a shelter than membrane-thin, bendy walls. If so, this line of luxury Airstreams, stationed in a majestic grove of Sonoma redwoods, is what you want.
The travel trailers at Autocamp achieve a fresh, modern aesthetic with white walls, dark wood floors, a marble shower and hanging industrial lightbulbs. They’re stocked with creature comforts like a flatscreen and a kitchenette as well as hotel-quality bedding and bath robes. Better still, they’re within walking distance of the mighty Russian River.
Outside each unit is a fire pit flanked by patio chairs. But when the weather won’t allow you to enjoy it, there’s a communal indoor firepit. A lobby with an impressive woodpile accent wall houses a camp reception and adventure desk for all the insider info you require on the finest tree-lined hiking trails and grape-heavy vineyards of Sonoma County.
Autocamp Russian River // 14120 Old Cazadero Road, Guerneville; 888.405.7553
Yurt at Windsong Cottage
Follow country roads to Windsong Cottage, a spacious yurt situated in the gloriously green Marin headlands. Notice the cottage’s uniquely rounded walls? Those are architecturally inspired by the circular tents of nomads in Mongolia, Siberia and Turkey.
An abundance of windows allows in plenty of natural lighting, panoramic views and deer sightings, while a circular skylight permits entrance to both sun and moon. To add to the coziness factor, the owner supplies a wood-burning stove and a generous pile of logs.
Guests can choose to curl up by the fire with a paperback or soak in a hot tub overlooking the private garden. However, if you’re a more venturesome vacationer, it’s only a short drive to the trails and beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore Park and Tomales Bay. It’s also minutes from Point Reyes Station, a couple dozen buildings with quite the outpouring of small-town charm.
Windsong Cottage // 25 Mc Donald Lane, Point Reyes Station; 415.663.9695
Canvas tents at Bar SZ Ranch
For those venturing on rural countryside retreats with friend groups or extended family, this is for you. Bar SZ Ranch’s two tents — fondly named after western heroes John Wayne and Annie Oakley — are both outfitted with four sets of bunk beds to accommodate larger groups. In comparison with some of the other destinations on this list, these tents are sparsely furnished (your two camping luxuries are the beds and the floorboards).
But with all the outdoor activities of a thriving operating ranch you won’t be spending much time inside anyway. So pay a visit to the barnyard animals. Participate in horseback riding, lassoing, hiking, archery or shooting. Investigate the nearby cliffs and caves of Pinnacles National Park. And at the end of the day, savor s’mores under an intense spattering of stars.
Bar SZ Ranch // 10001 Willow Creek Rd, Paicines; 831.201.2593
Safari-style tent at Venture Retreat
Those who admire eye-catching décor will appreciate this safari-style tent near Pescadero. A king-sized bed with an ornately carved backboard holds a generous helping of decorator pillows. Oak furniture and a Japanese screen inhabit the room’s corners. A Persian carpet enlivens its floorboards.
A yoga mat is provided for those who like to start the morning by settling into the lotus position. Unroll it on the deck outside and welcome the sun as it stretches over a fringe of treetops. The property contains areas for guests to warm their hands beside an indoor fireplace, cook meals in the communal kitchen, take a dip in the pool, bask on sun decks or even splurge on onsite spa treatments. Beyond the retreat grounds lie Butano State Park, Pigeon Point Lighthouse and a number of local beaches.
Venture Retreat // 201 Eden West Road, Pescadero; 408.674.0480
Airstream outside Metro Hotel
If you’ve ever gotten caught in a heavy rainstorm during tent camping, you’ll understand the discomfort of damp chilly nights huddled in sleeping bags, trying to avoid brushing against your tent’s soaking-wet material sides. An Airstream is a much cozier alternative, allowing you to listen to raindrops drumming on aluminum siding. Bump up the heating unit before snuggling under a colorful duvet on a memory foam bed.
Really, these particular travel trailers, residents of a leafy green garden just outside the Metro Hotel in Petaluma, are agreeable anytime of the year. They provide maid services and come with a TV, kitchenette and rain shower. At night, their enchanting, silver siding glimmers with the reflection of fairy lights twisted along their awning poles.
When morning comes, cross the yard for complimentary coffee and crepes at a quaint on-site cafe. Decorated with vintage European posters and quirky artifacts, you’ll be kept thoroughly entertained by its South of France charm.
Metro Hotel // 508 Petaluma Blvd S, Petaluma; 707.773.4900
Geodesic dome at Camp Cruz
Unlike cramped tents, there will be no hunching over in the lofted ceilings of Camp Cruz’s geodesic dome. Four cots, a black leather couch and a rocking chair all offer great vantages out the huge bay window. And it’s quite the view. Outside lies a grassy meadow flanked by redwood giants.
A wood-burning stove as well as a coffee and tea station with an electric kettle and French press make for snuggly late evenings and early mornings. Your room is also equipped with a mini-fridge, TV and stereo as well as more unusual items like a massage chair, conga drums and a wood chest brimming with board games.
This property, situated in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Watsonville, will indulge your camping nostalgia with hammocks by the creek, an open-air pool, a communal firepit, a 200-foot potato-sack slide and a ropes course with a zipline. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and an endless strand of Santa Cruz beaches reside in close proximity.
Camp Cruz // 2015 Eureka Canyon Rd, Watsonville
Tent-cabins at Safari West
Adventure seekers craving an exotic destination without the wincingly-expensive plane ticket will want to check out the tent-cabins of Safari West. This private wildlife preserve, located near Santa Rosa, is run by an animal-loving husband and wife (he’s a former cattle rancher, she’s an avian biologist). Their Botswana-imported tent-cabins are embellished with lots of nice little touches: tribal patterned runners on the beds, rhino and cheetah pillows, branch-decorated light fixtures, an African mask hung on the door.
Cabins combat the chill of the hills with electric blankets and space heaters. But when the warmth of daytime arrives, flaps can be folded back to reveal mesh windows. For optimal views of the flora and fauna, all cabins are raised on stilt-elevated platforms with decks. After breakfast, explore the 400-acre grounds. Guides in khaki-colored clothes — driving double-decker military jeeps that look like they’ve been plucked off the set of some Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park film — will drive you to meet the resident rhinos, kudus, wildebeests and ostriches.
One note: If you choose to stay here, your neighbors will quite possibly be a conspiracy of lemurs or a tower of giraffes (yes, those are their official collective nouns). Unlike next-door twenty-somethings who enjoy their quality speakers a little too much, the flamingos are a kind of party animal unperturbed by noise complaints. Yes, they’re nocturnal. Yes, bring earplugs.
Safari West // 3115 Porter Creek Rd, Santa Rosa; 800.616.2695
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