Book Your 2021 Fantasy Camp
TEXT BY VIRGINIA M. WRIGHT & JEN DEROSE
Call it rusticators redux: Like their counterparts 100 years ago, city dwellers are flocking to the coast and country to de-stress in comfort and style. This time, though, they’re retreating not to fancy cottages, but fancy tents, treehouses, domes, and yurts. While still something of a novelty in Maine, “glamping,” or luxury camping, is on the verge of becoming mainstream with the arrival of French hospitality company Huttopia in Sanford, Kampgrounds of America’s Terramor Outdoor Resort in Bar Harbor, and Under Canvas in Surry.
“Acadia was one of our most requested national park locations, so it was a natural fit for our coast-to-coast expansion,” says Matt Gaghen, CEO of Under Canvas, a Montana company that develops luxury campgrounds near national parks. Because of coronavirus travel restrictions, the Surry property’s opening date is on hold, but Gaghen expects demand to be high when it does. “Escaping to the outdoors is a top priority for people following the pandemic,” he believes, and glamping sites tend to be spaced well apart, facilitating social distancing. Other hosts have risen to the challenge with policies like contactless check-ins and relaxed minimum-night stays to attract Mainers. Here’s the latest on new, and newly reopened, sites across the state.
TENTS & TINY HOUSES
Camping without the fuss of setup
Philippe and Céline Bossane developed their first ready-to-camp lodgings years before the word “glamping” was invented. Inspired by their own wilderness vacations while living in Canada, the Bossanes wanted to recreate the experience for others after they returned to their native France, but make it easier for young families like their own. In 1999, they founded Huttopia, now with 60 campgrounds around the world. The newest is Huttopia Southern Maine, on 50 wooded acres fronting Sand Pond in Sanford.
Maine was an obvious choice for the company’s second U.S. venture, Céline says. “It is a very beautiful state, with wonderful natural attractions.” Huttopia’s approach to furnishings is more akin to a Maine camp than a plush hotel room. Each of the 67 canvas-wall tents is equipped with beds, a small bath, and grill; some have a gas cooking stove, sink, and mini-fridge. Eight contemporary tiny houses, like the one at left, are also modestly furnished. “We want it simple,” Bossane says. “The real luxury is nature.” Well, that and the heated pool and restaurant serving pizza and other casual fare. From $108/night. 149 Sand Pond Rd., Sanford. 207-324-1752. canada-usa.huttopia.com
Terramor Outdoor Resort
Bringing the outdoors in
When guests open the medicine cabinet in their Terramor tent (conceptualized in the rendering above), they’ll be gazing through a window at the woods. “We wanted to blend the indoors and outdoors, so that at any point in the tent, you’re connected with nature,” says Whitney Scott, vice president of marketing for Kampgrounds of America (KOA). “It’s a rustic, yet luxurious experience.”
Slated to open by August 1 (possibly sooner for Maine residents), Terramor is KOA’s first glamping venture, erected on one of its two existing Bar Harbor campgrounds (the name blends the Latin words for “earth” and “love”). “Usually when you build something, you take nature out, but here we were actually able to put nature back in,” Scott says. KOA cut the number of campsites on the 60-acre property, which features a pool and hot tub, in half, to 64, removed roads, and planted more than 1,000 native trees and shrubs. Five tent styles house two to five people, and a stunning glass-walled lodge serves meals all day. From $218/night. 1453 ME-102, Bar Harbor. 207-288-7500. terramoroutdoorresort.com
More Tents and Tiny Houses to Try
Snug shelters await in every corner of the state
Point Sebago Four glamping tents have been added to this 775-acre resort’s lodging mix, which ranges from campgrounds to houses. Each tent has a king and bunk bed, electric fireplace, and deck, and shares a bathhouse and fire pit. The resort has a mile-long beach on Sebago Lake, marina, golf course, and restaurants. From $150/night. 261 Point Sebago Rd., Casco. 800-655-1232. covecommunities.com
Sandy Pines Campground Canvas tents on decks, tiny cottages, tinier A-frames, a futuristic dome, a glass house (above left), a classic Airstream, and even covered wagons — all tucked into 63 acres of woods just a mile from Goose Rocks Beach. Interior designers have given each unit its own whimsical spin. From $75/night (A-frames), $99 (cottages), and $199 (tents, dome, glass house, Airstream, wagons). 277 Mills Rd., Kennebunkport. 207-967-2483. sandypinescamping.com
Tentrr The Airbnb of camping, Tentrr has 52 sites on private properties throughout Maine, each outfitted with a canvas tent on a wooden platform, an airbed, and an outhouse (an additional 20 backcountry sites are BYO tent and gear). Property owners provide extras, be it handcrafted soap (Legacy Acres Farmstead in Kenduskeag) or an opportunity to milk a cow (Brookside Haven in Montville). From $50/night. tentrr.com
Tops’l Farm Located on 83 acres of pasture and woodlands, Tops’l’s campground has five tents and six A-frames, all with beds, decks, and chairs, and a communal bathhouse and picnic area. Take an archery or ax-throwing lesson or paddle on the Medomak River in Tops’l’s boat or your own. From $490/weekend. 365 Bremen Rd., Waldoboro. 207-832-1602. topslfarm.com
A cozy retreat perched above a pristine pond
Peter Valcourt wants us to realize our childhood dreams, so he’s built us a treehouse. It floats above the forest floor, just uphill from Littlefield Pond in Springvale, and it’s tricked out with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, sleeping loft, bath, fireplace, and radiant floor heat. Oh yeah, there’s a hot tub on a deck overlooking the pond too. “Most people’s homes don’t excite them very much,” Valcourt believes. “Where they work tells them where it has to be. The size of their family tells them how big it has to be.” But a treehouse in the Maine woods? That’s not humdrum at all.
Called Canopy, the 350-square-foot wooden structure sits on six 14-foot-high stilts, so purists may argue it’s not really a treehouse, but, Valcourt says, “It sways in the breeze at night just like trees do, and hummingbirds come right up to the deck. The feeling is the same.” The building is the first at Purposely Lost, a 15-acre solar-powered treehouse and “hobbit house” retreat that Valcourt is developing with business partner Bryce Avallone. By December, he expects to complete a second treehouse and an earth-sheltered, dome-shaped house manufactured by Georgia-based Green Magic Homes. Eventually, there will be five structures, each on its own wooded 3-acre lot. All will be capable of producing more energy than they use, Valcourt says, so getting purposely lost will also be purposely good for the earth. From $395/night. 196 Elm St., Springvale. purposelylost.com
More Treehouses to Try
Get up, up, and away in Georgetown and Norway too
Seguin Tree Dwellings Trees grow right through the decks of three elevated houses on a pine-covered hillside above Georgetown’s Back River. Each has a living room/bedroom, kitchen/dining room, bath, and screened porch housed in pavilions connected by rope bridges; two have hot tubs. Minimalist décor lets the tree canopies set the mood. From $189/night. 5 Islands Rd., Georgetown. 207-751-5241. seguinmaine.com
The Woods Designed by Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters duo Pete Nelson and Christina Salway, this two-bedroom, two-bath luxury home hovers over the forest floor in Norway. The kitchen is fully equipped, and comfy chairs cozy up to a gas fireplace. Pennesseewassee Lake is a 5-minute stroll away. From $575/night. Norway. 207-370-4149. thewoodsmaine.com
Stargazing from a bed in a bubble
Set in a field by a lily-pad-covered pond in Jefferson, three transparent geodesic dome houses immerse guests in the great outdoors while they lie snug in queen-size beds. “It’s glamorous camping with no lugging — and without spending a million dollars,” says ComfyDome property manager Seth Fraser. His entry into the hospitality business was serendipitous: After plans for an apartment building on his 13-acre land fell through, he installed a dome as a playhouse for his 9-year-old daughter. In a light-bulb moment, he listed it on Airbnb, and it was booked for the season within 48 hours.
Guests receive firewood and a welcome basket with bug spray, hand sanitizer, bottled water, baked goods from nearby Chase Farm Bakery, and, in season, apples, pears, and peaches from Fraser’s orchard. Each dome is equipped with a propane heater, solar-powered fan, shading screen, and its own outhouse and shower. But the biggest draw is a night sky unobscured by light pollution. Fraser provides a high-powered telescope, a celestial sphere, and a book about constellations. “When you look up at the stars, it’s like you’re looking at a sheet of black silk that someone poked holes through,” he says. “It almost makes you dizzy, because you can’t tell where the earth ends and the stars begin.” From $95/night. 99 North Mountain Rd., Jefferson. 207-272-9690. comfydome.com
Camping, yoga, massage, and more on MDI’s Quiet Side
Aaron Sprague and Karen Roper fell in love with yurts when a friend built one for herself a few years ago. “We started concocting the idea of renting yurts with amenities,” says Sprague, a former real estate agent who’d noticed Mount Desert Island vacationers’ preferences trending away from hotels toward house rentals. “We thought about what we’d like if we lived in one: comfy bed, bathroom, kitchen, heat, air conditioning, Wi-Fi.”
In 2015, they set up four yurts on a 5-acre former campground in Southwest Harbor and quickly booked the entire season. They’ve since expanded to seven yurts, two tiny houses, and, as of last year, a wellness center with a flotation tank and infrared sauna, where Roper, a yoga instructor and massage therapist, offers private sessions. Guests range from families with young children to couples in their 80s — pretty much anyone, Sprague says, who wants to camp without the hassle of setting up a tent, unloading a ton of gear, and stumbling outdoors to an outhouse at night. From $120/night (tiny houses) and $210 (yurts). 200 Seal Cove Rd., Southwest Harbor. 207-669-2059. acadiayurts.com
More Yurts to Try
All-season properties in Brownfield and Durham round out the options
Frost Mountain Yurts Four year-round yurts sit in a 57-acre woodland in Brownfield with a large network of trails. Nearby are the Mountain Division biking trail, the Saco River, and Lovewell Pond. The yurts, furnished with bunk beds, a woodstove, and simple kitchens, are set well apart for privacy. From $105/night. 34 Farnsworth Rd., Brownfield. 802-233-7010. frostmountainyurts.com
Maine Forest Yurts Clad in waterproof tent fabric and outfitted with a woodstove, these four yurts on Runaround Pond in Durham stay warm and dry year-round. Laced with trails, the 100-acre forested property feels like the wilderness, but is just 15 minutes from the shops and restaurants in Freeport. Be sure to ask Bob Crowley, owner with his wife, Peggy, how he won Survivor: Gabon in 2008. From $140/night. 430 Auburn Pownal Rd., Durham. 207-400-5956. maineforestyurts.com