Mixing luxury living with the escapism and adventure of a camping experience is growing in popularity and it’s not difficult to see why.
Glamping — the term is a portmanteau of “glamour” and “camping” — fulfills a need among folks, particularly those in urban areas, seeking to connect with nature while still enjoying the style, charm and comfort of a boutique-style hotel. Think of a spacious, luxury tent that offers a picturesque view of a small lake or a starry night sky. Imagine lying in a king-sized bed and having the finest linens, towels and robes, an in-tent washroom, private deck next to a barbecue, mini fridge and tableware. Maid service freshens up the bed and towels, and gets your tent ready for when you get back from kayaking, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking or swimming. Wake up with a Keurig coffee maker and a breakfast basket with fresh fruit, delicious baked goods and fresh juice outside your tent. Get delivered right to you a cook-your-own barbecue basket with beef tenderloin, a bottle of local wine, fresh vegetables and salad, a baguette and dessert.
Timmins in northern Ontario, in particular, is a great destination for glamping. Guy Lamarche, manager of tourism and events with Tourism Timmins, says it’s the best of both worlds for travellers. “It’s a glamorous type of camping,” he says. “The culinary experience alone that comes with it is second to none.”
“The furnishings – you are looking at a suite that is better furnished than some of the high-end hotels I have stayed at in Toronto. It is unbelievable the extent these people have gone to,” Lamarche says.
Glamping is particularly popular with millennials, he says. WiFi access is usually provided upon request.
WildExodus in Timmins soft-launched Glamping in the Boreal Forest program in 2009, says company owner J.C. Santos, and its popularity has steadily risen since. Their product is now one of Destination Canada’s Canadian Signature Experiences, a collection of once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.
Santos says the word “glamping” is relatively new but the concept is not.
“Just ask an Arab sultan,” he says.
WildExodus offers both modified yurts (camping cabins) and canvas tents with optional, superior levels of quality and comfort. Guests have the option of purchasing different packages.
What do traditional campers think of all this? Santos says he has heard it all. Campers will view glampers as fearing the elements or succumbing to nature.
“‘While you cook our catch, will you be sending the butler with wine?’ is a comment I hear,” Santos says.
Dympna Hayes from the Harmony Outdoor Inn in Parry Sound, Ont., says a lot of her glamping clientele are older people who have camped their entire lives but now want a little more comfort at night.
They’ll also tend to get groups of female friends of any age who are gathering for a yoga and wellness getaway.
“We also have many couples who are looking to unplug and relax together for a few days away. Many of our guests are avid campers who like the fun and comfort of glamping while on their way to their camping trip,” Hayes says.
Parks Canada oTENTiks in Thousand Islands National Park (made up of more than 20 islands on the Saint Lawrence River, spread out between Kingston and Brockville, Ont.) is an easier way of experiencing camping as an oTeNTik is a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin. The park is ideally located because of its close vicinity to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
Many people simply don’t want to deal with some of the discomforts that can be a part of “roughing it” – a leaky tent, a pitch-black outdoor walk to the washroom in the middle of the night, unloading and packing up camping gear or sleeping on cold ground.
Alabaster Acres in Caledon, Ont., is another new offering that opened just last year and which capitalizes on what is a growing trend. Guests can select from one of two luxury tents nestled in a tranquil forest setting: The Copper Retreat and the Gunmetal Getaway are each 16 feet by 20 feet, with fully screened side windows, and front and back walls.
Alabaster Acres offers guests a real taste of farm life – including workshops in farming, gardening, handi-crafts, homesteading, survival and life skills. Cows and horses linger nearby. Food there is farm fresh and organically grown.
The tents each have a king-sized bed, mini fridge, barbecue, covered porch area, wood stove, hammock, and a Bluetooth speaker to play songs off your phone. You can order up a prepared dinner, or later take a bubble bath in the antique clawfoot.
The owner, Aimee Alabaster, worked in the corporate world in Toronto before turning to farming at 38, so she gets the appeal.
This summer, Pathways on Pleasure Valley, in nearby Uxbridge, will be offering the glamping experience to its guests, with a permit to build 20 tents on the property.
Just outside of Cobourg, Ont., east of Toronto, Whispering Springs Wilderness Retreat booked solidly from July to October last year in only its second year of operation, says marketing and reservations co-ordinator Jenna Corcoran. Whispering Springs has already sold out weekend packages through to October this year.
“You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person or a seasoned camper to go glamping,” she says.
“Nor do you have to have all the equipment.” Some of their guests have never had a campfire experience, she adds.
You can also create your own glamping experience. Lotus Belle, for example, based in Haliburton, Ont., sells a 16-foot tent called The Outback that is able to fit everything you need.
For Grace Sammut, executive director of Resorts of Ontario, the appeal of glamping comes down to something simple in an age where there is a harried pace sped up by technology and less quality time with people we love: the healing and rejuvenating forces of nature.
“The quest for more simplicity in today’s consumer life keeps growing stronger,” she says.
“We crave environments which offer relaxation, solitude and tranquility, the ability to experience new things, while still wanting and needing comfort and pampered environments.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.