Bored of the old camping routine? These unusual campsites, whacky accommodations and innovative tents will make you want to rediscover your wild side.
Bed In A Bubble
What Is It?: Bubble Lodges by Bubble Tree
The Location: France
The Concept: Rarely has a description so aptly summed up the entire concept so well as ‘Bubble Lodges’. Showcased as ‘temporary leisure accommodation’, French designer Pierre-Stéphane Dumas created them as stylish, comfortable and easy on the environment. Their genius is that they don’t have troublesome frames – they’re erected by simply inflating them. You can even purchase your own to set up in your favourite spot, for relaxing and enjoying the 360-degree view.
The Inside Track: Bubbles can be extended with dressing room, main room and bathroom (or kids’ bedroom).
Perfect For: Your inner exhibitionist
Discover More: bubbletree.fr
[Photos: BubbleTree, Pierre-Stéphane Dumas]
What Is It?: Microlodge at Well Farm Cottages
The Location: North Tamerton, North Cornwall, UK
The Concept: Modest in size at 4.8m long and 2.6m high, these barrel-shaped microlodges are welcome cosy retreats after a day trekking around the Cornish countryside. Each microlodge has WiFi, TV, kettle and fridge, for example, plus a barbecue on the terrace. Flushing toilets and showers are in an adjacent bathroom.
The Inside Track: Located on a farm, it’s only a short walk to the River Tamar, a favourite for fly fishing. Or head to Bude for swimming or Widemouth Bay for bodyboarding and surfing.
Perfect For: Outdoorsy couples
Discover More: wellfarmcottages.com
Dome Away From Home
What Is It?: Otro Mundo
The Location: Sierra de Segura, Spain
The Concept: Camping Otro Mundo is a fantastic blend of beautiful rural living, two white rotund accommodation domes and a dash of eco-friendliness. Located in the Sierra de Segura mountain range, the base for exploration is the fairy-tale-like Couples Dome and the Family Dome, both with solar showers and composting toilets, plus a shared kitchen.
The Inside Track: Sierra de Segura is a huge protected area, with kilometres of bike paths and fascinating towns and villages, plus the impressive Rio Mundo waterfall.
Perfect For: Eco-friendly nature lovers
Discover More: otro-mundo.com
[Photos: Greet Mulder]
A Bulle For Love
What Is It?: Maisons Bulles
The Location: Pont-Saint-Esprit, France
The Concept: Maisons Bulles couldn’t be simpler: giant see-through bubbles for looking up at the stars, with a handful of enticing stay-at-home comforts. Measuring 4m long and 3metres high, the bubbles contain carpeted floors and cosy bedding, and can be heated in colder months. Underpinned by ‘rigid floors’, the instruction is simple: relax within your personal bubble and fall asleep beneath the stars. The 10,000sqm site has showers and ‘ecological toilets’ within wooden chalets, a tea room, swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
The Inside Track: The medieval village of Aiguèze is around 10km away and overlooks the Ardèche river.
Perfect For: Romantic nights beneath the stars
Discover More: maisons-bulles.fr
Rollin’ On The River
What Is It?: Timber Rafting
The Location: Klarälven, Sweden
The Concept: This is a ‘gentle adventure’ holiday during which you build your own transport – the first task is to put together your team’s raft. Tours along Klarälven river last 5 or 8 days, with each stopping point decided by the team. Better still is that wherever you decide to stop, you then need to either pitch your tent or lay back on your raft.
The Inside Track: there’s no whitewater, so relaxation, aided by visits to towns and villages, is only interrupted by keeping your raft on course.
Perfect For: The gentle adventurer
Discover More: naturetravels.co.uk
[Photos: Hipfel Starck]
Alpine, All Mine
What Is It?: Whitepod
The Location: Les Cerniers, Valais, Switzerland
The Concept: A Whitepod break offers spectacular landscapes, super-modern accommodation and a strong focus on the environment. An Alpine valley provides the backdrop, where the 15 geodesic-shaped pods sit at 1,400m, looking down on the river below. They measure 7m in diameter, have bathrooms and showers, and use energy-efficient technology, biodegradable products, pellet-heating systems and local spring water.
The Inside Track: Breakfast can be taken in your pod, and lunch and dinner at the high-class Les Cerniers, which focuses on traditional ‘refined cuisine’. If you’re spending the whole day exploring, order a picnic.
Perfect For: Eco-Alpine lovers
Discover More: whitepod.com
[Photos: Whitepod Hotel/Micha Riechsteiner]
Stay On The Bay
What Is It?: Russell – Orongo Bay Holiday Park
The Location: Russell, Orongo Bay, New Zealand
The Concept: Perched atop Orongo Bay, this park brings visitors the best of land and sea. From your tent (or holiday home), it’s the launch pad to discover the Bay of Islands natural environment. The park has an official tourism Qualmark Enviro Award Gold because of its host of eco-friendly initiatives.
The Inside Track: Russell was the first European settlement in New Zealand, and there are various opportunities to learn about Maori culture. On walking tours you get to see the rare kiwi bird plus the flightless weka.
Perfect For: Enthusiastic walkers
Discover More: russellaccommodation.co.nz
What Is It?: CampingFlat
The Location: Verbeke Foundation, Kemzeke, Belgium
The Concept: there’s nothing usual about CampingFlat, a unique overnight experience created by artist Kevin van Braak: it’s a case of ‘move over luxury’ and ‘hello artistic integrity’ – in the form of a 12m-high scaffolding and its 4 tents. The structure is divided into 4 ‘floors’, and each – intriguingly – has its own artificial grass and campfire. To keep the old-style camping experience alive, each tent has an inflatable mattress, while bathrooms are ‘located nearby’.
The Inside Track: Run by the Verbeke Foundation, it’s a ‘private art site’ and exhibition space. Check out Theo Jansen’s outsized moving kinetic ‘strandbeests’ (ends 30 October 2016).
Perfect For: Rugged art lovers
Discover More: verbekefoundation.com
[Photo: Tineke Schuurmans]
What Is It?: Gervasutti Alpine Bivouac
The Location: Monte Bianco/Mont Blanc, Italy
The Concept: Surrounded by a jagged mountain vista, a valley far below and a deep blue sky above, it’s difficult to think of a more satisfying overnight stay – its very raison d’être, however, means the Gervasutti is not easy to reach. This stylish tubular hut jutting from the Italian side of Mont Blanc at 2,835m has 12 bunks, can withstand battering winds and relies on photovoltaic films for power. Designers at Leap Factory say it has a ‘much lower environmental impact than traditional mountain shelters’.
The Inside Track: Gervasutti is made of 4 parts: entrance, living, beds and toilet, each of which can be removed or the layout reconfigured.
Perfect For: Serious mountain adventurers
Discover More: bivaccogervasutti.com
On The Move
What Is It?: Tonke Classic
The Location: Terheijden, the Netherlands
The Concept: The old idea of taking to the open road in a camper is as enticing as ever, particularly when touring in Tonke Classic Woodline. Hand-built in Terheijden, the Netherlands, these fun detachable ‘truckcampers’ are built on Fiat Ducato or Mercedes Sprinter chassis-cabs.
The Inside Track: You can detach your Tonke in 10 minutes, allowing you to use the vehicle while your holiday accommodation – with toilet, fridge and heating – stays behind.
Perfect For: Driving campers
Discover More: tonke.eu
What Is It?: Onuku Farm Hostel
The Location: Akaroa, New Zealand
The Concept: Situated on a sheep farm – where else? – on the New Zealand coast, Onuku Farm Hostel has a bit of a ‘chill-out’ feel. This seems to emanate from owner Jeff, who has created what he calls ‘the perfect spot to unwind and explore nature’. As well as the old farmhouse hostel, the ‘campground’ has a wooden Stargazer tent, a 7-bed dorm and space for 14 tents.
The Inside Track: Swim with the dolphins in the Pacific – Hostel guests get a price reduction on the trip, which includes snorkelling gear and wetsuits.
Perfect For: Laid-back nature lovers
Discover More: onuku.co.nz
Yurts So Good
What Is It?: Cloud House Farm
The Location: Rio Genal Valley, Andalucía, Spain
The Concept: A few nights in a handcrafted Mongolian-style yurt is only the beginning of the enjoyment at Cloud House Farm. The Sierra Bermeja Mountain Range opens up a host of possibilities for treks; closer to the farm, rivers and pools offer cooling down opportunities. Yurts are individually located in the farm’s woodland, powered by solar energy (‘the farm is 100% off grid’) and are accompanied by outdoor showers and kitchens.
The Inside Track: The historic town of Ronda is an hour by car, and beaches at Estepona a little more.
Perfect For: People who’d like to ‘disconnect’ for a short time
Discover More: www.cloudhouse.es
Bear In Mind
What Is It?: Port Lympne Reserve
The Location: Ashford, UK
The Concept: From wooden pods to lodges and shepherd’s huts, with the backdrop of a range of animals usually seen on an African safari, Port Lympne Reserve offers a comprehensive range of camping and other accommodation. Run by the Aspinall Foundation, it has two animal parks, Port Lympne Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park.
The Inside Track: Stick your head out of your Bear Lodge tent and you’ll get a perfect view of the park’s new bear enclosure.
Perfect For: Families with a passion for animals
Discover More: aspinallfoundation.org/short-breaks
[Photos: Port Lympne Reserve/Dan Desborough]
Trailer Park Chic
What Is It?: Airstream & Retro Trailer Park
The Location: Near Mirepoix, foothills of the Pyrenees
The Concept: Some people love the past so much that they’ll take any opportunity to go back there; Airstream & Retro Trailer Park allows visitors to do just that. Set in the foothills of the Pyrenees, not far from the medieval French town of Mirepoix, this is where vintage caravan or tent owners – or those looking to rent one – congregate to live (or relive) the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Events include retro parties, and there’s Lucy’s Diner, in an Airstream built in the 1940s.
The Inside Track: If you haven’t got your own vintage accommodation, the park has a selection of 10 for hire
Perfect For: Back-to-the-future-ists
Discover More: airstreameurope.com
[Photo exterior: Marc Mesplie]
What Is It?: Hüttenpalast
The Location: Berlin, Germany
The Concept: Berlin has had a reputation as one of Europe’s most leftfield cities, something devotees of The Hüttenpalast would readily agree with. Founders describe the former vacuum cleaner factory as a space for people from across the world to meet and be creative. While there, they can stay at its unique indoor accommodation, which can be an old-style caravan or wooden huts (ok, there’s also a more ‘normal’ on-site hotel).
The Inside Track: Check out the beautifully wild-looking herb and vegetable garden.
Perfect For: Young designers
Discover More: huettenpalast.de
[Photos: Jan Brockhaus]
Who’s Your (Grand) Daddy?
What Is It?: Grand Daddy, Rooftop Trailer Park
The Location: Cape Town, South Africa
The Concept: Reflecting the growing nostalgia surrounding Airstream trailers and the post-war rock ’n’ roll years in general, the Grand Daddy boutique hotel has taken the fascination to a whole new level – literally. In sight of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, on the roof of the hotel, are 7 individually interior designed vintage Airstream trailers.
The Inside Track: The Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema sits between the trailers and shows much-loved classics of the silver screen.
Perfect For: Anyone who can’t get enough of the 1950s and 1960s.
Discover More: granddaddy.co.za
What Is It?: Red Kite Tree
The Location: Wales
The Concept: The comfortable Red Kite Tree tents are suspended in trees and accessed by a connecting bridge – in more ways than one, they span the divide between old-style camping and something a little more modern. Tents have log burners, double (sofa) beds, dimmable lights and power sockets. At the same time, there’s a back-to-nature feel provided by the woodland, cooking is by way of gas stoves, hot showers are outside the tent, and bathrooms are shared.
The Inside Track: Gigrin Farm is 20 minutes away and it’s home to a feeding station for red kite raptors.
Perfect For: Campers who like heights
Discover More: sheepskinlife.com
Water You Doing?
What Is It?: Kalahari River & Safari
The Location: Kakamas, Northern Cape, South Africa
The Concept: Kalahari River & Safari is operated by husband and wife water sports experts Danie (a kayak instructor) and Philippa (who has represented South Africa at kayaking). All accommodation is situated right on the riverbank, and it ranges from Rustic River Huts to a family bungalow and river tents. The idea is to get out into nature, with activities ranging from kayaking to fly fishing.
The Inside Track: The Augrabies Falls National Park is around 15 minutes away, famous for its 56m waterfall.
Perfect For: Water lovers
Discover More: kalahaririverandsafari.co.za / sanparks.org
What Is It?: The Cave, inflatable tent by Heimplanet
The Location: Based in Germany
The Concept: You arrive at your destination after a strenuous trek across hills or mountains, or perhaps just with the kids, hungry and tired. Now you need to put up the tent. The Cave appears to solve at least the latter problem: pick up the hand pump, blow up the tent, and within a minute it’s ready. Creators used a geodesic design for increased stability, leaving you to get ready with the cooking.
The Inside Track: Made from recyclable material, The Cave’s ground area is 5sqm and 102cm height inside.
Perfect For: Trekkers who have trouble fathoming how to erect tents
Discover More: heimplanet.com
The Tom Sawyer Experience
What Is It?: Camping Raft
The Location: Belgium and the Netherlands
The Concept: It’s billed as an ‘adventure holiday’ on water, but there’s everything one needs to sit back, relax and enjoy the views on a Camping Raft. Peace and quiet is encouraged as rafters meander gently down rivers, periodically stopping off at beauty points to stoke up the barbecue. Things can get a bit choppy in bad weather, but this makes it an ideal time to head for a town or village you pass on your way.
The Inside Track: Rent bikes at your start location to easily head deeper into the countryside when you stop.
Perfect For: Sailors … without experience
Discover More: camping-raft.com
No Nightlight Needed
What Is It?: Glass Igloo
The Location: Lapland, Finland
The Concept: These permanent igloo-like glass structures in Finland’s Lapland have everything needed to enjoy a night beneath the stars – which in the case of the 2-bed variety is a comfortable bed, toilet (4-person igloos have a shower, otherwise in a nearby building) and a heavenly view. Available from mid-August to late April, if guests time it right, they can stare straight out at the spectacular Northern Lights.
The Inside Track: Winter visitors can go on husky and reindeer safaris, and ice fishing on Lake Inarinjärvi.
Perfect For: A spectacular, romantic winter break
Discover More: kakslauttanen.fi
Let It Glow
What Is It?: Kaleidoscope and Orange Solar tent
The Location: Based in the US
The Concept: It was the huge summer music festival season that proved the inspiration for Kaleidoscope to come up with the innovative Orange Solar tent – in short, as festival attendees expected a more eco-focused experience, they also wanted a tent that was easy on the environment. The 4-person tent has 3 banks of photovoltaic cells to generate power, with a powerbar inside to charge a host of mobile and camping devices.
The Inside Track: At night, the tents glow with light powered by the cells.
Perfect For: Eco-conscious music fans
Discover More: kascope.com
Acrophobes Need Not Apply
What Is It?: Waldseilgarten: camping suspended from a tree … or the side of a rock face
The Location: Bavarian Alps, Germany
The Concept: Depending on your level of courage, at Waldseilgarten you get the choice of a wonderful night in a tent hanging from a tree; or if you prefer something a little more extreme, you can opt to camp on the side of a 100-300m-high rock face – providing you can climb there first. The location in the Bavarian Alps could hardly be better.
The Inside Track: As well as camping, activities include archery, a winter Eskimo weekend and a multitude of climbing courses.
Perfect For: Families with an adventurous streak
Discover More: waldseilgarten-hoellschlucht.de
Old McDonald Had An Organic Bakery
What Is It?: Bio-Hof Gensler
The Location: Poppenhausen, Germany
The Concept: Bio-Hof Gensler is a combination of organic bakery, ‘hotel’ and farm across 33 hectares of greenery and agricultural land. The so-called hotel is actually comprised of 12 tipi tents, and the backdrop to the campsite is forests and the region’s highest mountain, the Wasserkuppe. Organic food from the farm or the local region is always on the menu, including wild pig cooked in a wooden oven.
The Inside Track: The farm also offers bread-baking courses, from sourdough to rye bread.
Perfect For: Would-be farmers
Discover More: bio-hof-gensler.com
What Is It?: Quechua Tents
The Location: France
The Concept: Base Seconds is one of a number of very simple but highly useful Quechua tents. Though this one is not really meant for an overnight stay, it’s perfect for quickly erecting when hikers need protection from the weather. Large enough for 4-6 people, it has a 5sqm surface, headroom of 1.9m, and offers shelter from the rain – and it takes just 2 minutes to be ready.
The Inside Track: A version called 2 Seconds is designed to protect hikers from the sun, as well as light wind and rain, and takes … just 2 seconds to erect.
Perfect For: Impatient campers
Discover More: tente.quechua.com
An Atlantic Hideaway
What Is It?: Ridgeback Lodge
The Location: Kingston, New Brunswick, Canada
The Concept: As well as log cabins, Ridgeback Lodge offers visitors geodesic domes that can be rented by families of up to 6 people. A Dream Dome is for 2 people, has a king-sized bed, pellet stove, wood-fired hot tub, kitchenette and is suffused with natural light during daytime. Stargazer Domes are similar, but their extra size means they have a range of extras: notably a modern kitchen with all the amenities to cook on a grander scale.
The Inside Track: Advertised as ‘No TV, No Phone, No Internet’, it’s all about the location in ‘the heart of Atlantic Canada’.
Discover More: ridgebacklodge.com
Right On The River
What Is It?: Camping Airotel La Sorguette
The Location: L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Provence, France
The Concept: Situated on L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, la Sorguette is a charming mix of eco-tourist campsite and unusual accommodation. With the former, it means solar panels, environmentally friendly cleaning products, local organic products and a Nomad eco-accommodation area. Lodging includes a Mongolian yurt, lodge tents and various tree houses. The wonderfully rustic-looking wooden Bird Tree House has views across the river Sorgue and is large enough for a family.
The Inside Track: Surrounded by the river, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a culturally rich city, famous for its dealers in art and antiques.
Perfect For: Cultured campers
Discover More: camping-sorguette.com
Article by Paul Wheatley
Camping was never this much fun before! Which unusual camping concept most appeals to you?