When summer rolls around, outdoor enthusiasts often feel the call of the wild, complete with crackling campfire, twinkling stars and a bed of dirt and pine needles.
But who has the energy to pack up all that camping gear and food for a two-day trip, then tear it all down again? At the end of the weekend, you head back to the office exhausted but relieved. At least you can get some rest there.
Nowadays, with the rise of “glamping” resorts such as the Autocamp Russian River in Guerneville, you can have your s’mores and eat them, too. Instead of your butt grazing the hard ground when the air mattress springs a leak, you can snooze soundly inside one of 23 custom Airstream trailers or 10 luxury tents tricked out with high-end linens and blankets.
“My husband loves those outdoorsy vacations,” said Jennifer Jacobs of Phoenix, Arizona, whose family of four spent a couple of nights at Autocamp Russian River in late May. “Truthfully, I’m at the age now where I’m not going to camp anymore, so my husband thanked me for giving him a couple of days out in the wilderness … It was the best of both worlds.”
The resort, which opened last August, is both family-friendly and pet-friendly, which has helped keep it solidly booked, even on rainy weekends in February. Although not inexpensive, the marriage of the sleek, nostalgic Airstream trailers with the mid-century modern clubhouse set amid the redwoods seems to resonate across the generations, drawing everyone from millennials to baby-boomer retirees.
Ryan Miller, the 27-year-old co-founder of Autocamp, said the company does not view the “outdoor hospitality” business as a new trend. Rather, it is piggy-backing on the long-term appeal of outdoor recreation while tapping into a shift in lodging and travel tastes, which now align more closely with Airbnb and a desire for more authentic adventures.
With Autocamp, it’s an experience unlike any other. “It parallels the millennial ideals and values of experiences over things,” Miller said.
Mark Belhumeur, general manager for Autocamp Russian River, agreed that most people who come to the resort are looking for a unique experience, not just a place to stay.
“We are camping for those who don’t like to get dirty,” he said. “Everything is provided. All you bring is a couple of filets for the barbecue and you’re all set.”
Of course, it’s not going to appeal to the true tree-hugger looking for a wilderness experience, complete with a backpack the size of the Ritz, filled with bland MREs and stringy beef jerky. Still, it’s a good gateway drug for those craving time away from the incessant beeps and blinks of modern technology.
“It provides a turnkey opportunity to experience what we like to call ‘the spirit of camping,’” Miller said. “We make it easier for people to get outdoors.”
Susan Upchurch of Graton, who serves as district director for Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, has stayed at the Autocamp resort three times since it opened last August. Her first stay last fall was free, as a thank you for her small contribution to the resort’s crowdfunding campaign, This spring, she returned with a group of girlfriends and stayed one night in the luxury tents, then returned a week later to an Airstream for a birthday getaway with her husband.
Camping Made Easy
Autocamp Russian River: Airstream trailer accommodations offered year-round, priced at $195-$425 a night, depending on the season and day of the week. The luxury tents are offered from May through October, for $139-$225 a night. Reserve your space at autocamp.com. 707-604-6103.
Here are a few other “glamping” resorts to consider when you plan your staycation on the North Coast this summer:
Coast Vacation Trailers: This Fort Bragg company rents 19 RV trailers that they will drive to your campsite along the Mendocino Coast, from the Westport Beach RV Campground and MacKerricher State Park south to Van Damme State Park and the Albion River Campground. The trailers sleep from two to nine people and come with firewood, paper products and some or all of the linens. Rates start at $200 a night, not including campground fee. Pet-friendly, with some rules and $10 a night fee for dogs. To submit a request, include number of people and the name of the campground where you have made your reservation to coastvacationtrailers.com. 707-962-9294.
Terra Glamping: This resort perched 430 feet above the Pacific Ocean in Annapolis offers 10 safari tents with memory foam beds and ocean views. Two-night minimum on weekends. Rates start at $250 per night. 33005 Coast Highway. 646-801-8076. terraglamping.com.
Hipcamp: Known as the Airbnb of camping, this website can help you reserve a site at private, previously off-limit spots like Salmon Creek Ranch in Bodega as well as public parks such as Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville that offer a more unique experience than a more typical campground. hipcamp.com