SKIP THE COTTAGE & GO GLAMPING
From Northumberland to Caledon and even right here in Toronto, posh camping accommodations are popping up and receiving rave reviews
Forget Muskoka, think posh camping in the Ontario wilds
At a time when we spend much of our days staring at computer screens or cell phones, there’s something about “unplugging” that really strikes a chord.
So as the warm weather arrives, it makes sense that many city dwellers opt out of the hustle and bustle of Toronto and search for pastoral views and tranquility in the calmer parts of our province.
Some opt to camp and some opt for a cottage retreat. Both are increasing in popularity, but tend to be on opposite ends of the wilderness spectrum.
Enter the summer’s hottest new trend — glamping, or luxury camping. Without the down and dirty aspect of camping, glamping offers you a yurt or canvas tent immersed in nature, where you can enjoy all that camping has to offer, along with a couple more bourgeois perks. Glamping provides an experience where guests can connect with the earth and the land we so often lose touch with while still maintaining a five-star, luxury feel.
Glamper Arlene Valentini found Whispering Springs while scrolling through Instagram.
“Not being a camper, I was excited by the idea of having all the comforts of home and not feeling so wretched as you might sleeping in a tent,” she says.
Valentini and her friend Leah Glenn drove an hour and a half north of Toronto to Whispering Springs, a family-operated glamping resort in Northumberland County.
Looking forward to a “soulful, meditative and wholesome experience,” she says, “Whispering Springs is more like a resort in a tent than a camping trip.”
Upon arrival, they were brought to their safari tent cutely named the Harvest Moon. At $349 a night, with a reduced rate during midweek stays, the traditional safari tent fits two people with a kingsized bed. There is also an electric fan, Muskoka chairs, a floating tub, firepit, mini-fridge and barbecue, among other amenities. During your stay, there are activities and services provided on site such as forest hiking trails, canoeing, biking and spa services. Valentini and her girlfriend took advantage of the salt water pool, hot tub and massages offered at the resort. She even said using the bathroom felt luxurious.
“Not often do you see a tent like that with a tub in it! It really exceeded my expectations,” she says.
That was just the feel that Whispering Springs owners, Nancy and John Corcoran, were aiming for.
“We wanted to provide people with the opportunity to be as outdoorsy — or not — as they want while staying with us,” says their daughter, Jenna Corcoran, who handles marketing and reservations.
The Corcorans opened Whispering Springs in 2015, after they decided to leave city life behind and get back to their wild side in the country.
“We believe more people are looking for an outdoorsy Canadian experience, whether or not they have camped before,” says Jenna.
Eighty per cent of Whispering Springs clientele is Toronto-based. There is a buzz around glamping that is taking clients away from the classic cottage experience, says Jenna of their mostly Torontobased clientele. The emergence of camping culture has created a buzz around glamping getaways, taking away from the classic cottage experience.
People are choosing glamping as an alternative to cottages and camping simply because there is way less hassle.
Aimee Alabaster, owner of Alabaster Acres in Caledon, Ont., says, “People don’t have the space to keep all their camping essentials anymore, so we provide everything. That way you can leave work at five o’clock and still make it in time for cocktail hour by the fire.”
After deciding to ditch her corporate lifestyle to become a fulltime farmer, Alabaster found that there was a demand amongst friends and acquaintances to get involved and learn about her new life.
“Our facility was built on community, and we encourage all of our guests to get involved and try on farm life, even if it’s just for a little while,” she says.
Of course, not all guests are looking for a farm-friendly experience and to that Alabaster says, “Nothing is structured. Guests can do whatever they are comfortable with, even if that is nothing at all.”
Hosting bachelorette parties, weddings and romantic getaways, Alabaster Acres has already started expanding due to the increase in booking requests over the last year. The average nightly rate is $200.
For those who feel glamping is a little too glam, there are also options such as OutPost Co. in Temagami Region. Offering a more authentic wilderness experience, OutPost is completely ensconced in Temagami’s white pine forest and is only accessible by float plane. About five hours from the city, this completely remote and off-the-grid experience allows campers to unplug and let go of city life for $600 a night.
Owner and founder Constantin Von Flotow started out in adventure- and expedition-based tourism and wanted to create a “back-to-nature” style glamping facility that was luxurious enough to draw a crowd but not so much so that his guests would not really connect with mother nature. He hopes his guests will “Pause, hit the reset button and hopefully have a transformative experience,” he says.
Glamping’s popularity has also increased its accessibility. Parks Canada has even made it possible for you to glamp right here in Toronto. The Glen Rouge Campground at the 401 and Kingston Road has opened up its first oTentiks for $120 a night.
“A play on words between a cabin and a tent, oTentik also means ‘ authentic’ in French,” says Emily Kinnon, visitor and events manager at Parks Canada.
“We are using the Glen Rouge as a gateway park to showcase a glimpse of what we offer all over the country” she says.
The oTentiks are the most affordable option and the closest to home while still being on a campground and on the water. Glamping has never been so easy.
Clockwise from left: Arlene Valentini and Leah Glenn during their glamping weekend, an exterior look at the safari tent at Whispering Springs, an interior look at the safari tent