Glamping adventures and luxurious camping holidays are so fetch right now! It’s the way divas like us were meant to experience the great outdoors.
My first ever glamping adventure trip happened completely by accident. It was meant to be another normal camping trip but it wouldn’t be me if it were normal now would it? I wanted to stay in a cabin this time around because my boyfriend wouldn’t be making the trip. I’ve only been camping once. Last spring the family roughed it — tent, sleeping bags, braving the elements, bugs, cooking outside; we did all of it. While we had an amazing time and it was a beautiful setting in nature, it was definitely against all of my inner diva instincts. Since that trip, I’ve been dying to go camping again and I decided to plan a camping excursion for my son and I before the new school year started. It would be a great chance for mom and son bonding before he started his next adventure of beginning high school. Who knew finding this yurt would be one of our most epic adventures!
I’m very big on taking advantage of all that state parks have to offer because A) they are gorgeous B) they are usually very cost-effective. I started my search on the Florida State Parks website for available cabins. And then I saw it…..there was an available YURT listed! I’ve had this burning desire to stay in a yurt ever since I watched my childhood friend compete on Design Star (HGTV), where she was tasked with decorating a yurt.
Pause. I hear you….what exactly is a yurt? It is a wood frame, tent-like structure used as the dwelling for nomads in Central Asia. In recent years they’ve been adapted to a more modern design as eco-friendly dwellings. After seeing how the yurt was so decked out on the show, I just thought they were super neat dwellings. It’s like a tee-pee and a cabin had a baby and the yurt was born. Once I saw the pictures online and read about the amenities for the yurt I found, I knew this would make an awesome chance to try out this “glamping” thing I’d heard so much about. Glamping seems to be the new buzzword in the realm of outdoor travel and recreation these days. What is glamping exactly? It’s glamorous camping, which of course is defined by the individual. For me, it’s having those amenities that make it extra comfortable and convenient while still having the opportunity to commune with nature. I value elements like climate-controlled accommodations, comfy beds, cute decor, electricity….etc. I’ve seen some glamping that is über luxurious, but my experience was somewhat on the milder side of the spectrum.
The yurt had hardwood floors, a picnic table and benches, bunk beds, a queen bed, a dresser, windows, a roof skylight, electricity, is weather-tight and drumroll please…….AIR CONDITIONING! They had me at beds and air conditioning! Everything else was a terrific bonus. This is currently the only yurt offered in any of the Florida State Park campgrounds and it was cheaper than most cabins at a rate of only $40 per night. I couldn’t find what the exact dimensions were but it was extremely spacious. There were rugs all around and cute little homey decorations. There was a lamp, ceiling fan with a light, and a couple of sets of mounted hooks for hanging things. They also provided a trash can with bags, cleaning solution, and a broom. There was electricity and plenty of outlets throughout the yurt.
While the structure itself is way cool, the surrounding beauty of this park just amplified the experience. There was a deck built around the yurt with chairs and a table overlooking a scenic, wooded ravine. There was also a fire pit surrounded with benches, a grill, and there was a water hose. The landscape of northern Florida is so different from what we were used to, so the dramatic rises in elevation and different types of trees and thick forest really blew us away. This yurt didn’t have plumbing inside, but luckily the shower and bathroom facilities of the campground were just a short walk and they were very well maintained. The gem of the campground area is an overlook deck at the very edge of the grounds. From this overlook you can see that the park is located up on a bluff which allows for an absolutely amazing view. It was definitely a unxpected treat and it wasn’t a view you expect to get in Florida. I got up every morning to just enjoy this peaceful view and meditate with the bees and chirping birds as the background music.
The park is visually stunning, however it doesn’t have the same amount of activities as some of the other parks we’ve visited. It has an abundance of trails but we were spooked from hiking them by the news from the ranger that a camper was bitten by a Copperhead on one of the trails. There is also an antebellum house called the Gregory House inside the park. It’s been restored and kept with effects and decorations of that time. The park offers tours at various times everyday but unfortunately we weren’t able to make it to a tour because we spent our days outside of the park. We did however explore the grounds one evening and we were treated with an absolutely jaw dropping view of the Apalachicola river from atop the bluff where the park sits. I had to sit down and just take it all in for a moment. The previous inhabitants of this home couldn’t have selected a more beautiful spot.
Per my usual, we had a few minor hiccups along the way. My son, who is 14, had all of these grand ideas of what we were going to cook on the open fire. Chef Jaylon wanted to cook all kinds of things. We had a cooler which we packed with ice and groceries when we made a stop in Tallahassee before arriving to the campgrounds. I convinced him to keep it simple for the first night and do s’mores and smoked sausage. We also had plenty of snacks, one of which was bacon jerky. Yes…bacon jerky. I’m sure there’s nothing healthy about it but it’s everything you love about breakfast in a bag. Once we were all unpacked and checked in with the ranger we got our firewood, which you get yourself for just $3 a bundle. We brought one of those long-handled lighters and charcoal with us to start the fire. What we didn’t bring was lighter fluid. We also forgot our bug spray. By the time we realized this the ranger was gone and I didn’t want to disturb any of the other campers. We struggled for the better part of an hour trying all kinds of ways to get the fire to catch. We were tired from the 5 hour drive and hungry and it was already dark, so we decided to abandon this plan for the night and head into the nearest town hoping something would be open. The nearest town is Bristol and it’s about a 15 minute drive. We almost settled on Subway sandwiches but my son suggested we try the gas station to see if they carried light fluid. He was right! Of course it cost me $50 (ok not really but it was more expensive). We got back and my young man got us a nice hot fire going. Dinner was delicious and the s’mores were amazing! We had 1 uninvited guest try to come for dinner, whom we learned later was Steve, the resident raccoon.
We took full advantage of exploring the Florida panhandle area for some new outdoor adventure and boy did we find it! I basically had to plan this entire trip around the location of this yurt, because not staying in the yurt wasn’t an option. Within an hour’s drive from Torreya State Park is the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, Fl, Jackson Blue Springs Recreation park, and Falling Waters State Park in Chipley. We had such a great time in the other parks that they have garnered there are own post. (See Discovering Outdoor Adventure in North Florida)
On day 2 we had the fire thing down. We had another yummy dinner, then we laughed and joked and watched “The Sandlot” on the laptop while eating s’mores in bed. My son and I really got a chance to bond in a different way on this trip. At age 14 they are not babies anymore but still not completely mature. It really was gratifying to see him step up as a young man. He wanted to help solve the problems and made suggestions along the way and he really did become mommy’s protector instead of the other way around. It taught me to listen to him and take him more seriously and not to dismiss him as being “just a child.” I was able to step back and see him in another light. Even when we think they aren’t listening to us in their earlier years, all of the lessons we try to teach them really are sinking in.
Glamping is definitely for me!! I was outdoors when I wanted to be. I sat on the deck early in the morning and meditated. I felt so close to God in those moments where there wasn’t a man-made noise to be found. However when I was over the giant tree spiders, weird rustling noises in the trees, and annoying gnats it was nice to be able to retreat inside of our yurt. I really enjoyed the skylight, especially because there was a super moon while we were there and we could see it shining brightly above. It illuminated the entire yurt with this silvery glow. Even though we were indoors it still didn’t feel like we were in a house. I’m already on the hunt for my next yurt adventure. The Georgia State Parks have lots of them!!
Tips for having your own fabulous glamping adventure:
- If you stay at the Torreya yurt, check the 3rd and 4th drawers for surprises left by previous guests. Also take a look through the guest sign in log inside the yurt. It’s full of tips and funny stories from previous residents. Let me know if you find a note from Outdoorsy Diva!
- Research what is offered by the state parks. Many state park campgrounds offer yurts, treehouse cabins, and traditional cabins.
- Don’t be afraid to try something unique. In my research I came across tree houses for rent and houseboats rentals. You may find a unique house rental or a nontraditional cabin.
- If you find glamping accommodations in an area that you aren’t familiar with, don’t rule it out simply because of its location. Research the surrounding towns for fun outdoor and family friendly things to do. TripAdvisor and Trekaroo are great resources for finding activities. If you’re staying in central or northern Florida, you’re more than likely less than an hour from a freshwater spring!
- Bring your own linens. Nothing says glamorous like sleeping on your very own 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets or having your favorite satin pillow.
- Having fancy snacks and meals can enhance your feeling of glamping. Our s’mores were made with Hershey special dark chocolate instead of just regular chocolate. Simple little embellishments just add to the experience. We had lots of fruit, humus, and all the fixings for our sandwiches. I sprung for the higher quality deli meat instead of just plain old cold cuts.
- Don’t forget your bug spray! Also, empty your trash daily so that you don’t attract unwanted critters.
- Do not feed wild animals!!
- Respect nature and leave only your footprints. Take everything else back home with you or dispose of it in designated areas.
- Get outside and take full advantage of everything around you.
“It’s only the great outdoors….what are you afraid of?”
–Lauren Gay, Outdoorsy Diva
All pictures and accounts are the sole property of Lauren Gay unless otherwise indicated. Copyright 2014