If you made a Venn diagram comparing a hotel stay to camping, the space in the middle would be labeled “the coolest thing I never knew existed.” These properties fit right in that middle section—each in their own unique way.
The ever-expanding sharing economy that delivered innovations like Uber, Lyft and AirBnB spawned Hipcamp, for crowd-weary campers looking for sites away from the mainstream. Generous property owners throughout the country offer private camping ranging from rustic to refined via Hipcamp’s booking interface. Most listings have detailed, adoring reviews and photos. hipcamp.com
Glampout at Songdog
Songdog Ranch in the Cuyama Badlands is definitely rustic, but it offers guests incredible views, highly rated hospitality and a wealth of privacy. The Glampout option is perfect for weekenders in search of a camping experience without all the gear. The spacious Sibley tent sits on a rustic wooden deck and is outfitted with two queen size mattresses and ample cooking utensils. The site itself offers running water, firewood and fire ring, a cooking grill, rocking chairs and a picnic table, and is dog friendly. The pit toilet (an upgrade to back country campers; a daunting adventure for those who typically opt for a hotel) is clean and well stocked.
Guests are required to bring their own bedding and food, and while many may be disappointed to discover there are no hot showers, the silver lining—a rustic farm tub included with the Glampout booking—more than makes up for it. Then there are the stars…when was the last time you spent an hour pondering the universe with a view of the Milky Way? Hiking trails abound right from the camp or a short drive away, and the wildflowers are glorious in springtime. hipcamp.com
Autocamp Santa Barbara
While Autocamp Santa Barbara sits on a historic property that has served wayward California campers since the 1920s, the current accommodations are decidedly not your grandparents’ Airstreams. Their gleaming, traditional exteriors hide sumptuous secrets. In place of a thin foam pad is a plush luxury mattress. In place of a small plastic shower stall stands a custom marble walk-in shower. And, fortunately or unfortunately, in place of weathered paperbacks thereís a flat screen TV, MP3 player and abundant WiFi.
The upper De La Vina location is convenient but still nicely tucked away from the bustle of downtown, which is only a short ride away on the two complimentary beach cruisers that come with the booking.
Despite the upgrades, the experience still feels authentic: sitting outside on the patio, under the oaks and palms, tending steaks on the grill—it feels like camping. Whoever said camping has to be uncomfortable hasn’t stayed at Autocamp. autocamp.com
Farm Stay at Pianetta Ranch & Winery Camp
A little less rustic but still on this side of the DIY spectrum is a stay at Pianetta Ranch & Winery in Paso Robles wine country. With ample parking and upgraded amenities, this is a great option for Airstream/RV owners (tent camping is equally popular) and large groups of up to 120 guests. Pianetta Ranch is a 95-acre working winery with 65 acres of vineyard. Cozy up around the campfire with a nice bottle of Pianetta’s Tuscan Nights blend and watch the sun set over the rolling hills surrounding the Indian Valley. Those who don’t want to camp but don’t have an RV of their own can book the property’s Airstream Vineyard Retreat package.
If that’s not heavenly enough, guests can reserve a catered winemaker dinner and vineyard tour, specialized tastings or champagne brunch. The owners are often on site and enjoy answering questions about their wines and even host small tastings. As an added bonus, the bathrooms have hot showers and conventional toilets. pianettawinery.com/visit-pianetta-winery
The Trailer Pond at Alta Colina
You only have to see a picture of The Trailer Pond at Alta Colina Vineyard to put it on your bucket list. Carl and Jaime Holm, the visionaries behind this amazing experience, wanted to provide a backdrop for an authentic 1950s campout, and they did it down to the finest detail. Five 1950s-era camper trailers dot the edge of a small pond, complete with an Instagram-worthy dock.
While each unique camper is outfitted with modern comforts, such as coffee makers, the bathrooms along the pond are a composting toilet housed in a refurbished vintage horse trailer (naturally!), with modern facilities and showers a short walk away.
It’s a short drive into Paso Robles—though part of it is up/down an intimidating but manageable stretch of dirt road—but if you don’t feel like running back and forth for meals, you can upgrade to the Retreat Package. This includes farm-to-table style breakfast, lunch and dinner served at the family-style picnic table. In addition, there is also a fully stocked shared kitchen on the pond. thetrailerpond.com/trailers
This story was originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.