Traveler: Rustic Life
There’s not much glamour when it comes to pitching a tent, cooking a meal over an open fire and sleeping on the cold, hard ground. But “glamping” hopes to change all that.
The trend that emerged in primitive camping over the past several years forgoes the less savory aspects of the great outdoors, featuring instead a platform on which a safari-style tent is spread. Inside a glamping tent one will find everything from an air mattress and rustic furniture to elegant bedding beneath chandeliers, mini kitchens and full bathrooms.
The new glamping options at eight Louisiana state parks lean toward the rustic, allowing visitors to become more attuned with nature than inside a park cabin, but not so close as to be uncomfortable. The tents cover a large wooden platform and inside are comfortable queen mattresses, wooden benches and shelves and propane heaters. Zippered flaps seal up the tent, while also allowing opportunities to open spaces in all four cloth walls for ventilation. In the case of inclement weather, the oversized, heavy-duty tent material keeps visitors warm and dry.
While Louisiana’s state park glamping experiences may not be true to the name, it offers those who shun more primitive camping a chance to try something new, said Rebecca Rundell, public information office at the Louisiana Office of State Parks. She sees the new glamping options as particularly appealing to those who don’t want the hassle of pitching a tent or for a family introducing their children to nature, but with more conveniences.
Christina Cooper, vice president of communications, marketing and public relations for St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission, wanted to try out the new glamping options at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville with her husband and seven-year-old daughter.
“I didn’t have any idea what to expect,” she said.
Fontainebleau offers several sites with easy access, though visitors must haul in equipment after parking in designated parking spots. Four additional glamping sites are located along a trail with medium difficulty access, and one site must be accessed by boat, located on a strip of land next to Lake Pontchartrain.
“That one is really special,” Rundell said of the island glamping tent. “It’s really worth it but it’s hard to get to, especially if you’re by yourself.”
Cooper and family chose a glamping tent at Campsite D near the park’s second entrance, one that only required a short walk.
“The other glamping sites near us were spread out, so you didn’t feel like you’re right on top of anyone,” she said.
The family of three cooked meals over a fire pit with a grill, hiked through the park and went canoeing down Cane Bayou. They spotted a bald eagle, deer, a possum they nicknamed Harold and a great blue heron with a bass in his mouth.
At Lake Claiborne State Park outside Homer, glamping sites have been installed within the primitive-RV camping areas, with one glamping campsite only accessible by boat. Two connected tents fronting the lake, not far from the park’s popular beach, are perfect for large groups, such as parents in one tent with the children in the other. Double tent sites sleep two in each of the tents, but each tent offers an additional pop-up tent that sleeps four apiece.
For those who wish to camp on the beach, Grand Isle State Park offers a glamping experience with views of the Gulf.
Other state parks that now offer glamping include South Toledo Bend State Park, Lake Fausse Pointe, Chicot, Lake D’Arbonne and Jimmie Davis. Overnight glamping fees, starting at $85, include entrance to the state parks with access to all park facilities, such as bathhouses with showers, toilets and laundry.
“I would do it again tomorrow,” Cooper said. “It was such a great family experience. We had the most amazing time.”
What’s Already There
Each campsite offers a queen-sized bed with memory foam mattress, side tables and chairs on the outside porch. A propane heater keeps the canvas tent toasty at night and a fire pit with a grill is available for cooking and heat. Additional features include a picnic table that may be brought outside, solar shower (although we highly recommend the park bathhouses), a pop-up tent for those who want to get closer to nature and a portable camp loo that’s surprisingly convenient and hygienic.
What to Bring
Visitors to the state’s glamping tents should bring all bedding, especially warm blankets if the nights turn cold, as well as food, water and toiletries. Firewood was included in our camping adventure but it’s recommended that visitors bring their own (extra firewood is always a good idea, anyway). Bathhouses are located in the camping sites but for those late-night nature calls, make sure toilet paper is at hand. There’s no electricity at the glamping sites, so flashlights or lanterns are a must. At the end of the stay, everything brought in must be taken out, including the trash.