A Montana-based company opened its ninth “glamping” resort last month in the Hancock County town of Surry, and its 63 luxury, safari-style campsites are already mostly booked for the rest of the summer season.
Under Canvas, which operates glamping, or “glamorous camping,” resorts at sites near national parks nationwide, opened its first location on the east coast on May 13, about 20 miles from Acadia National Park. It has similar resorts near other popular national parks, including Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone and Zion.
In November 2019, Under Canvas submitted its proposal to the town of Surry to turn a 101-acre former hay farm into a resort. Though a few nearby property owners raised concerns about traffic and smoke from the resort’s many wood stoves, and the vote was delayed due to the pandemic, the town’s planning board approved the plan in June 2020.
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Each “glampsite” includes a king bed with top-quality linens, USB charging packs and a wood burning stove, and includes daily housekeeping, running hot water and flushing toilets. They range in size from a two-person safari tent with shared bathrooms, to a four-person suite tent with its own bathroom, a lounge area and private deck.
A common area offers picnics and a nightly campfire with s’mores, and the resort has partnered with author, swordfish boat captain and Isle au Haut resident Linda Greenlaw to plan excursion cruises. The resort will operate on a seasonal basis, opening in mid-May and booking through mid-October.
Numerous other glamping sites have popped up in Maine in the past five years. Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport was one of the first to open in Maine in 2017. On MDI, Woods of Eden, a six-site glampground in Bar Harbor, opened in 2019, and there are now sites in Maine hosted on Tentr, an Airbnb-style app that allows people to set up luxury campsites at scenic, privately owned spots around the state.
On the more luxurious side, Terramor, which bills itself as an “outdoor resort,” opened in August 2020, after Kampgrounds of America undertook a $9.7 million rehab of the former KOA Woodlands Campground in Bar Harbor.
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Prices at glamping resorts can vary widely. At Sandy Pines in Kennebunkport, people can stay in something as simple as an A-frame hut with a double bed for $90 per night. At Terramor, prices start at $300 per night and go up to $600 per night, while at Under Canvas, there are glampsites that can go up to $1,000 per night. By comparison, most rooms at high-end hotels on Mount Desert Island such as the Claremont in Southwest Harbor or the Harborside Inn in Bar Harbor go for similar prices during the peak of summer — with the addition of room service and other hotel amenities.
Glamping, camping and other outdoor activities and accommodations surged in popularity last summer during the coronavirus pandemic, as people sought ways to travel while staying safe.
Nationwide, between 25 and 50 percent of state park visitors were new users this year, according to the National Association of State Park Directors. In Maine, state parks saw a 60 percent increase in camping reservations for Mainers, and a 15 percent increase for nonresidents.