We sample the new luxury camping at Moran State Park, where the “campgrounds” are more like hotel rooms under white safari tents.
ORCAS ISLAND — Like a cruise-ship greeter, the affable blonde hostess waited as I pulled into my reserved parking spot. “Welcome to Wanderlust,” she said.
She asked how my ferry ride to Orcas Island was and if I needed help with my bags.
Assured that I had not suffered any undue stress from a ferry ride that involved sipping a latte while watching for whales, she led me to my “campground.”
Or I should say it was more like a Holiday Inn room under a white safari tent in a campground.
There’s a bed with four puffy pillows, and partial view of Cascade Lake if I wish to keep the tent flaps up. (The answer is yes, I very much want to keep the tent flaps up.)
Most Read Life Stories
- Seattle chef Mike Easton's critically acclaimed pasta spot Il Corvo will return … but in Eastern Washington
- 7 hidden-gem attractions to check out at Seattle's Pike Place Market
- This Oregon teacher climbed Washington’s 100 tallest peaks in 51 days
- 3 terrific under-the-radar spots where Seattle locals go to grab a tasty snack at Pike Place Market
- Warm up during these cold fall days with a hearty mushroom soup that will win over even the mushroom haters
There are nightstands, drawers, tables, chairs, a drying rack and coat rack on a raised platform.
There’s a complimentary bag of granola to snack on in case I want to do something as absurd as hike (on a glamping trip?).
There are the spa accouterments of “peppermint” shampoo, “cilantro” hair conditioner and “dark rum” lotion that, after my shower, made me smell like a vegan entree at some yoga retreat. I thought the deer I encountered after my shower would try to eat me.
This is certainly not your father’s state park.
New revenue source
Faced with state budget cuts, the Washington State Parks Commission is leasing out portions of two state-park campgrounds to hospitality groups to set up glamping (derives from “glamorous camping”) for city slickers who want to enjoy the wilderness without roughing it.
If you’re worried that you’ll toss and turn sleeping over lumpy ground at Millersylvania State Park, in Thurston County, there’s a king-size bed with memory foam and your name on it.
For $244 a night, you get the amenities of a contemporary home in a “tent cabin.” There’s an electric heater, flat-screen TV, iPhone and computer chargers, vanity table, mini fridge and a microwave.
I opted for something less luxurious, but I had a better backyard.
I glamped at Moran State Park, a 5,252-acre playground with 30 miles of trails and five lakes, situated on the northeast corner of Orcas Island.
My goal was to jog around a few lakes and up to the highest point and back to justify the glamping as a needed convalescence from that 16-mile run.
My goal was to then nap and take a barefoot stroll along the lakeshore at night.
I never made it out of my bed for that last part.
Luxury on a budget
Glamping at Moran is ideal for families who don’t have — or don’t want to haul in — camping equipment. Or for love birds who don’t want to shell out $449 for a suite at nearby Rosario Resort.
Moran’s glamping sites are on the campground’s Southend loop, near Cascade Lake. Glampers who want to take an easy hike can hit the nearby Cascade Falls hike (1 mile) or the steeper, but shorter, hike to Sunrise Rock (a half-mile).
But who are we kidding? You just booked a tent with a bed under it, which means you’re too lazy to even pitch a tent, yet alone break a sweat. You want to hop in your car and drive — instead of hike — the six miles to the summit of Mount Constitution and breathe in the view of Mount Baker and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.
Once atop, climb the few stairs of the medieval-looking stone lookout for a 360-degree view, the most magnificent scenery in all of the San Juans.
Even better, get a fresh baguette, paté and butter at Roses Bakery, in Eastsound, or some local cheese at Orcas Food Co-op, for a picnic spread at the summit. It will be the most memorable meal you can have on Orcas, outside of the tasting menu at Hogstone’s Wood Oven (hogstone.com), where James Beard-nominated Chef Jay Blackinton resides.
Most, though, won’t venture far from bed. Everything you need is within a 20-yard radius, including a water spigot with drinking fountain. The coin-operated showers are a stone’s throw away. There are towels in the room, er, I mean tent.
No meals provided, though there’s a fire pit.
The best part may be the glamping-area’s seclusion from other campers. Moran is the fourth-largest of Washington’s state parks but feels smaller when all the summer vacationers caravan off the ferry and flood this island park, which got 811,262 visitors last year. At dark, I was grateful to retreat up the hill to my tent.
Moran’s five glamping sites sit about 10 feet apart, but with rows of firs and cedars in between, you get privacy.
Tea, cider, cocoa and coffee makings are provided, with a cast-iron pot to heat water over the fire. Or the hostess can bring fresh coffee for $9. The only home amenities missing are electrical outlets.
Still, you never really unplug from the city. Lie on the bed long enough and you start to think of this as a hotel room.
I wondered if I could get the hostess to bring me a bag of ice for the ankle I twisted on my three-hour run. I pondered whether to request another bundle of wood ($9) in case my campfire burned out too fast.
I did neither. Just sinking into the scent of clean sheets after a long run, propping my bum ankle on a stack of pillows, with a glass of rosé in hand — that felt heavenly enough.
If you go
Wanderlust Camps offers luxuriously-furnished tents in Moran State Park for $119-$219.99 (may require a two-night stay during peak season). Season will run through at least mid-October.
Each glamping tent sits on a raised platform, about 12 by 14 feet, and includes bed, drawer, tables, chairs and other furniture.
Two of the five glamping sites have two tents each, with beds to sleep at least four. No on-premises staff, but someone checks in four times a day and is available by phone or text (note: cell service is spotty). More info at wanderlustcamps.com.
When you arrive, stop by the park entrance for directions and map. Discover Pass not needed if you reserve a glamping site. More info on the park: parks.wa.gov/547/Moran.
Take Washington State Ferries from Anacortes to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Ferry reservations highly recommended: wsdot.wa.gov/ferries.
More glamping in the San Juans
Rates may change based on availability:
Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island offers 16 glamping sites May 1-Sept. 30, from $179 to $329 per night. “Gourmet Glamping” features noted chefs cooking over campfires, $65 per guest (in addition to lodging), July 18, Aug. 22, and Sept. 19; 800-617-2267 or lakedale.com.
West Beach Resort on Orcas Island offers tent cabins that include a deck and queen-size bed, from $99 to $139; 877-937-8224 or westbeachresort.com.
Also in state parks
Washington State Parks also offers glamping at Millersylvania State Park, near Olympia. Pampered Wilderness sets up tent cabins that cost $244 for double occupancy, April 1-Oct. 6. 360-339-0636 or pamperedwilderness.com.