Glamping Review: Silky Oaks Lodge

“This is the last traffic light on the east coast of Australia,” my driver tells me, wiping a single bead of sweat from his sunburnt brow. “You can drive from here all the way to Cape York, the most northerly point on this continent, without having to stop for another red light.”

Less than 15 minutes after he’s shifted his van back into gear, we’re pulling into Silky Oaks Lodge, and the resorts that line Australia’s east coast seem infinitely distant. Swaying fields of golden sugar cane and infinite sea views have given way to the Daintree rainforest’s profusion of green draping itself over the orogenic folds of the Great Dividing Range.

42 Mossman Gorge

The Daintree is Earth’s oldest living rainforest, estimated to be about 180 million years old. It’s the last remaining relic of a tropical rainforest that once covered all of Australia. The continent’s distinctive animals began to evolve in this environment. The first flowering plants are thought to have bloomed here, and it’s easy to find species of giant fern that once fed dinosaurs. It is one of our planet’s most wondrous ecosystems.

Most of the Daintree rainforest is protected in a world heritage listed national park, but in the thin sliver between the park’s southeastern edge and the Mossman River, Silky Oaks Lodge nestles itself into this lush environment.

16 Healthy breakfast2

Like every guest, I’m offered welcome drink in the Jungle Perch upon arrival.  The stilted gazebo sits high above the river in the rainforest canopy.  On Silky Oaks’ restaurant plates and in its glasses, tropical flavors are the order of the day. Notes of citrus and mango dance on my palate, and I survey the tree tops around me, a different blooming orchid spilling into view with each quarter turn of my head.

I take a few minutes to soak it all in. Just a few hours off a trans-Pacific flight, I’m jetlagged and generally exhausted, but my new surroundings have given me the urge to explore.

Silky Oaks Jungle perch ext

My home for the next few nights will be a luxurious tree house with a porch that juts into a steep-walled primeval valley below. Countless shades of green overhang the stone paths I navigate through Silky Oaks toward my cabin. It’s virtually impossible to keep the Daintree at bay.

“Keeping the rainforest back is a constant job,” says Paul Van Min, who migrated to tropical north Queensland from the cooler climes of Melbourne to build the rainforest retreat. “It will grow over the paths and boardwalks in days if you aren’t constantly cutting it back.”

43 safari_main_image2

It’s easy enough to believe. A tropical cyclone came through the area just a few weeks before I arrived, but any damage that it did to the forest here has already been covered up by new growth. Life bursts forth everywhere.

Silky Oaks staff will arrange for guests to go sunset sailing on the Coral Sea, diving on the Great Barrier Reef and spear fishing with local Aboriginal people, but hiking in the national park on the lodge’s doorstep is what pulls me in first.


Two trails leave directly from the property. The mountain trail climbs steeply into the park, while the flatter river trail leads past a few picnic spots to the thundering Fig Tree rapids about an hour’s walk upstream.

I tackle the river trail first. The Mossman River is fed by a mountain spring high in the Great Dividing Range, and it stays cool even in summer. Along its banks, the river feels like a natural air conditioner. Afternoon rain filters warmly through the rainforest canopy, contrasting with the rush of air cooled by the river. Even hiking in the tropical heat, I stay cool.

25 Riverview dining

After sampling a seafood tapas platter of prawn spring rolls, melt in your mouth reef fish and local barramundi, I’m more than ready for a good night’s sleep. My tree house comes equipped with two beds: one indoor, and one on my oversized porch.

The indoor bed is the larger of the two, but there’s only one of me, and both are equally inviting, crisply made with Macadamia-nut chocolates on their pillows for dessert. Given the chance to sleep with nothing but a mosquito net between myself and this extraordinary rainforest, I take it.

11c Lodge Suite

The burbling of a tiny stream nearby is echoed by the roar of the Mossman in the distance, and I fade pleasantly in and out of consciousness for a while. This aquatic soundscape is overlaid with innumerable insects chirping and periodic bursts of birdsong. The jetlag I’d been feeling is lulled away for good as I settle in for twelve full hours of the soundest sleep I’ve ever had.

(Photos from Silky Oaks Lodge)

Glamping Review: The Golden Eagle Tree House, Primland, Meadows of Dan, Virginia, USA

Before I checked in to receive keys for the Golden Eagle Tree House that I had a reservation for, I didn’t realize that they’d be accompanied by a second pair of keys.

“Here’s your 4×4 to get around,” said Chase Goins, the bell captain. The Ford Escape before me came standard to anyone with a reservation for one of the tree houses, since they required a little bit of off-roading to get to their neck of the woods. (I could have had Chase or one of the bellhops give me a ride there, but I opted for the freedom of getting around on my own.)

GoldenEagleBedroomPhoto: Erik Trinidad

The Golden Eagle Tree House is just one of the accommodation options at Primland in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, a French-owned mountain resort two hours away from Greensboro airport by car. Encompassing 12,000 acres of Appalachian hills and valleys that concealed many a moonshiner back in the day, there’s a lot of ground you can cover on its roads and trails, with said 4×4, your own car (if you drive there), an ATV, or simply on foot with hiking boots — or golf shoes on its world-class golf course if that’s your thing.

PorchViewFromGoldenEagleBedroomPhoto: Erik Trinidad

Staying in the Golden Eagle Tree House, Primland’s first of three, was as luxurious as glamping can get in a tree, or rather next to one. With its own support structure designed in France, the house and private deck were built around a big branch of its host tree, a chestnut oak, so as not to damage Mother Nature with nails. With that said, I briefly wondered if it could technically be a true tree house given the fact that it’s not perched up by tree branches, but when I took one glance of the view from the deck and saw that it’s situated on a cliff side with the Dan River Gorge below, technicalities went out the window and flew away with the mountain breeze. Splendid red-tailed hawks spread their wings and flew beneath me, rising up with the thermals to my eye level and above. I took a breather, and sipped a glass of Malbec while the sun began to set down the mountaintops.

sunsetViewPhoto: Erik Trinidad

The sights inside the tree house, while not as awe-inspiring, were also impressive. With wi-fi and a flatscreen television that could be viewed from cozy, cushioned chairs or the comfortable king-sized bed, modern technology was glamping along with me. Add a Keurig coffee maker, mini-fridge, soft, thick bath robes, and even turn down service, and I had all the amenities of a luxury hotel room, just out in the woods, and pleasantly smelling of cedar. Of course there’s plumbing to the tree house too, which allowed me to take a hot bath with a view of the gorge — a perfect moment of relaxation after my active day of hiking, clay shooting, and ATV riding.

treeServicePhoto: Erik Trinidad

While there’s no kitchen in the Golden Eagle Tree House, you can always call in for room service from the main lodge — or as I call it, “tree service” — especially on days when it expectedly snows overnight and you just want to have breakfast in bed. But when you’re out and about in Primland — may it be fishing, tree climbing, kayaking, or participating in one of its main draws, hunting — you can always stop in at the main lodge for a bite to eat. The 19th Pub serves up casual fare — as well as my first taste of Appalachian moonshine — while fancier dining experiences are just across the way at the Elements restaurant. I was fortunate enough to partake in a meal at the Chef’s Table, where award-winning Chef Gunnar Thompson prepared a multi-course tasting menu featuring his classically-trained takes on local cuisine, including pine-roasted rainbow trout with foraged horseradish, hog jowl grits, and blackberry moonshine sorbet. How’s that for Appalachian glamping food?

mainLodgePhoto: Erik Trinidad

The main lodge itself is an attraction, even if you’re staying at a tree house, and not because of its pool or spa — although those are definitely highlights, especially the latter. From a distance, the lodge appears to be a big farmhouse or a mill adjacent to a big shiny silo — an architectural homage to regional building styles — but upon closer inspection, the “mill” holds 27 luxury rooms, and the top of the “silo” is actually an observatory dome with a powerful telescope capable of showing stars thousands of light years away. On a clear night, Scott Martin, Primland’s resident Director of Astronomy (yes, they have one) invites guests to explore the night sky and see celestial bodies up close over drinks, proving that when it comes to glamping at Primland, it’s all about the views, interstellar or otherwise.

GoldenEagleBedroom2Photo: Erik Trinidad

Back at the Golden Eagle Tree House, as I gazed out at the foliage of the Dan River Gorge with the warmth of the sun on my face, I remembered that the view back down on Earth isn’t bad either.


Glamping News – Treehouses for Adults

When’s the last time you spent time in a tree house?  Chances are, it was probably when you where in elementary school.  Well tree houses are not just for kids anymore.  Savvy hoteliers and entrepreneurs the world over are designing incredible structures for sophisticated travelers looking for a uniquely different experience and a deeper connection with nature.

A recent article in HiConsumption, a lifestyle magazine catering to men, covering the latest news in architecture, design, fashion, and art, compiled a list of some the greatest tree houses on the planet.  For those of us who never grew tired of tree houses, here’s an excerpt:

Treehouse Cabin in CO -hiconsumption

Rustic Treehouse Cabin in Colorado

This elevated cabin was designed by architect Missy Brown with adults in mind. The treehouse is located in the mountains of Vail, and includes an awesome rooftop patio – perfect for enjoying a summer time beer. The tiny getaway is anchored to a 90 foot spruce tree on the owner’s property, and features a sleeping quarters and a rooftop patio.


bobini at treehouse point

Treehouse Point in Washington

Located in Issaquah, Washington, Treehouse point is technically a treehouse hotel. There are several different accommodations scattered throughout the property and there are a variety of events that can be planned during your stay including concerts and treehouse building workshops.

tom's treehouse from

Tom’s Treehouse in Wisconsin

Part of Wisconsin’s Wandawega resort, this three story cottage was designed for guests looking to experience the great outdoors.  The space is so warm and cozy with wood paneling, an upstairs sleeping and reading nook. There’s a chandelier crafted from antlers, and the textiles are native inspired. Beautiful!


Finca Bellavista Sustainable Treehouse in Costa Rica

This sustainable community spans over 600 acres in Costa Rica. All 25 structures on the property are connected by a series of suspension bridges. Any stay at FBV will have amazing views, but the treehouse views are unparalleled. The “base camp” holds all of the other details you might be participating in– campfires, bath house, dining hall and even a wedding garden.


birds nest from

The Bird’s Nest Treehouse in Sweden

As the name would suggest, this treehouse looks like a giant bird’s nest. While the outside may look primitive, the interior has been decked out with modern conveniences, and one would never know they were sleeping in an oversized bird’s nest. It’s part of the Treehotel, and was designed by Indrednin Gspruppen. Inside it’s a high standard room with modern design. A coachwork panel decorates the inner wall. There is space and beds for a family with two children. The bedroom is a separate room with sliding doors. You access the nest by a retractable staircase.

the minister treehouse from

The Minister’s Tree House in Tennessee

Perhaps the most famous treehouse on the list, this structure is absolutely mind boggling. The 5-story treehouse measures in at 100 feet tall, and includes 80 rooms. The building process began back in 1993, when Minister Horace Burgess says he was inspired by God to build it. It’s got everything from a basketball court to a full-fledged church. This tourist attraction is said to be the tallest treehouse in the world.



UFO Treehouse in Sweden

Another one of the rooms in the Harads, Sweden based Treehotel, this UFO inspired treehouse is nothing short of amazing. With the fog effect on, this thing looks like it’s descending from the sky, getting ready to make contact with planet Earth. It will set you back about $600 to book a room here. There are currently 24 rooms planned, with six now available for booking.


Mirrorcube Treehouse in Sweden

Sweden’s Treehotel is absolutely amazing, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that 3 of its suites made our list of the best treehouses. This particular one was designed by Tham & Videgard architects, and is crafted from a lightweight aluminum that has been draped in reflective glass. This design makes the treehouse look like it’s part of its natural surroundings. In case you were wondering about birds flying into it, this thing has been equipped with infrared film that’s only visible to birds, so that rarely happens. Prices range from $400 to $600 per night. chalkley

Lion Sands Game Reserve Treehouse in South Africa

The best way to experience everything South Africa has to offer, Lion Sands includes 3 treehouses that place you right in the heart of the action. The reserve is home to lions, hippos, leopards, birds, and much more – so expect everything to come to life after dark.

pine tree shaped houses


Sustainable Pine Tree-Shaped Treehouse

Certainly a lot more modern and futuristic than the other homes on the list, these concept treehouses are amazing. They were designed by architect Konrad Wojcik, and are completely sustainable. Each home features 4 floors, solar panels, and even a bio-digester to recycle human waste. We’re sure with enough support we could someday see this concept come to life.