Glamping in the Outback Northern Territory Australia

When I arrived in Kings Creek station via bus, Lily from Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge was there to pick a few of us up. She was petite and in her 40’s with a sly smile. She drove an dirty, beat up SUV, perfect for this desert environment.


The Australian outback is not at all what I was expecting. I had expected this red wasteland – flat, red, and barren. But instead I was surprised to find green plant life all around. Short, bushy, vibrant trees filled the landscape and seemed to glow against the red landscape. I had arrived in Autumn in the Northern Territory of Australia and I quickly determined that it’s the best time to be there – the temps were pleasant, the flies weren’t as bad as the summer, and there were green bushes.


With no internet or cell connection – this camping is the real thing. Never mind that inside the tent is a queen size bed, electricity, and separate tented bathroom with shower and hairdryer. Ok – it’s just about the real thing. Actually, it’s my kind of camping – it’s glamping! This glamping experience was a bit ‘rougher’ than the others I experienced in Australia but there is a reason it’s called glamping… it still was glamorous even though it was out in the middle of nowhere!


The tent was completely canvas and built on a decked platform. It had 5 zip up windows, electricity, a separate tent bathroom, and evena little back ‘door’ and patio to sit and look out on the scrubby bushes of the dusty, red outback. I didn’t actually spend much time in the tent though as there were a number of communal activities that kept me busy at the camp. It started with drinks by the fire served up by Lily and then we were all ushered to a rustic table. We sat outside under the stars eating canapés of smoked kangaroo, cheese, and avocado. The dinner and dessert were also just as impressive with salad, mashed potatoes, barramundi fish, lamb, and sticky date pudding for dessert. Lily was our entertainment bonding all of us traveling strangers together under the stars. She wore a little black dress while she gracefully placed logs on the fire and served food and stories up in an equal amount.


The people who live in remote communities always fascinate me. Lily said that shehoards newspaper and magazines because they get one mail delivery a week and one truck comes through the station a week. I found myself doing a little inventory in my head of my backpack trying to remember if I had any old magazines I could give her before I left! Once I retired to my tent after a nightcap of port around the fire, I heard the howling as soon as I lay down to go to sleep. Dingoes. The sound came from my left; it felt as if it was far away. I hoped it was far away. I dozed off for a few hours, however it felt like minutes when I woke up againto more howling. I could also hear a slow whistling hum. I lay there with my mind churning on the whistling sound. What was it? Then I realized it was the wind blowing through the tough, scrubby green brush trees in the outback. I wanted an outback glamping experience, and now I was getting it – complete with a pack of howling dingoes.


Despite my restless dingo filled night, I had to wake up early the next day for the main reason I came here to Kings Creek Station; the Kings Canyon Rim hike. Our Guide, Graham, pointed out various plant life and trees during the hike – some of which was over 600 years old. He also shared stories about the aboriginal culture from this area. The hike was a total of 6km and it wound around the top of the canyon providing you views over the sheer sandstone cliffs and into the valley 150 m below. The only challenging part of the hike was the initial 10 to 15 minute uphill climb to get to the rim. But it’s worth it as once you get to the top you have 3 more hours of walking and enjoying the lovely views.


Besides the hike, there’s plenty more to do during a two-night stay in the area. There are camel rides, helicopter rides, ATV rentals, and a small restaurant at the nearby Kings Creek station. The outback doesn’t really have towns – they have stations. The stations (ranches) were the only things really on this land. Kings Creek Station was a camel farm and tourist bus stop. Most of the stations herd cattle and they are normally about 1,000,000 acresand can have upwards of 8,000 to 15,000 head of cattle on them. The areas are so vast that they herd them with helicopters!


The little station café served up a rather unusual but tasty camel burger as camel meat is a staple out in these parts of the outback. Get the deluxe burger and you’ll find a lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, fried egg, and a pineapple slice on your burger! After a few nights listening to dingoes, swapping stories by the campfire, sleeping in a tent, hiking, and eating camel burgers – I felt like I had a real outback experience!

Urban Glamping with Hazel

I understand camping isn’t for everyone. There are bugs, variable temperatures, sleeping on the ground, no wifi – that’s why they invented Glamping! However, I also understand that glamping is still a little too roughing it/outdoorsy and remote for people – but what if you could ‘glamp’ in a city? Get the feeling of camping but have a vibrant urban landscape at your doorstep?

I have found the solution – tucked away between brick buildings in the European capital of Brussels – urban glamping. The boutique Vintage Hotel in Brussels not only went vintage in their décor and room design, they took it a step further and brought in a refurbished vintage Airstream camper and parked it on their front terrace. Poof – urban glamping!

I was pretty excited to try out this unique accommodation and still have the joy of easily getting to the bars, restaurants, and nightlife of Brussels.

The vintage Airstream was built in 1958, but has been fully updated with queen size bed, funky sitting area, TV, wifi, and shower.

It even came with a name, Hazel. In a previous life Hazel was a functioning camper that was used to travel the U.S. – oh, the places Hazel had been!

As I stepped up on the metal step and entered into my camper I sort of felt like Austin Powers was going to be lying on the bed greeting me! The décor was straight out of the 1970’s, colorful and graphic, which made the Airstream fit in seamlessly with the rest of the Vintage Hotel décor.

You are not just in the middle of a bustling city; you are also in the middle of the courtyard and entryway for the hotel. At first, I was a bit freaked out feeling rather exposed with the Airstream sitting right in the entrance with little tables around it so that people from the wine bar could sit around you, but it also felt very city like. I was in the middle of all of the action, and honestly once you closed your camper door and pulled the shades, you were in your own little camper world anyway.

And if you start to feel a bit claustrophobic, you can hang out on the terrace or inside at the wine bar at the hotel. The indoor wine bar also doubles as the breakfast area in the morning.

If you are urban glamping, then it’s all about the city and luckily the Vintage Airstream was located in one of the hippest neighborhoods in Brussels – Saint Gilles. You are surrounded by great restaurants, friteries, coffee shops, bars and shopping, all within a few blocks.

I enlisted the help of my friends who live in Brussels and we started our evening at the Vintage Hotel wine bar. Then, we went for Tibetan food at Momo’s in the neighborhood.

As we were strolling to the next bar, we came across a gallery exhibition opening and soon were sipping champagne looking at Jimmy Nelson’s “Before they Pass” photography exhibit that transported us to the far reaches of the globe. See – urban glamping can be quite adventurous!

I spent the next morning walking around the neighborhood taking in the cobblestone streets, Art Nouveau architecture that Brussels is famous for, and of course had to stop at the well-known neighborhood Friterie de la Barriere. I took my large cone of frites and mayonnaise and sat at an outdoor café and ordered a Lambic beer. Sure, this wasn’t hiking in the woods and cooking over a campfire – but urban glamping was a fun way to get the rustic with the modern. Sometimes you just need a little urban glamping pampering.

A Glamping Balancing Act

“What is this gramping about?” my father asks on our way to the Ridgeback Lodge on Kingston Peninsula in New Brunswick.

“Dad, it’s called glaaammping, “I pronounce loudly and slowly so that hopefully this time he’ll get it correct, “it’s luxury camping.”  I reply.

I’ve decided to take my parents on a road trip holiday in New Brunswick Canada. I booked us a night at Ridgeback Lodge, a glamping site on the scenic Kingston Peninsula.  My parents love the outdoors; they honeymooned camping on Pike’s Peak 55 year ago.  At 78 years old, I thought introducing them to glamping might be a good way for them to enjoy the outdoors and not have to put up a tent or sleep on the ground.  However, I hadn’t considered how hard it would be to add a new word to their vocabulary.


Dad, This is Why it’s Called Glamping

It feels 5-star, complete with memory foam beds, 500 thread count sheets, a beautiful private view, comfortable chairs that you sink into, stacks of current magazines for your lazy viewing pleasure, and a personal hot tub.  Harpers Bazaar Singapore even includes it as one of their top 5-star travel experiences.  But look closely at the Ridgeback Lodge Dream Domes; you won’t find fancy soaps or shampoos, no room service, you’ll have to start your own fire to keep warm, and you’ll dine outside on a picnic table.  This isn’t a typical 5-star experience – it’s glamping.


We arrived and met Christel and Robert, the architects of the Dream Domes, and immediately fell in love with their passion for these unique accommodations as well as their passion for the outdoors.  Christel explained that they tried to strike a balance between real camping and luxury.  The goal is to appreciate and intermix with nature, not view it from a distance.  They purposefully didn’t provide too much of a ‘hotel’ experience and wanted to keep it more like a true camping experience.  Therefore, you bring your own food with you to cook as there are no stores or restaurants nearby, and you eat outside on the picnic table. However, with all of the nice comfortable touches, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking this is a hotel experience – but it’s not.  There’s no WiFi and they don’t furnish a hair dryer or little shampoos – you must bring your own just as if you were camping.


We reserved a dome (which only sleeps 2 people) and a cabin so that we all had a place to sleep.  Each dome is located in the forest away from the cabins and has it’s own private view surrounded by evergreen trees. The dome included a bathroom with shower, kitchenette, king sized bed, and a couple of lounge chairs.


Dome Design

We settled into our new glamping surroundings and my mom and I decided to share the dome, while my dad was happy in the cabin.  The dome’s interior design was a modern twist to cabin living.  The décor of the ‘living area’ was designed in taupe and muted gray colors so that it didn’t overshadow the real décor – a giant spherical picture window looking out onto the green forest.  The window was a perfect way to showcase Mother Nature’s masterpiece.  The lamps and light fixtures were sleek stainless steel, which blended with the octagonal bars of the dome.  There were two Scandinavian looking chairs to sit back and relax with a stack of current magazines to suit anyone’s taste.  Big fuzzy blankets abound making the whole dome ooze comfort.

The one solid wall that created the divider for the bathroom, living area, and kitchen was a simple nod to rustic cabin life.  The wall, which also formed the ‘headboard’ for the bed, was made of unfinished wood planks.  The kind you would use for the walls of a cabin.  As perfect and impeccable as the rest of the dome was, the wood planks were uneven, rough, and raw.  I loved the juxtaposition of the unfinished cabin wall among the slick, sleek, modern dome.  The living area also contained a wood stove for cold winter days and nights.

The small, bright kitchen was simple yet modern – and it has everything you would need for basic cooking.  The colorful Tomodachi knife set was the only real splash of color in the whole dome.  The stove top was an induction unit providing energy efficient cooking without creating a lot of extra heat in the little dome.  However, if you prefer the real camping experience, a small outdoor grill was also provided with each dome. There was not a real dining area inside the dome, which encouraged you to sit outside at the picnic table mimicking a typical camping experience.


A Hot Tub Fired by Nature

Christel took us out back to show us how to use our dome’s personal hot tub.  The little Japanese style wooden tub is not only really cool, but it’s also a giant science project!  As she explained how the wood fired hot tub worked it made me delve back into scientific principles that I had long shelved in the back of my brain.  Water temperatures, rising, falling, air flow – yikes!  The system is similar to a boiler system; the ‘furnace’ has a water jacket and heats up and forces out the hot water back into the tub.


“You have one chance, don’t overshoot it, else you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to use it.” she instructed as she talked about how to get the temperature just right with the wood fire.

I looked at my dad and said, ”This is your job.”  My father is the fire starter and maintainer – not me.  My dad was never really a water person so he was much happier building the fire rather than sitting in the hot tub.  My mom and I instead enjoyed his fire building work while we soaked in our hot tub among the trees.  Sure, the hot tub required a little work, but it was totally worth it. And the wood fire stayed true to the camping theme.


No Sleeping Bags Required

Normally camping means a poor nights sleep for me, but not in the dome.  We woke up the next morning to  “pitter patter, pitter patter”  – it was lightly raining outside.  Surprisingly there was not a feeling of dread that you normally have when you realize it’s raining and you are camping out in the forest.  Instead, I felt happy to be in a beautiful tented dome among the pine trees in New Brunswick Canada.  Rain while glamping is soothing.

My mother declared, “That was the nicest bed I’ve ever slept in!”   And I had to agree with her.  The sheets were like silk, and the mattress like a cloud you slowly sink into.  It’s such a good mattress you don’t even notice there’s another person in bed with you!  As the other person moves there is not a single reverberation of movement on my side of the mattress.  This was sleeping heaven.


Celebrate The Outdoors

The Ridgeback Lodge property is full of options for the outdoor lover.  You can hike up to the pond and go swimming or have a picnic, rent a canoe on the Kingston Creek, hike the trails on the property or venture out onto the Kingston Peninsula for more hiking.  At night you can keep your camping experience going with a bonfire – don’t forget to bring your own marshmallows!

However I was pretty happy just watching the rain droplets roll down the dome’s window. I wrapped myself in a little blanket reading a magazine while my parents putzed around.  “I like this gramping, do you think they have this in the US?” my mom asked.

I sighed, rolled my eyes, and decided to give up with the vocabulary lessons.  “Yes mom, they have glamping in the US, you should try it there too!” I replied.


So I clearly wasn’t the only one who fell in love with the domes, my parents are now gramping fans. And I have now decided that ‘gramping’ is the senior citizen version of glamping.  Maybe I should start a website I muse to myself.

Christel and Robert don’t care what you call it – glamping, gramping, or 5-star – the main thing is that you still get close to nature as if you were camping.  They managed to create an environment that was spot on – the right balance of camping to glamour.