24 hours before our scheduled Resort Glamping Trip with East Coast Glamping at The Atlantica Oak Island in Mahone Bay, I get a call from the owner of East Coast Glamping, Cyndi Sweeney. “The weather’s going to be rough” she says, “there’s a lot of wind going to be coming off the water. We’re getting fallout from a tropical storm this week, and there’s a possibility of lightning.” Do I want to reschedule our trip for later in the season, she asks, so the kids can enjoy some sunshine?
Hell, no! Glamping in the rain is fine with us!
“That’s great”, Cyndi says. She adds, “hardly anyone ever reschedules”.
The rain holds off as my best friend and I check into our bell tent, which is pitched in a small encampment in an apple orchard on the grounds of the Atlantica Oak Island Resort and Marina. We have brought one kid each: my 7 year old daughter and her 9 year old son. It’s a good combination. Both children suffer from A.S.S.: Annoying Sibling Syndrome, and they are over the moon to be camping with us, without the competition of their irksome brothers and sisters.
We are looking forward to catching up, and are happy to give the kids some independence within the safety of the Oak Island Resort, a place that we know caters well to young families. We begin by giving the key to the kids (the tent is secured with an old fashioned padlock), so they can be the first to see what’s inside.
This style of glamping has been borrowed from the UK, where sites like Glamping.co.uk and CanopyandStars assist discerning campers to book elaborately refurbished bell tents, treehouses, yurts and even old gypsy caravans set in the British or European countryside.
East Coast Glamping takes it one step further in Nova Scotia. Here, glampers get to “rough it” in the great outdoors, while enjoying all the amenities of the Atlantica Oak Island resort including the dining room, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and hot tub, plus access to the Marina services. There’s a glamorous chemical “loo” near the tents, but also the option of hot showers and flush toilets at the marina, only steps away. It’s the best of both worlds: luxury in the great outdoors, combined with a full resort experience.
The padlock is now open, and the kids are in the tent, dive-bombing and leaping all over the place screaming, “Oh my GOD, Oh my GOD, check this OUT… this is so AWESOME. This is so AWESOME! This is so COOL.”
We gather they’re pleased with the accommodation: full-sized beds covered in a multitude of pillows, furry blankets and woodsy-themed cushions; delicate fairy lights and a wooden vanity mirror handing from the ceiling; an animal skin rug; side tables with faux tea-light candles; little glamping-themed ornaments; a cooler with drinking water; a bottle opener; a charger; lotions and bug spray; fresh towels; a mat for our shoes; card games; welcome snacks – and thoughtfully, a basket of umbrellas.
After chilling out in the opulent tent, we spend the afternoon at the marina, where manager “Outdoor Ed”sets the kids up with kayaks…but not before he encourages them to try on pirate costumes from a treasure box, and choose a pirate name. My daughter is Captain Kidd and her friend is Jack Sparrow.
Dark clouds loom on the horizon and there is a misty fog rolling in. Some would frown at the poor weather, but we think it’s spooky and wonderful. The fog is making for some great pictures as the kids paddle around.
The kids dash to the indoor pool for a swim and a dip in the hot tub before supper. Since the pool has hot showers, we’re soon ready for fine dining. You would hardly know we’ve been camping at all!
In the dining room, we enjoy a delicious meal, paired with local wine, while the kids enjoy simpler meals from the kids menu. We return to our campfire as the light fades. There’s dry wood and kindling waiting for us in the fire pit nearest our tent.
The sky allows us one roasted marshmallow each before it begins hitting us with soft raindrops. We abandon our comfortable adirondack chairs and the fire that is already spitting and fizzling, to return to our luxurious tent. And then the soft raindrops become bullets, as it pours. And pours. And pours. All night.
I spend the entire night, cozy but terrified, staring wide-eyed through the darkness at the central aluminium pole that holds up the bell tent: the perfect conductor for lightning. Do animal skin rugs and fancy cushions act as an insulator? Probably not. More likely, they would be fuel for the fire that will soon engulf us all.
I am the world’s worst glamper and possibly the world’s worst mother. How could I put the children in such danger? I consider waking everyone up and decamping to the hotel, where there is a room set aside “in case the weather gets really bad”, but pride sets in. Next, the urge to pee sets in. Under an umbrella, I traipse from the tent to the nearby chemical toilet, which by daylight had seemed fun and glamorous, but it the dark and rain, doesn’t feel very luxurious at all. No matter how you slice it, this is camping. In the rain. Finally, at about 3am, I manage to close my eyes.
In the morning, my best friend wakes up looking refreshed and reports that she has slept like a baby. “I love the sound of raindrops on canvas”, she says, sleepily. The kids jump up from under their warm covers, also well rested. “Breakfast!”, they cry. It’s just before 6:30 am.
We head up to the resort where the kids go crazy over the hotel buffet slection: waffles, whipped cream, bacon, eggs, fruit loops – a feast! Our breakfast waitress recognizes us as glampers. “Were you OK down there last night?”, she asks.
“Oh, I just love the sound of raindrops on canvas”, I say, smiling. The staff here are so friendly and so welcoming, I honestly think I might hurt their feelings if I said I had experienced a hellish night’s sleep. The waitress returns my smile, refills my coffee, and all is right in the world.
To work off our breakfast, we do everything we did yesterday, but in reverse: back to the indoor swimming pool and hot tub then to the marina, for some more kayaking and stand-up-paddleboarding. Outdoor Ed greets the kids like an old friend.
As the kids are paddling around the marina, something marvellous happens. Sunshine! Within seconds, the ocean transforms from black to amber, and we can see golden sand, sparkling in the gentle waves that lap against the marina shore. The sky has turned from grey to bright blue, punctuated by large fast-moving puffy white clouds, none permanent enough to block out the sun. It is summer on the South Shore of Nova Scotia!
The kids too take on a glow, smiling, laughing, as they sit on their paddle boards, splashing in the water, looking for crabs. They can’t wait to get back to the tent for lunch (we have a picnic, brought from home), and to take one last look at Oak Island before we head back to the city, only 45 minutes away.
We check out late, but it’s midweek, so the hotel doesn’t mind. It takes us only a few minutes to pack up our belongings – housekeeping will take care of the rest. For the Atlantica, this wonderful tent is just another hotel room…
…the fanciest, glampiest, luxury outdoor hotel room on the East Coast!
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Helen Earley is a Halifax-based writer. She was a guest of East Coast Glamping.