The upsides of camping have nearly universal appeal: spending days in the great outdoors, sharing s’mores, chatting the night away by a campfire, and waking up to the sweet sound of birdsong. But even outdoorsy types can balk at sleeping on cold, hard ground in a damp tent when kids enter the scene. We’ve scouted out a few prime “glamping” spots in the Bay Area (and slightly beyond) that accentuate the positives while adding some frills, whether that be a raised bed with freshly laundered linens, free Wi-Fi or just easy access to home if things go south in the middle of the night.
Photo: Sarah Ordody
With words like “spa” and “eco-adventure” in the description, you might think Costanoa was a retreat for grown-ups. And you’d be right, but this place understands that kids need a break from the daily grind, too. They’ve even figured out how adults and kids can find their own bliss simultaneously. Drop your kids in a two-hour nature-themed camp on weekends and Wednesdays (ages 6-12), then check into the spa for a massage, head out on the adjacent trails on bike or horse (rentals of both available on site), or just crawl back in bed with a good book (or iPad: even the tent cabins are equipped with free Wi-Fi). There are many levels of “roughing it” here. Tent cabins are perfect for families of three (double bed and twin), with larger cabins to suit larger families, with kitchenettes and showers. There’s also a KOA campground on site, for tent and RVs. Shared Comfort Stations throughout the campground offer clean bathrooms, showers and dry saunas. If ensuite bathrooms are a must, book a room in the lodge. Check their activity schedule for fun family-friendly events, like the open-air live music and BBQ on Saturday nights throughout the summer. Follow that up on Sunday morning with a cooked-for-you breakfast and group yoga and head home refreshed and ready for what the week has in store.
2001 Rossi Road at Hwy 1
Photo: Gyuri Ordody
Big Basin Tent Cabins
While the tourists still flock en masse to Marin to see the old-growth redwoods, locals know that Big Basin — California’s first state park — gives Muir Woods a run for its money in the “Wow!” department. And while Muir Woods is day use only, overnight campers get Big Basin’s trees and the 80 miles (!) of trails all to themselves in the “off hours.” Their tent cabins are as close to camping you can get without being cold at night, thanks to wood-burning stoves and raised beds with mattress pads. Outside is a traditional camp set-up with a picnic table, fire ring, and space to pitch a tent for older, more adventurous kids. Deluxe Tent Cabins include made beds, bath towels, and curtains. Specific cabins can be reserved online up to seven months in advance. The well-stocked camp store carries camping supplies, groceries, beer & wine, ice and firewood. Can’t live without your freshly brewed morning espresso? They’ve got those, too. Plus picnic supplies for your afternoon hike (or marathon reading session).
21600 Big Basin Way
Boulder Creek, Ca
Photo: Safari West
Come to Santa Rosa for the exotic animals and stay for the one-of-a-kind overnight glamping experience at the Safari West wildlife preserve. The heavy canvas tents — imported from Africa — hardwood floors (albeit polished), and the sounds of wildlife give the feel of camping, while heaters and ceiling fans provide home comforts. While the luxurious bedding is nice, the highlight of the experience for all ages are the more than 800 animals that roam these acres. (Note that the tents are separated from the wildlife for safety reasons.) The on-site Savanna Grill offers indoor and outdoor dining and wines from area vines, as well as Africa.
3115 Porter Creek Rd
Santa Rosa, Ca 95404
Photo: Ezmerelda G. via
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
This beautiful 1,900-acre state park in the heart of Napa Valley was slated for closure during the state’s 2011 budget crisis, and is now managed by the nonprofit organizations that helped save it. It boasts 10 trails that run through coastal redwoods, Douglas firs, big-leaf maples (gorgeous in the fall) and oaks; a spring-fed swimming pool for cooling off on steamy summer days; and an easy bike ride to award-winning wineries. And yurts! The year-round campground has three reservable yurts that sleep up to six people and seven smaller ones that can accommodate a family of four. All include skylights, lockable doors, an outdoor fire pit and picnic table, with bathrooms and showers nearby. Keep your eyes (and ears) out for the six different woodpeckers that call this park home.
3801 St. Helena Hwy
Windsong Guest Yurt
This secluded glamping spot outside of Point Reyes Station comes with a California king bed and pull-out couch, full kitchen, a wood burning stove and electric heat, and wifi. With the gorgeous views, abundant nature and nearby attractions, you won’t even notice the cable TV. Start your day right with your complimentary welcome basket filled with fruit, muffins and eggs before hiking around Point Reyes National Seashore. At night after the kiddos are off in dreamland, you can stargaze from the hot tub in your private garden. There is a two-night minimum stay, although one night weekday stays can be arranged for special occasions. This place books fast, so check their calendar in advance. If the yurt is booked, ask about the guest house on the same four-acre site.
Photo: Gyuri Ordody
Rob Hill Campground
You will have to sleep on the ground in a tent here (unless you bring your double-decker AirBed), but there is something luxurious about camping in a national park without having to leave San Francisco. Take-out for dinner, anyone? There are two group campsites for up to 30 people available at the Presidio’s Rob Hill campground above Baker Beach, with its unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge and stunning sunsets (and moon sets, if you time it right). Each site includes a stand-up grill and a large fire pit that’s perfect for s’mores and campfire songs. The campground is open from April through October, and reservations are available on a rolling basis. Weekends are snapped up fast, but there are still weekday sites available for a summer staycation. Rob Hill’s clean and well-lighted bathrooms and city location make it ideal for first-time campers. If you don’t have your own camping supplies, Sports Basement Presidio has tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, camp stoves and more for rent.
1475 Central Magazine Road
San Francisco, Ca
Photo: Stan Russell
Big Sur’s heavenly mix of forested mountains, rugged coastline and lack of cell service make it the ideal locale for getting away. But even if you wanted to sleep on the ground in a tent, scoring a summer spot in the popular Pfieffer Big Sur State Park can feel like trying to win the lottery. Just up the road, and with access to the same trees and beautiful coastal amentinies, is the Fernwood Resort. Their tent cabins run alongside the Big Sur river, and come with raised beds, picnic tables and fire pits, and access to the camp store and the Fernwood Bar & Grill (which has Wi-Fi), for when you don’t feel like grilling. Their Adventure Tents are a step up from the more basic Tent Cabins, and include electric heat and linens. Adventure tents accommodate only available for two “glampers,” so you’ll need to stash the kids with the grandparents for the weekend. Tent and RV sites, cabins and a motel round out the offerings here.
It’s hard to top a stay in one of the fully furnished yurts at Big Sur’s Treebones Resort. These circular fabric-covered structures with wood lattice frames offer private decks, breathtaking ocean and mountain vistas and an ideal jumping off point for coastal exploration, on foot or by kayak. The Wild Coast Restaurant and Sushi bar offers fresh, local, organic food. Yurts large enough to host a family are booked well in advance — weekends are especially scarce — so do plan ahead.
71895 Hwy 1
Big Sur, Ca
Where does your family set up camp?