The term “glamping” means many things to many people. But, to me, it’s all about a resort that provides guests with an intimate connection to nature along with all the comforts of home. That’s what I found at Huttopia Southern Maine, a French branded resort that’s a short drive from some stellar coastal towns, such as Kennebunkport and Ogunquit. More importantly, at the Huttopia property, you’re never far from forestland, no matter if you’re swimming in the heated pool, playing pétanque, sipping a chilled glass of white wine while lounging on your porch or settling into your oh-so comfy bed long after the sun has set. Whether you check into Huttopia as a couple or a family with young kids, the resort gets you back to the basics that some of us may only know as a distant (pre-internet) memory, basics that delight the senses and that have a knack for bringing us together in a shared love of learning, adventure and enjoying each other’s company in a natural environment for the sheer sake of fun. Nature-based venues like this one need to be treasured. So, it’s no wonder that Huttopia is dedicated to preserving these special places (so they can long be enjoyed) by embracing an eco-conscious and sustainability ethic and engaging in activities that don’t harm the planet. Glamping at Huttopia Southern Maine will completely reset your psyche as only a connection with nature can do.
More than 100 accommodations that blend into the landscape dot the 40-some-acre, pine-draped property that borders freshwater Sand Pond. Whether you opt for the wood and canvas Trappeur tent or the mostly wooden Vista (a contemporary tiny house with sliding glass doors that bring the outside in), family-friendly Huttopia designed these so that parents and kids each have their own space. You’ll find, for example, that kids can enjoy a bunk or twin bed while the adults can sleep in a queen in the adjacent space. (The Trappeur takes its inspiration from Canadian fur trappers who built tented huts so that they could sleep close to nature in the Canadian great outdoors.) Those who prefer a lot of privacy can choose an accommodation backed by woodland while those who crave waterfront views can check-in to a Trappeur or Vista fronting Sand Pond with its calm waters.
But Huttopia is also quite attractive to couples, thanks to the Trappeur Duo accommodations that are tucked deep in the forest, but only a short walk to the pond with its wee sandy beach and the Main Lodge that’s a nexus for food and drink and myriad other activities. Open the door to this wood and canvas tent and you’ll be greeted by a romantic atmosphere with subdued lighting, an overhead fan and a king bed that fills a large part of the space that seamlessly fits shower facilities and a comfortable bathroom. Outside, you’ll find your accommodation ringed by a cute picket fence, as you snuggle into the “L” shaped sofa or one of the lounge chairs that are set on your private wooden terrace. Though none of these accommodations are uber expansive, why should they be when you’ve got so much outdoor space to occupy your attention?
The botanically inclined will delight in the array of trees, shrubs and other plants blanketing the property. The soaring Eastern white pines are especially impressive, though numerous other graceful species also populate the woodlands, such as American beech, Northern red oak, white spruce, gray birch and red maple. Being surrounded by nature for the duration of your stay can’t help but give you an eco-outlook and, hopefully, allow you to better understand why preserving natural places is profoundly important.
Huttopia is all about making as little impact on the environment as possible. The entire network of gravel paths winding through the property is reserved for foot traffic only. For their structures, the company relies on untreated wood and canvas — no plastics. And, as much as possible, they avoid chopping down trees when building an accommodation. (In fact, I saw several Vistas where it was clear that they were constructed around a tree or two that they deliberately didn’t cut down.)
Main Lodge/Bistro and Bar —
Unlike most main lodges I’ve visited in my travels, this stylish, wood-beamed one is delightfully open and airy with expansive windows and multiple roll-up garage-type doors. The result: when I relaxed on the back deck with an iced latte; a glass of crisp Pinot Gris from Cellardoor in Camden, Maine; or a local craft beer, such as a clean-tasting Citra IPA from Funky Bow Brewery, I could pleasantly gaze clear through the building all the way to the forest beyond the playground and ping-pong table out front. (Of course, there were also dense swaths of forestland just beyond the grassy lawn near where I sat. I relished in soaking up this bucolic vibe.) I also found it easy to relax in the hammocks strung between the tall Eastern white pine trees just beyond the back deck. With the comfortable temperatures and mild breeze, I gently swung in the hammock, simply watching the clouds float by. Later, I noticed a father and young son huddled in a single hammock, as they played a game of what animals do you see in the clouds; and then I spotted a couple of tween boys beckoning a third to swing their hammock so it would flip. (It didn’t but they still seemed to enjoy themselves.)
During my entire stay, I found myself constantly gravitating to the convivial vibe and vibrant aesthetic of the Bistro and Bar within the Main Lodge. Pendant lights are strung about inside and out, twinkling after sunset like a little welcome beacon within the surrounding pine-scape.
Walking from my Vista accommodation to the Main Lodge always felt like a stroll through a little village. Passers-by greeted me with a warm “Good morning,” Some were toting wood logs for their fire pit, others walked their dogs or carried cups of freshly brewed coffee and warm croissants back to their tiny house or tent. In the Main Lodge, the morning air was pleasantly saturated with the aroma of croissants, which were uniformly light and fluffy.
Whether you decide to splurge with a calorie-dense item or eat slimmer options, you’ll find plenty of choices at the Bistro & Bar. Some of my favorite dishes and drinks included the icy Karma smoothie made with mangoes, strawberries and bananas along with apple juice. Since this is a French brand, I had no trouble getting a frothy iced latte while my friend opted for an eye-opening double espresso. I’m a big fan of Nutella so I couldn’t pass up the hazelnut chocolate crepe. But there are also several scrumptious savory crepes, such the Popeye with tomatoes, spinach, pesto, mozzarella and onions. Other tasty options include the Caesar salad where they graciously added cherry tomatoes for me; a shareable hummus or nachos plate; and any of the more than half-a-dozen thin-crust pizzas.
Sand Pond with its placid waters and petite crescent beach is a magnet for couples, parents and kids alike. For me, it was absolutely worth getting up early to experience a dramatic sunrise over the pond. However, it wasn’t too early for the two little girls from the next-door Vista who were already building sandcastles and drawing flowers and other pictures in the sand with sticks.
The early morning is also a good time to listen to the sounds of blue jays, mourning doves and other songbirds and to spot numerous other avian species. As I stood on the dock with its duo of Adirondack chairs, two large Canadian geese swooped above the pond.
Later in the day, everyone gravitated to the water and the dock. Some parents took their toddlers by the hand to wade into the water or attempt to swim with floaters on. Older kids jumped off the dock or hung out with their legs dangling over the waters. A teen deftly navigated her rented paddle board parallel to the shore. Adults set up lounge chairs on the sand, listening to the silence. A little girl floated her colorful inner tube that was emblazoned with a red watermelon motif. The girls who relished in their sand paintings stood on the dock with their fishing rods and managed to snag a bluegill that got away. Though they were disappointed, they said they were not giving up. My friend took the opportunity to rent a canoe and fly fish in the early evening, catching a three-pound largemouth bass that he cleaned outside and then grilled in our Vista kitchenette. The kids on the other side of our accommodation rushed over when they saw my friend cleaning the fish, excitedly peppering him with questions, including “Where did the fish come from?” and “Are you going to eat it?”
Huttopia’s Kids Club revolves around activities that are creative, educational, nature-based and, of course, fun. One morning they went on a walk to collect pinecones. Another day they tried their hand at rock painting or making a paper basket. I watched kids sit around a table constructing a kazoo using a few simple materials. The air was vibrant with an orchestra of buzzing sounds that I think some of the kids hoped would attract birds.
Several evenings a week, everyone can enjoy family-friendly entertainment outside the Main Lodge. One night I attended what I consider an old time variety-type show featuring a ventriloquist who’s also a magician. So many kids were enthralled by his rope tricks that he stayed long after his show ended to explain how the magic worked.
Aside from participating in all these activities, late each afternoon, I ambled along the web of paths coursing through the sun-dappled woods, being mindful of the sights and sounds reflecting the life of the forest. I also had the option of signing up for a yoga class that’s offered twice a week. (Next year they’re planning to have wine tastings as well as guided walks.) Two scenic, low-key hikes are a short drive away from the property, such as a one-mile loop at Grover-Herrick Conservation Area that wanders past a kettle hole, a unique depression left from the last glaciation; and Mo’s Trail that’s part of Fenderson Wildlife Commons West where numerous blueberry bushes and colorful (non-edible) mushrooms can be found.