If you pay any attention at all to the kinds of development issues that tend to provoke ire among citizens at Town Board and Planning Board meetings, you will know that proposals to build “glamping” resorts are high up on that list. Sure, they’re relatively green businesses; but almost no locals can afford their pricetags, and there’s no guarantee that the wealthy out-of-towners who come to stay at such places will spend much at local shops and restaurants.
So it was with a slightly jaundiced eye that your humble correspondent trained her sights on the latest of these luxury campgrounds to open in the Hudson Valley One readership area. I was prepared to shrug it off as just another manifestation of the onslaught of deep-pocketed New York City folk who, since COVID hit, have been driving up housing prices in our region as never before. But I found myself unexpectedly ensnared by AutoCamp Catskills. Dear Reader, they had me at Airstream. If you cherish childhood memories of staying in one of these classic streamlined mid-century aluminum trailers, they may capture your fancy as well.
Yes, housing the kind of visitors who like the concept of camping without all its inherent discomforts in cozy customized Airstream trailers is the specialty of the AutoCamp chain, which operates campgrounds in Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Russian River in California and near Falmouth on Cape Cod. Another new location near Zion National Park is slated to open next year. The Catskills iteration had its Grand Opening last Thursday, on the site of the former Saugerties/Woodstock KOA Campground on Route 212 near the confluence of Blue Mountain Road, and it’s pretty impressive.
AutoCamp Catskills hosts 87 rental units on two loops. There are ten each of tents, suites and cabins, each with its particular selling points and pricing levels. The canvas tents on wooden platforms are the most basic and affordable, unavailable in winter and lacking private bathrooms (though the shared bathrooms in the Clubhouse are most luxurious). The refurbished wooden cabins are the roomiest, housing up to six people and offering a full-sized kitchen. The suites are essentially “tiny houses,” with modern amenities designed to fit efficiently into a very compact space, like you might find in a sailboat. One tent and four of the suites are handicapped-accessible.
But the bulk of the accommodations available here, and the core of AutoCamp’s branding, consists of Airstreams. Though they retain the retro visual appeal of their vintage forebears, they’re modern models, a generous 31 feet in length and gorgeously appointed. These units are custom-designed to have most of the windows on the starboard side, and arrayed in the park to have the windows of each facing the solid port side of its nearest neighbor, to maximize privacy. The compact kitchens have two-burner stoves, microwaves and half-size refrigerators. Bathrooms are spacious and spalike. These RV units sleep three adults or two adults and two children, with a futon sofabed facing a big flat-screen TV in the living area and a queen bed under a skylight in the bedroom. If you’re coming with a bigger group and really want to stay in an Airstream rather than a cabin, you can opt for a Base Camp setup, which pairs a trailer with a tent.
All the types of units come with an additional “outdoor room”: a gravel patio with grill, picnic table, chairs and benches, so you won’t feel confined as long as the weather cooperates. Airstreams, cabins and suites have compact heating/air conditioning systems installed in the ceilings, and the tents have freestanding heater/fan units. Most of the cabins and suites come with small wooden decks, some roofed against the rain.
The campground’s setting is wooded, about half evergreen and half deciduous, with enough mature maples to promise a spectacular autumn foliage show. There are nature trails and a small seasonal stream on the property, and you pass a sizable pond filled with water lilies on the way in. Bicycles free for the borrowing are housed in a roofed pavilion.
The social hub of AutoCamp Catskills is a sprawling Clubhouse building, whose glass sides fold back to let the outdoors in. One end houses the aforementioned bathrooms for the tent-dwellers, the other a big event space where a posh buffet of fancy hors d’oeuvres from the Neversink General Store was laid out on opening day. Several meeting rooms and a small store offering souvenirs and provisions – including do-it-yourself barbecue kits to cook steaks or kebabs on your grill – line one side of the building, and on the other is the big main gathering space, with a bar, indoor firepit and plenty of comfortable seating. It spills out onto an outdoor patio with a bigger firepit beyond. An outdoor spa and children’s activity area are slated for installation by the end of this year.
Most campers will take advantage of the plentiful tourist attractions available nearby, but a visitor seeking a leisurely respite from stress could easily spend an enjoyable week here without ever leaving the site. Live music, yoga sessions and wine-tastings will be regular offerings. Special activity packages offsite include such temptations as forest bathing, rock climbing, orienteering and environmental education adventures for kids.
While there are certain architectural features that unify all the AutoCamp locations, the Clubhouse exemplifies the company’s goal to “tap into the local vernacular,” according to Sam White, project manager for design and construction. Local builders and landscapers were used, and sustainable features incorporated. “We wanted to utilize the existing footprint as much as possible,” White explained. “We use no pesticides or herbicides. The biggest thing for us is education, to teach visitors the ‘Leave no trace’ ethic.”
Taylor Davis, vice president for brand marketing for AutoCamp, explained that the company’s “target customers” are people who are attracted to the concept of camping but may not be ready to rough it right away. “They’re looking for an outdoor experience where they can bring their own gear. We provide them with a gateway experience,” she said. “Airstream has that heritage brand recognition that eases people into that space. There’s this Airstream nostalgia that brings a lot of people here.”
It’s not difficult to see the attraction. This might be a great place to direct out-of-town friends and relatives who are planning to visit and can handle the prices, which range from $149 on off-season weekdays to $475 on peak weekends.
AutoCamp Catskills is located at 882 Route 212 in Saugerties. For more information, e-mail email@example.com, call (866) 921-7440 or visit https://autocamp.com/catskills.