Here’s What It’s Like to Go Glamping in Maine

We tried out Sandy Pines Campground's newest accommodations: camp carriages.

The camp carriage interior / Photo by Madeline Bilis

Glamping is a divisive term. To those who relish the outdoors and all the dirt and bugs that come with it, it seems decidedly frivolous. To those who wouldn’t think of spending the night in a tent, it’s an appealing concept.

A portmanteau of the words “glamorous” and “camping,” glamping is more than just a step up from camping. It’s meant to be a luxurious, convenience-filled experience where you can connect with nature from the comfort of, say, a king-size bed.

That’s precisely what I did on a recent weekend stay at Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport. Though it only opened last year, Sandy Pines has become Maine’s premier glamping destination. Its professionally designed safari tents took Instagram by storm, plucking city slickers from their overpriced apartments and coaxing them out into the wilderness.

It’s true about the city slickers. Most of the license plates I saw at Sandy Pines were from Massachusetts, and in the corner of each vehicle’s back window were the unmistakable squares of Boston parking stickers.

Though it was the elegantly appointed glamping tents that thrust Sandy Pines into the spotlight, I stayed in one of their brand-new accommodations: a camp carriage. This year, the campground rolled out two new whimsical offerings in addition to their safari tents and regular campsites: cottages on wheels known as camp carriages, and hideaway huts, which are smaller, sleeker wooden A-frame cabins. As a traditional camper (I’m a tent-and-sleeping-bag kind of gal) I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would glamping be too cutesy? A little over-the-top, maybe?

The camp carriage / Photo by Madeline Bilis

When I arrived on Friday night, light from the chandelier inside shone out the carriage’s windows (flanked by pretty little shutters, no less). That, and the set of string lights on the front porch, helped me maneuver my way through the dark to the door.

I stepped inside and was smacked with a wave of curated country charm. Dreamed up by interior designer Krista Stokes, my 192-square-foot cottage seemed to be inspired by a fishing lodge. It had fishing poles resting on the ceiling beams, a throw pillow with a bass stitched on it, and a copy of The Fly Tyers Handbook on my nightstand. Yes, I glamped with a nightstand. It was the perfect place to rest my charging phone, because yes, there were plenty of outlets in my little carriage.

The room’s level of design detail was immediately evident. The bed frame was made of faux tree branches. There were decorative lanterns, thermoses, and strips of birch bark on shelves. Framed paintings of ducks hung on the walls, while a set of binoculars dangled from a coat hook. It was all very rustic, without the actual rusticity, because throw pillows and nightstands definitely don’t count as roughing it.

Decorative birch bark aside, the camp carriage had practical elements, too. A trunk at the foot of the bed created storage space. A small AC unit cooled the cabin on a particularly hot Saturday night. A tin tray atop a bureau held complimentary shampoo, soap, and makeup-removing towelettes.

That’s the thing about glampingall the planning that goes into packing for a camping trip is eliminated. You don’t have to pack toiletries, and you definitely don’t have to jam bedding or towels into the trunk of your car. Shower towels, face cloths, and beach towels are provided by Sandy Pines, and the campground’s laundry service will exchange your towels for clean ones each morning if you can remember to leave your laundry bag on the carriage’s front porch. (Such a chore!) Each cabin is outfitted with a plush king-size bed, complete with soft sheets, blankets, and abundant puffy pillows. It’s a far cry from my L.L. Bean sleeping bag. (No disrespect to L.L. Bean, though. I love my sleeping bag. It is extremely comfy.) The light-blocking window shades didn’t hurt, either.

A decorative shelf in the camp carriage / Photo by Madeline Bilis

A curated corner in the camp carriage / Photo by Madeline Bilis

My favorite thing about the camp carriage was something it lacked: bugs. Aside from one or two creepy crawlies, bugs did not interfere with my stay. Mosquitos didn’t buzz in my ear as I tried to fall asleep, which is one of my pet peeves. There were definitely mosquitos outside of the cabin, which is to be expected. Still, that’s nothing a campfire can’t fix. Each camp carriage comes with a fire pit and two Adirondack chairs, making for an especially cozy spot to roast marshmallows.

My least favorite thing about the camp carriage was something I can’t really fault it for: no bathroom. I knew what I was signing up for when I decided to glamp, but found it difficult to wake up in a gigantic cozy bed, then walk all the way to the campground bathrooms to brush my teeth in the morning. The bath houses, which contain four rooms with toilets and showers, weren’t that far from my carriage, but still. I only had to wait for a shower once during my trip, though I can see wait times becoming a problem when the campground is fully booked. To my surprise, there also was not a mirror in my camp carriage. I had to apply mascara in my car mirror before heading out to enjoy a lobster dinner. The horror!

The bathrooms, like all the facilities at Sandy Pines, were impeccably clean (and contained mirrors). They sparkled and shined compared to the campground bathrooms I’m used tothe ones with gigantic spiders in the showers and who-knows-what crusted on the walls. Sandy Pines’ white subway-tile showers have no bugs and no unidentifiable goo. Just some subpar water pressure.

If you thought the magic of Sandy Pines ended at cute cabins and clean bathrooms, you would be mistaken. The complex’s “Grand Lodge,” could be compared to a hotel lobbyit has a front desk, fireplace and plush armchairs. The lodge connects to a charming general store stocked with all the camping and glamping necessities (think: s’mores fixings, sunscreen, Sandy Pines t-shirts, etc.) as well as a snack bar. There’s a heated saltwater pool surrounded by lounge chairs, too, plus a yard with cornhole and other lawn games.

There’s one other thing about Sandy Pines that sets it apart from other Maine campgrounds: its dining options. At the snackbar, campers can order a steamed lobster dinner and then have it delivered to their tents, though I enjoyed mine at a picnic table. Props to the lobstermen in nearby Cape Porpoise who caught some grade-A crustacean. The campground’s proximity to charming coastal destinations like Cape Porpoise, downtown Kennebunkport, and the sandy stretches of Goose Rocks Beach act like the cherry on top of an already elevated camping experience.

Even with all of its luxuries, I maintain that glamping is best enjoyed by adventurous spirits. If you’re used to ritzy hotels, maybe you won’t savor the sound of pine needles crunching under your designer shoes on the way to the bath house. For me, Sandy Pines struck an extraordinary balance between glamour and grit, offering a classically Maine getaway.

Camp carriages start $119 per night. Visit sandypinesmaine.com for more information.

The camp carriage / Photo by Madeline Bilis