We checked out several new tiny rentals and “glamping” spots in Coastal Virginia—and one in the Shenandoah—just right for a rustic fall staycation or fuss-free weekend road trip.
If roughing it in the woods isn’t quite your jam or you left your sleeping bag days behind along with the relics of your college dorm room, good news. You can still enjoy an overnight or two in the great outdoors—just with a little more décor and maybe even AC, a comfy mattress and a nice bathroom. “Glamping” is camping’s trendier, more Instagram-able cousin. And it’s not just tents with a bougie twist. From deluxe treehouses to tricked-out yurts to luxury cabins with full kitchens and indoor plumbing, a quick Google search will lead you to discover the many glamping experiences available in the mountains, at waterfront destinations and everywhere in between around Virginia.
We decided to check out a handful of new ones, all opened (or with glamping options added) within the last year and mostly close to home, to give you a few ideas. Read on to learn about glamping tents on the Chickahominy River in Williamsburg and at Crabtree Falls in the Shenandoah Mountains as well as minimalist tiny homes oozing with small town charm on the Northern Neck and the Eastern Shore. Pack your bags and get glamping this fall.
1350 John Tyler Hwy., Williamsburg.
It was a humid, mid-summer scorcher when I pulled up to my waterfront campsite at Timberline Glamping in Williamsburg. I quickly began unpacking my bags and gear onto the wooden deck of my assigned tent, situated facing Gordon’s Creek, just off the Chickahominy River, and made of sturdy off-white canvas supported by a metal frame. I had seen the pics, so I could hardly contain my excitement as I unzipped the tent’s door, a rugged outer layer followed by a mesh screen.
As I pushed through the tent’s opening, I was greeted by a delightful blast of cool air courtesy of a small AC unit and a fan suspended from the tent’s ceiling. The warm mood lighting afforded by the sun’s rays softly beaming through the canvas and a pleasant earthy aroma coming from Timberline’s signature diffuser fragrance set the stage for my first ever “glamping” experience. I was hooked—fantasizing about coming back in the fall before I had even set my suitcase down. (Yes, I brought a suitcase. Hey, this is glamping, y’all.)
Timberline’s Double Safari Tents feature two queen metal-frame beds with cozy memory foam mattresses and real, fresh linens, lamps, rugs, pillows, blankets, chairs, electrical outlets, a Keurig with Timberline branded K-Cups, a mini fridge, trendy decor and that all-important AC/heating unit (depending on the season). Timberline’s website is quick to qualify that, while the heating and cooling are enough to take the edge off, guests shouldn’t expect the same temps as at home. Yet, as long as the tent’s door was kept zipped, I found it very pleasant—even on an extremely hot day.
Sipping my freshly brewed cup of coffee outside the tent the next morning, I watched from an Adirondack chair as egrets took flight from their watery roost. Boats, kayaks and even a crew team passed by my tent’s front door, rowing in unison as their coach called out commands. Also, outside the tent, campers will find a fire pit, picnic table and hammock. Optional add-ons like cornhole boards, Blackstone griddles, and s’mores kits are available for an additional charge. And be sure to bring your bike because the Capital Trail is directly accessible at the park’s entrance.
A franchise with locations in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and now Virginia, the Timberline Glamping in Williamsburg is owned by husband-and-wife Megan and Ken Sanders, who decided to share their love of adventure and passion for the outdoors through this new venture. There are six tents available including a Deluxe Safari Tent option that has one king bed and two sets of bunk beds. Prices start at $169 per night plus taxes, fees and a $65 cleaning charge. Dogs are welcome, but there is a pet fee.
Safari glamping tents
Within the Chickahominy Riverfront Park, on the banks of the beautiful Chickahominy River, along the Capital Trail and about a 10–15-minute drive to Colonial Williamsburg or Jamestown
Things to See/Do:
Biking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, The Capital Trail, Williamsburg Winery, Busch Gardens
Cape Charles Tiny Livin’
22102 S. Bayside Rd., Cape Charles.
Simple meets scintillating at this hidden gem on the Eastern Shore. If you’re looking for a glamping getaway with charm, character and history, then Cape Charles Tiny Livin’ is for you. Their motto, “less space, more livin’,” epitomizes the experience.
You can’t miss the bold cottages as you enter the grounds, each painted its own unique, bright color and given a special nickname to match its interior theme. I had the privilege of staying overnight in “Honey,” which has a pastel, sage green exterior and a quaint porch. The inside features modern artwork and furniture with a colorful flair. Its sister house, “Milk,” looks identical—a homage to the term “milk and honey.” While my mind went straight to the popular poetry book by Rupi Kaur, owner Eric Hawkins explained that the inspiration for this dynamic duo actually stemmed from the church in Texas where his daughter serves as pastor.
Other cottages include “Stay Awhile,” a granola yellow tiny home with wood accents and a similar set-up to “Milk” and “Honey”; “Vintage,” which takes you back in time with classic, antique décor; “Mermaid,” a blue beauty that makes you feel like you’re lodging under the sea; “Fisherman,” their coastal themed cottage; “Red House,” the eye-catcher with an interior entirely inspired by Jimmy Hendrix; and “Tiny House Hideaway,” a two-story barn where rustic meets cozy comfort. And there are more tiny houses in the works.
Know someone getting married who has dreamed of an intimate micro-wedding? They’ve also got a tiny house event rental decorated with vivacious plants that make a great backdrop for a small ceremony. While the cottages are the perfect invitation for relaxation, their simplicity also motivates you to get out and explore, whether it be venturing to Kiptopeke State Park, sunbathing on the beach, shopping and dining in downtown Cape Charles or lounging on their lawn by the fire with a competitive game of cornhole on the side.
Aside from the aesthetic qualities that make Cape Charles Tiny Livin’ so distinctive, the history of the property also provides a new perspective on the space. The houses were originally built in 1939 as part of the Esso Auto Court, which served as a recreational spot for auto-travelers—most commonly fishermen, hunters and tourists ready to explore the Eastern Shore—and featured a gas station, restaurant and 14 tiny cottages. Fast forward to April 2021 and Eric and Sylvia Hawkins decided to move in and reimagine the old Auto Court, turning it into a lively lodging location that allows travelers to connect with nature and explore the Shore with maximum livability in a minimal space. The idea stemmed from their love of Cape Charles, which they had frequented for more than 25 years before making the move, and their passion for tiny living, which they did for more than 14 years before turning the lifestyle into a short-term rental experience for others.
Rental prices for the tiny homes start at $180 a night before taxes. Dogs are welcome in select rentals.
In a partially wooded community on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, right off Lankford Hwy toward Cheriton and a 5-minute drive to downtown Cape Charles
Things to See/Do:
Biking/hiking/kayaking in Kiptopeke State Park, beach, shopping, restaurants, Buskey Cider on the Bay, Cape Charles Brewing Company, Cape Charles
Distillery, Chatham Vineyards
Small private bath with sink, stand-up shower, towels, shampoo, conditioner and soap provided.
Food & Cooking:
Sink, mini fridge, microwave, stovetop, toaster, coffee/tea maker all provided, but you’ll need to bring your own food.
73 Seafood Ln., Irvington.
Full disclosure: I’m automatically over the moon about any place to stay that serves up a free moon pie with raspberry drizzle and a sprig of mint for guests who leave their cars parked and commit to walking or biking around the nearby small town during their visit. It’s a sweet reward at a creatively repurposed new spot on Virginia’s Northern Neck, not to mention a tasty way to motivate visitors to eat, shop and play local. Here, “lingering is encouraged.”
And that’s just what I did during my recent stay at Refuel Irvington, an L-shaped cluster of six tiny rental cottages with an industrial minimalist vibe, opened in mid-2022 on the site of what was once the dilapidated remains of an old petroleum transfer station. Like nearly everything in Irvington, it’s located a stone’s throw from Carter’s Creek and the Rappahannock River and around the corner from the town’s main intersection.
“I wanted to inspire people about what you can do with the old and how you can live in a smaller footprint,” says owner Albert Pollard, a nonprofit energy consultant and former state legislator. Pollard worked with the Department of Environmental Quality to safely transform the site into an asset for this small but thriving waterfront community, also known as a destination for its luxury inns, restaurants, wineries, shops and quaint Chesapeake Bay charm.
Arranged like a mini village around a central courtyard with pebble pathways, stainless steel planters, a gurgling fountain, patio, fire pit, hammock and crisscrossing Edison lights, each 390-square-foot Refuel cottage has a covered front porch and all the creature comforts and free wifi you need without the fuss. After pedaling around town on one of Refuel’s black beach cruisers and stopping at Camp (a popular new outdoor food, drink and event venue) and The Tides Inn’s Fish Hawk Oyster Bar, I made myself a simple dinner in the efficiency kitchen before tucking into the cozy queen size with a good book. The next morning, I walked to The Local, a cute coffee shop serving yummy breakfast sammies, chia bowls, sticky buns and more.
Refuel would be a perfect place for a small family reunion or friends’ getaway for those who want to rent multiple units. The adjacent “Brake Room” is a refurbishment of one of the fueling station’s original structures, now an open-air party space with table games, darts and a TV. Refuel recently opened a self-checkout café offering beer, wine, baguettes, cheese, empanadas, salads and select desserts. With nightly rental rates starting at $170, Refuel is also a more affordable alternative to the inns nearby, which are delightful but pricy.
In the charming town of Irvington (also home to The Tides Inn and Hope & Glory Inn) on Virginia’s Northern Neck, built on the site of a former petroleum transfer station, hence the name
Things to See/Do:
Biking, paddleboarding, boutiques, farm markets, specialty food, restaurants, Camp, Dog & Oyster Micro-Vineyard, The Tides Inn, Steamboat Era Museum—all in walking or cycling distance
Small but full private bath with shower (no tub) in each cottage, towels, bathmat, shampoo, conditioner and soap provided.
Food & Cooking:
Kitchen has basic cookware, plates, utensils, a two-burner stove, microwave, toaster oven and full-size fridge. Or order from the café, but it is closed seasonally November-March.
The Retreat at Crabtree Falls
11100 Crabtree Falls Hwy., Tyro.
Arriving at the Retreat at Crabtree Falls, you’ll find yourself traversing long, winding country roads with rustic gravel access to this mountain getaway’s tents and cabins. But once you get there, checking in is simple. This is a family-run operation. Beth-Anne Norman Driskill, who manages the Retreat for her father Richard Franklin Norman, will have your accommodations all set up and ready to go. Just pull up to your tent and walk right in. In the case of my recent visit, it was one their glamping tents, which opened for the first time earlier this year. The tent is made of weather-treated canvas and smells of the cozy leather couch inside.
The bedding is rich and thick, and the pillows are plush. There’s a gas burning stove, the furniture is of a clean and simple wood design, and there’s even a faux fur blanket. The king-sized bed is a vacation all by itself. Luckily there is a Keurig and complementary coffee pods to help get you out of it in the morning. Whether sitting in the fresh air, snuggling on the couch, relaxing in a rocker or lying in bed, the sounds of the babbling stream running outside of your front door will take all of your stresses away. All linens are provided, and the bed is made and waiting for you.
This might be a tent, but it’s not “just” a tent. There are plenty of outlets, free Wi-Fi, a mini refrigerator with freezer, and treats. Lots of treats. Beth-Anne has thought of everything from chocolates on your nightstand to s’mores kits, a bottle of wine, wine glasses and a wine key to open it. Oh, and did I mention the private bathroom with heated floors? Yes, heated floors! The bathroom facilities are like a mini trip to the spa. Have a seat on a comfy bench, inhale the soul-cleansing fragrance of cedar, and enjoy a sauna-like experience. Consistent with the linens in the tent, Beth-Anne stocks the bathroom with luxurious towels and toiletries for your use. Both the tent and the bathroom are ADA Compliant.
For your outdoor enjoyment, there is a fire pit, a grill, a griddle, a smoker and a storage box filled with absolutely everything you could possibly need, from pots and pans, to dishes, utensils, grilling accessories, kitchen towels, potholders, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, aluminum foil, salt and pepper, and cooking oil. There is plenty of wood available upon arrival, but should you need more, it’s available on site for a small fee. There is even an industrial stainless steel outdoor washing station for washing dishes, and bear-proof trash bins for everyone’s safety.
If tents are not your thing, they also have charming rustic cabins available—with modern amenities, of course. Important to know before you go: The GPS instructions are a little tricky. They seem to drop you off just a few feet before the entrance. If that happens, don’t worry: You’re only a few feet away. Keep going until you see the sign at the entrance. Groceries, wineries and breweries are 20 minutes away, and charcoal is available for a small fee.
Should you decide to try the Retreat at Crabtree Falls, just know that you will be treated like family, and Beth-Anne will leave the light on for you. Enjoy your stay.
Rugged canvas glamping tent
Located 0.7 miles from the popular hiking spot and destination, Crabtree Falls, along the Tye River
Things to See/Do:
Wintergreen Resort, The Appalachian Trail, Nelson 151, hiking, horseback riding, wine tastings, craft breweries
Large ADA Compliant bathroom with large walk-in shower, sink, luxurious towels and floor mats, wood bench, cedar, heated floors and mini toiletries.
Food & Cooking:
Grill, griddle, smoker, mini fridge with freezer, all dishes and cooking utensils, and an outdoor utility sink with dish soap, dish towel and sponges. All water is potable.