This Luxury Travel Company is Taking Camping to a Whole New Level
Chart course for one-of-a-kind camping and farm-to-table dining in Columbia County with Collective Retreats.
Photos by Collective Hudson Valley, a Retreat at Liberty Farms
If you close your eyes and think, luxury getaway, what do you see?
Sheets with thread-counts in the thousands; a grand lobby; personal concierge services; plenty of in-room amenities, perhaps? It’d make sense, given these are some of the expectations oft associated with the high-end hospitality. They’re “exclusive,” probably not things you’re daily life offers, and definitely not things you would expect while, say, on a farm, or out camping.
Until now, that is. Thanks to unique travel company, Collective Retreats (CR), the lines between these two distinctly different experiences are blurring.
The idea springs from CR founder and CEO, Peter Mack, a former executive for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, who realized that — with the increasing popularity of Airbnb and the further standardization of traditional hotel retreats — the hospitality industry is rapidly changing. To adapt, Mack sought to refocus the way we stay to be about the experience, rather than merely having a place to sleep, designing a new sort of destination that merges a rugged escape with elegant accommodations.
CR partners with landowners across the country to establish seasonal settlements where regular hotels and housing structures can’t be built (due to lack of infrastructure or in the face of other regulations). This includes untouched Colorado countryside, a ranch in Texas hill-country, pristine grasslands wedged between water and mountains in Yellowstone, and now, the Hudson Valley.
Launching just this summer, CR took up property on Liberty Farms — a 310-acre organic farm and equestrian center located in Ghent — where guests can stay in any one of five delux tents.
Yes, you read that correctly: delux tents. Made from heavy-duty, safari-style canvas, which encloses wood floors and a space about the size of a five-star suite in NYC, these are nothing like the zipper-and-nylon shelters you constructed on your family camping trip in 1996. Each is design-driven, featuring furniture from vintage purveyors and estate sales throughout the region, to represent an “upscale camp aesthetic.” Deep reading chairs, an in-tent wood stove, and above-bed chandelier are standard, but the five lodgings differ in that each is tailored to reflect the life and work of a local author famously inspired by the area (Whitman, Melville, Millay, Bryant, and Irving).
Then there are the amenities — which include cushy bathrobes, 1,500-thread Egyptian cotton linens, a French Press coffee bar, and probably the softest bedding you’ve ever laid on — and an on-call concierge team who are, like the other aspects of this endeavor, local to the area. Wondering about the bathroom yet? Don’t worry, each tent has a full, personal facility (equipped with a rainfall-style showerhead, even) in a separate, deckside teepee.
There isn’t much to engage you on the site itself (though the staff can arrange for you to try your hand at barn duties or tour the organic farm, for an extra fee), but the Ghent-based location puts you near ample hiking/biking trails, wineries and breweries to tour and taste, fruit orchards galore, and Hudson and Chatham — two cities that are prime for you to shop and explore.
However, the aspect that sends this retreat over the top (because, clearly, the whole package was not already enough) is the food.
A company-wide, dining program was developed and run by Chef William Howell, an avid Colorado-outdoorsman himself, who embraces the project with both creativity and practicality. “I just think about what I’d like to eat — coming from a more kitchen-educated mindset — if I were camping,” says Howell. “In the Hudson Valley, [the menu] is easy because there’s so much product available. It feels like there’s a garden on every corner...I wish I had that to play with at every site.”
Because the various CR sites are spread across the country, Howell conducts an initial visit and designs a base menu that allows for manipulation using what’s locally available. Then, two on-site chefs cook up your three-course feast. The influence of seasonality means the menu is constantly changing, but at the end of summer, dishes included the likes of the likes of local lettuces and summer tomatoes, lentil stew, cider-braised guinea hen, and a peach crumble, among other (equally delicious) options.
You’ll dine in the communal travelers’ tent, then head over to the adjacent fire pit to roast s’mores under the stars with fellow glamping guests. It’s like an adult version of summer camp, except now your sweet sandwiches are composed of hand-made marshmallows, buttery shortbread cookies, and three types of artisan chocolates.
And forget the basic continental breakfast or buffet situation come sunrise: the chef will whip up a locally driven morning menu, full of favorites like pancakes, french toast, and even an egg burrito (again, dependent on what they have on-hand) and, of course, plenty of freshly pressed coffee to fuel your new day of adventures.
Though these experiences, like the menu, are seasonal — lasting the warmer months up through November — they are worth seeking out if you’re in the market for travel with a bit more adventure.
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