Go Glamping in Rhode Island at Melville Ponds

The Portsmouth campground offers two rustic-chic Airstreams for nightly rentals.

My family went camping a lot when I was a kid. My mom would pack snack bags to keep my brother and me entertained while she and my dad resurrected the popup camper or hammered tent poles into place. We’d swim in a lake by day and roast hot dogs over the fire by night. Marshmallows were a given. Toilets were usually very, very far away — at least to a ten-year-old.

It was simple living, though even in my formative years I thought it could be improved with an onsite bathroom and comfortable bed (read: one that wasn’t at risk of deflation). Enter glamping, a.k.a. glamorous camping, an odd portmanteau — say it a few times, you’ll see — that’s bewildering to some but ideal for others, like me, who love the outdoors but also really like a few key creature comforts.

Glamping. Glamping. Glamping. I call for a full rebrand. Can we call it “comfy camping” instead? There’s not a whole lot that’s glamorous about campground culture. Wildlife abounds. Chairs are plastic. Privacy is non-existent. Digital entertainment is limited. High heels are totally inappropriate. Ball gowns are considered on a case-by-case basis.

My favorite comfy camping discovery over the last several years is the renovated Airstream, a people pleaser on so many levels. It’s retro, it’s spacious, it has all the comforts of home, including a working toilet, shower and a real bed. You’re still going to cook that hot dog over the fire, but you can also microwave it inside if the weather turns. (Or if you’re supremely lazy. No judgement.)

On Airbnb, my favorite source for vacation rentals, you’ll find a handful of Airstream rentals available in Rhode Island. But none are cuter than the two models at Melville Ponds Campground in Portsmouth. To get the scoop on the rentals, I caught up with Melville Ponds’ Justin May, who runs the campground and its sister property, Whispering Pines in Hope Valley, with his wife, Cameron. May says he sought out Airstreams after he and his wife stayed in one in Santa Barbara.

“It’s just so much fun, staying in these beautiful campers,” he says. “You’re surprised because it’s this modern interior in a vintage Airstream. We couldn’t stop talking about it.”

May’s two Airstreams, both built in the 1970s, were sourced by May and rehabbed by a company based in Ohio. The first was purchased on Ebay; it was partially rehabbed by its Pennsylvania owners, who lost steam. The second was purchased on the spot in a Walmart parking lot in Newport. May says he has plans for two more by the end of next summer.

“It’s a significant investment rehabbing them, but to date we’ve been correct,” says May. “All of our feedback has been 100 percent positive in the two years they’ve been online.”

Rates for the 1977 “Land Yacht” start at $125 per night. The 1972 “Ambassador,” with a queen bed, starts at $155 per night. Here’s a peek at both rentals:

 

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