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Forget hotels—opt instead for stays in cozy cabins, yurts, houseboats, treehouses, a fire tower, a restored train caboose, a repurposed school bus and even a castle.
When Leslie Lillo and her husband, Joe, were searching for just the right spot for a three-night getaway last fall, they hit the jackpot when they found lodging in a cozy one-room cabin on a private island on the French Broad River about 25 minutes from Asheville, North Carolina. The rustic Riverside Escapes retreat, which is accessible by a footbridge, features amenities like electricity, a comfortable bed and an outdoor rain barrel-fed shower.
Though initially a compromise for the couple—he wanted to go camping while she preferred a bit more comfort at that time of year—she says they fell in love with the place during their stay.
“I was willing to rough it to an extent, but we had water, there was a wood stove, a bed, and a place to prepare food, and there was even a coffeemaker, so it was just the right mix for us,” Leslie says.
The Lillos, who live in Frederick, Maryland, spent their days driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway and exploring downtown Asheville, while nights were reserved for cooking dinner over the campfire and sipping wine. “It was the perfect little getaway,” Leslie says. “It was very peaceful and relaxing.”
Riverside Escapes’ private island cabin on the French Broad River is isolated and rugged enough to offer the satisfaction you get from camping, while offering some modern comforts.
“It feels like you’re a world away once you go over that bridge,” says Liz Wiederhold, co-owner of the cabin, which she describes as “refined rustic.” The one-room cabin features a modified half-bathroom with an incinerating toilet and a sink, plus a large, partially covered porch complete with a hammock overlooking the property’s private riverfront beach.
Private Island Cabin on the River
Alexander, North Carolina
Starts at $135 per night
The private island cabin the Lillos stayed in is just one of many unique overnight accommodations around the Blue Ridge Mountain region. Read on to discover some of the most remarkable and offbeat sleeping spots.
Treed for the Night
Nestled on a remote 65-acre property about 30 minutes from Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Judith and Henry Orszula’s tiny treehouse isn’t your typical treehouse—it wasn’t built in a tree, but around one. There’s an actual living sourwood tree growing right through the center of the small, two-story structure. The bottom level of the approximately 150-square-foot treehouse includes a fully functioning kitchen, a living room area with a fold-out couch and a full bathroom with a compost toilet. A ladder leads up to the second-floor loft, where there’s a double bed. The couple’s property also features an acrobatic yoga studio, a Chakra maze, botanical gardens and a one-acre pond you can zip-line into.
Tiny Treehouse in the Woods
Millers Creek, North Carolina
Book through Airbnb.com
$49 per night
Tail End of a Train
All aboard Tom Bradshaw’s restored 1926 C&O train caboose in Natural Bridge, Virginia. After spending much of its life as the tail end of trains hauling coal in West Virginia, the caboose was given a permanent home on hilly farmland and repurposed as a vacation rental. Bradshaw refurbished the rail car with western red cedar walls and Cherrywood floors, but kept its original curved wood ceiling. The 200-square-foot space also now boasts air conditioning, a bedroom with a double bed, a bathroom, a galley-style kitchen and a living room area with a daybed and satellite TV. The exterior of the caboose appears much as it would have in the 1930s, says Bradshaw. Railroad-style lanterns and a gas fire pit light the patio outside, and a railroad-crossing sign complete with functioning lights flashes to greet guests upon arrival.
Restored C&O Train Caboose
Natural Bridge, Virginia
$175 per night; two-night minimum