So you want to go camping, but you don’t want to wake up with a rock jammed in your back with condensation dripping off the top of your tent.
You want to immerse yourself in nature, to truly sense the peace of solitude and the power of the trees, in a deeper way than a luxurious “glamping” experience can provide.
Camper cabins are the perfect middle ground between camping in a rustic tent and a fancy cabin. They’re camping out in nature, but with a real roof over your head (and near running water, warm showers and functioning toilets), and they’re totally unique in that they’re less than a cabin, yet more than a pitched tent on a dirt campsite.
You can experience my favorite camper cabins at Dreher Island State Park on Lake Murray in South Carolina.
These camper cabins provide all of the best parts of camping — immersion in nature, easy access to trails, coexistence with wildlife (hello, blue heron birds!) and a break from the fast-paced, tech-driven modern world — but without the inconveniences. The restrooms and shower are always clean and warm. You can eat in a covered picnic shelter and sleep on a mattress in a real bed.
South Carolina State Parks have mastered the camper cabin concept, and Dreher Island State Park feels like a remote escape yet it’s only about 30 miles from Columbia.
A camper cabin is not a cabin or a villa, in that there are no linens (BYOB: bring your own bedsheets). There’s no private restroom in your building, and the inside of the cabin itself doesn’t have running water. You can’t cook inside the cabin.
But the one-room, 11-foot-by-13 cabins can sleep four people on real beds (one double bed and a set of bunk beds), and you get the convenience of electricity, indoor lights and heating and air conditioning. Camper cabins are available year-round. Drink your morning coffee on the porch overlooking Lake Murray and enjoy the views, after a good night’s sleep on a mattress.
Cook your meals outside on the fire ring or grill. And if you need running water for cleaning or other basic activities, each camper cabin does have a water spigot outside. Access to restrooms, showers and more conveniences are just a short walk away.
When staying in a camper cabin, you may also want to bring your own cooler, fold-up chairs for outside and kitchen gear, just as if you were camping in a tent.
At Dreher Island, which spans three islands and more than 340 acres, choose between 10 different camper cabins with easy access to Lake Murray. For those who want to rough it a little more, the park does also offer 97 paved campsites and 15 more tent-only campsites. All visitors here have wifi service, not that you will want to use it, because there’s so much to see, do and explore. Being off-the-grid is part of the reason to visit, but you can easily connect with the outside world if needed. Fishing, hiking and boating are big here.
Beyond Dreher Island in South Carolina, you might also want to consider the Little Pee Dee experience or Colleton State Park, each with one camper cabin, or Lake Hartwell State Park, with two camper cabins. Dreher Island has the biggest selection of camper cabins and therefore the best chance of scoring one.
No more wrestling to set up your tent and waking up with a kink in your back. Camper cabins are a wonderful alternative to camping, where relaxation is amplified and inconveniences are wiped away.
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