Glamping In Florida has become a trend, many of us wanting the outdoors feel of camping with some modern-day amenities. Those who like glamping are always looking for new and unusual accommodations. I have recently stayed at some unique places, including a covered wagon! A traditional replica of the wagons that carried pioneers 2,000 miles across the Western wagon trek.
America’s Great Westward Migration is a unique period of history. In the 1840s through 1860, hundreds of thousands of settlers and entrepreneurs moved west in search of a new homestead in Oregon and California. The settlers migrated because of the lure of farming opportunities and gold mining. Over 30 million people across the continent voluntarily migrated west.
The pioneers traveled on three trails: the Sante Fe Trail, the California Trail, and the Oregon Trail. Besides all the necessities for survival on the months-long, 2,000-mile journey, these wagons also carried everything they needed to set up their new home. Thus, they needed food, clothing, tools and cookware, bedding, weapons, as well as spare canvas and wheels for the inevitable breakdowns along the way.
Original Covered Wagons
People and supplies needed to be transported by wagons that could endure a five-month journey. Hardwood was necessary for the wagon to withstand the rugged trail and months of use. Farmers typically used this type of wagon, which had a canvas cover stretched over hooped frames. One wagon would be sufficient for a family of four. Due to the supplies taking up almost the entirety of the wagon, there would not be much room. Most emigrant families took more than one wagon.
Wagons had to be lightweight yet robust enough to carry a 2,500 pound load. For this reason, wagons were made from hardwoods like maple, hickory, and oak. The iron was only used to reinforce parts exposed to the most punishment, like tires, axles, and hounds. Since emigrant wagons lacked springs and most spaces were taken up by cargo, emigrant wagons were not comfortable to ride in.
Keystone Heights RV Resort Location
Address: 1177 SE Keystone Ave, Keystone Heights, FL 32656
Keystone Heights RV Resort
In the winter, people from the north travel to Florida, and in the summer, it is the place of choice for many vacationers. As such, Florida is consistently expanding to accommodate newcomers. Keystone Heights, located in Clay County about thirty minutes northeast of Gainsville, is increasing to do just this!
Keystone Heights RV Resort opened its doors in November 2020. Once fully complete, it will have 400 RV spots.
Inside Keystone Heights RV Resort
First things first, the lobby is fantastic, and you’ll be greeted by Frankie, Andrea, or Michele. Three ladies who live on-site have a great sense of humor. All three know the area and can give you many recommendations for restaurants and local attractions. I immediately felt welcome and at home.
The lobby is not your average RV or Campsite lobby. Not even close. It’s pretty sleek and very contemporary.
Keystone Heights RV Resort Covered Wagons
I have been dying to stay in a covered wagon. Most people will think this is nuts – so be it. I am obsessed with new experiences, and if it contains an element of history, then I am all in! I discovered the covered wagons in Keystone Heights from a magazine while staying in a treehouse at Treehouse Point in Clay County. The minute I laid eyes on these wagons, I knew I would be booking to stay.
There are six covered wagons. You can book a covered wagon with two queens or one with a king. Regardless of what you book, the wagons are identical in size.
When you walk into the cabin, expect to take them back to years gone by. This is about as traditional as it gets, although this is luxurious compared to what you would have back in the 1800s. Every detail has been covered inside the wagons. I don’t think there’s a single missing detail.
The covered wagons are spotless and artistic, the craftsmanship divine. No expense has been spared. The bed is fantastic—solid wood frame with a firm memory foam mattress, no cutting corners here. The floor is covered with authentic cowhide. The lamps are trendy classy and mimic old lights made from cowhide. Even the tablemats in this place are made out of cowhides.
You also have high-end appliances like the refrigerator. The Frigidaire safe-like model is the Cadillac of all small fridges. Add the K Cup coffee maker in teal green, a TV, and small details like a tiny little typewriter alarm clock for nostalgia and you float back in time.
In addition to having electricity, heat, and air conditioning there are USB plugs. You can leave all those charging ports at home.
Size Of The Covered Wagons
Some people will enter and say that the covered wagons are a tad small. I disagree; there’s plenty of room. I can see myself living in one of these in the middle of nowhere in one of my favorite states, Montana. Others may frown on the lack of a traditional desk. Get creative! There is a fantastic wagon wheel table, a plush chair – put the two together, and voilà – the perfect working spot.
On second thought, not sure I could actually live in one. There’s no kitchen. This does not take away from the charm, beauty, or ambiance. It just got me thinking where would you cook and the obvious fire hazards that come with any cooking – gas or electric. As I sit imagining how my conclusion is this, you would have to set up a makeshift kitchen outside if you were going to live in one.
The bathroom is completely loaded and propper stylish, in my opinion. It has the same lights that I have in one of my homes and is very elegant. Tons of towels and not cheap towels either. These are fancy plush towels that are better quality than most Hiltons. The hand soap is a lemon viburnum that Farmstead makes. Not cheap and appreciated. There’s even a glade plug-in air freshener.
The walk-in shower is immaculate. Big enough for two, and it has a curved shower rail. The entire shower unit is curbed, which is fascinating. I think that’s a unique touch. I’ve never seen one of these before.
The bathroom is a tad small, but it’s more than work than you might think. It’s done with elegance.
As I mentioned the bed is plush. Ironically the bedding here is similar to the bedding that I have in the beach house, only mine is gray. I really like that the designer chose cream, it bounces off the wagon’s canvas color and wooden structure.
The cabins rattle – I’ll explain this later. Once you realize this, if you are like me, my head went in straight into the gutter. My thinking was this is not a good setup for bow chicka wow wow type stays. Well, the beds are solid! Once you actually sit on them or lay in them you will immediately notice they do not move. I can’t imagine what the bed weights as you can’t even nudge it an inch. My guess is the builders had the same thought as me and made wickedly heavy beds to offset the rocking that the wagons do.
As plush and as comfy as the beds are I don’t think the kings are true king size. My point of comparison is my own king bed. I don’t have a California, I have a regular king. I can tell you from experience that in my king two people can lay on two sides of the bed and never cross paths in the night. The bed in the wagon feels more like a queen. I don’t know for sure and I didn’t measure. It’s very possible it is a king and maybe the mattress is smaller.
I’m not particularly a massive fan of memory foam. I’ve had owned two, they are not my thing. I’ve currently a fan of the eco-friendly combo mattresses that combines traditional spring technology with the element of memory, built-in cooling, and built-in toppers.
Whether you like a firm mattress, a soft mattress, a combination mattress, or an adjustable asleep number, this is still an extremely comfortable bed. And, as far as memory foam goes I can say this is the comfiest one I have slept on to date!
Amenities At Keystone Heights RV Resort
When you hear “camping or glamping” you might assume a facility with the usual campfire and boat launch. Keystone Heights RV Resort offers guests a beautiful RV community with many modern amenities including:
Stunning Clubhouse that includes:
State of the art fitness center, including a sauna.
Family game room, think of a board game – it’s on-site.
Traditional game room – pool, darts – you name it – it’s here.
In addition to the amenities that I’ve listed above, there is a calendar of events that lists tons of things going on. There is a dedicated activities director onsite to plan resort-wide events.
On offer, is line dancing lessons, coffee socials, donuts, bible study, cards, billiards tournaments, miniature golf, karaoke nights, poker tournaments, and much more.
What’s Like To Stay In A Real Covered Wagon
Even though there are modern features, the feel is strikingly historic—the covered wagons rock when you climb the stairs. The wind rustles around the cloth canvas cover, and you can see the cover move with the wind.
The wagons rock. If you’re on the inside and somebody walks up, you can feel them climb the stairs, and then in the wagon will start to rock. As you move around inside the wagon they rock. And, the floors squeak as you move from side to side. You eventually get used to it. However, it’s comical at first. Put it this way, and there’s no sneaking to the restroom without everyone hearing you maneuver there.
What You Need To Know About Covered Wagon Glamping In Florida
The steps that lead up to the covered wagon are steep and they do rattle as you climb them.
There is no closet in the wagon. It’s not a problem, there are plenty of hooks and things for you to hang your clothes on.
You can not have a fire pit when glamping in Florida in a covered wagon. This makes sense. The structure is wood and canvas. One ember and the covered wagon would go up in flames.
Keystone Heights RV Resort is adjacent to a two-lane highway with traffic.
The covered cabins are located at the front of the resort next to the Highway. You will hear some traffic.
There is both heat and air conditioning inside the covered wagon.
You must bring your own chairs if you plan to sit outside of your wagon.
Check-In is at 3:00 pm for covered wagons, and Check-Out is at 11:00 am.
Online reservations are charged a $4 processing fee.
There is a cleaning fee for all stays.
In the spirit of full transparency, I have to tell you if I would have done anything differently. For Keystone Heights RV Resort’s covered wagons, I have three recommendations:
Move the covered wagons to the back of the site. We drove the entire area, and you can’t hear any traffic at the back of the resort. It will make a massive difference to guests’ experience when they rent the covered wagons.
Add a thicker comforter – just in case. I know this seems daft, but we assumed the only heat was the little fireplace. We didn’t figure out that we had central heat until after. A heavier comforter would have been an excellent addition.
Consider adding a small microwave so that people can heat things up.
None of these recommendations are deal breakers for us, we loved our stay, but these elements would have been the icing on the cake.
If like me you are always looking to experience something that’s really unusual and in a new place Keystone Heights, RV Resort’s covered wagons will delight you. You get to experience what it would have been like to live this way. This is your chance and for $150 a night I don’t think you can beat the value. Wholly unique and radically different from a tent or treehouse.
So is it worth $150 a night? Absolutely! I don’t think you’ll find anything as unusual and luxurious as this for $150 per night in the state of Florida.
Handcrafted in the US by the makers at Plainscraft, I now want one!
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job without breaking the bank. Nikki is always in search of off-the-beaten-track experiences and unique stays. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com or follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.