New glamping spot in Michigan brings luxury to a blueberry farm
By Terri Colby
Jul 11, 2019 | 9:04 AM
|SOUTH HAVEN, Mich.
On a warm summer afternoon, a light breeze sweeps through the mesh screen on the side of my tent, ruffling the canvas roof and sending maple leaf shadows dancing above my head. The wind passes across my bare arms before I sink into the plush king-size mattress, ready for an afternoon snooze.
I was in a campground in the Midwest, in a tourist hot spot in southwest Michigan. But this was no ordinary tent and no ordinary campground.
Welcome to The Fields, a new luxury camping experience on a 30-acre blueberry farm in South Haven, Mich.
The Fields is a close-to-home example of “glamping,” a mashup of the words glamour and camping. The glamping trend has been around in its modern iteration for more than a decade. Last year, Merriam-Webster added the word to its dictionary, defining glamping as “outdoor camping with amenities and comforts … not usually used when camping.” In previous eras, royalty would set up lavish campsites for celebrations, and, of course, many of the African safaris popular in the 1920s were hardly roughing it. These days, glamping spots are often easy to find at high-end outdoor destinations in places like Montana, Colorado and California.
“The western embrace of glamping has been a natural fit with the rugged wild landscape of the West and desired creature comforts,” says Sarah Dusek, co-founder of the American Glamping Association and CEO of Under Canvas, which offers glamping camps near several national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
Irene Wood, The Fields’ owner, says her resort is the first luxury glamping spot in the Midwest. It definitely fits the bill for an outdoorsy experience that does away with sleeping on the ground or trekking through dark woods in the middle of the night to answer nature’s call.
The Fields has 10 canvas tents set up on wooden platforms, each with a king-size bed with fine linens. A partial wall behind the bed divides the front of the tent from the bathroom area, where privacy screens separate the space equipped with a toilet, shower and bathroom sink. Tents also have room for a desk, small table and chairs.
Each tent has a wood-burning stove that was started for us each night of our weekend stay. We didn’t need the heat for the whole night, but it eased the chill before we got into bed.
Breakfast is included, with chef Sean Hale serving up locally sourced, seasonal options. The first day he prepared delicious quiches, yogurt and granola along with an elaborate fruit selection. Sunday morning breakfast was a hearty bacon and eggs with blueberry pancakes. The food was great, but even more memorable was being surrounded by nature, sipping a cup of coffee in the early morning and smelling the bacon sizzling on the grill.
Wood grew up on her family’s farm just down the road from The Fields. She moved to the Chicago suburbs when she got married and now splits her time between Hinsdale and South Haven.
She bought the family farm from her father a few years back and runs a banquet business onsite, where she’s also trying to develop a vineyard. While working on that property, which she calls The Farm, Wood said she noticed how much people seemed to appreciate the authenticity of the place. That insight, combined with travels that took her to other glamping sites around the world, led to the idea of opening The Fields.
“We always say that traveling gives you the privilege of perspective,” Wood said. “And I think that that privilege has allowed me to take a lot of things that I’ve seen that are beautiful in the world and apply them to the place I find most beautiful, which is my hometown.”
Now, Wood says, she’s working with friends, neighbors and family, and that’s “a privilege and an honor.” It may well be, but Wood isn’t sitting back watching the trees sway. She’s up early, making sure the coffee is brewing in the central meeting space called The Willow, after an old deer blind on the property. Her children are clearing breakfast dishes, cleaning the tents and building the fire for s’mores.
The Fields is open from Memorial Day through Oct. 27. Overnight rates may seem high by South Haven standards, starting at $329 a night. But Wood maintains that it’s an affordable way for Midwesterners to go glamping. There’s no need to get on a flight, rent a car and drive a couple of hours into the wilderness to get a similar experience.
As with all glamping resorts, the outdoor location is paramount, followed by the availability of activities in and around the space. The Fields is outside of town, down a country road with a turnoff that takes you into the blueberry fields. The tents are farther back on the property, along the Black River among pine, maple and poplar trees.
The South Haven area has no shortage of activities, especially in the warmer months. We happily filled a Saturday in June with a visit to the downtown South Haven farm market, where music and samples of cheese and blueberry juice fueled our walking tour; a short trip out of town to a wine festival at Fenn Valley Vineyards and a Lake Michigan sunset boat ride on the Elsie J.
The Fields can help guests arrange activities that require reservations, such as wine tasting, cheese making, sailing, fishing and horseback riding. There are also lots of things to do nearby that don’t entail much advance planning.
Beaches are South Haven’s biggest draw. The two biggest and most popular are North Beachand South Beach on either side of the Black River where it meets Lake Michigan. Each has playground equipment for kids, concession stands and restrooms. South Beach is closest to the historic lighthouse and the harbor walk. But it’s not hard to find less crowded beaches, if that’s your thing.
The Fields is half a mile from the Kal-Haven Trail, a 33-mile bike path that runs between Kalamazoo and South Haven. Guests who want to rent bicycles can get them delivered to their tent.
If the timing is right, blueberry picking is a favorite South Haven activity, and you can pick right at The Fields. (The National Blueberry Festival takes place annually in South Haven the second weekend in August.)