Woodland yurts offer unique camping experience

Seven yurts nestle deep in the woods of Southwest Harbor. Shaded by towering spruce and white pine, the domed round dwellings don’t detract from the serene setting, but the tent-like structures are a far cry from the portable shelters traditionally used by nomadic herdsmen on the steppes of Mongolia and other parts of central Asia.

At Acadia Yurts, a glamping, or glamour camping-retreat straddling five acres, guests can count on a working kitchen, bathroom with a shower and hot water, comfy queen-sized beds, electricity, air-conditioning and Wi-Fi.

“It’s ‘camping-lite,’” said Karen Roper, Acadia Yurts’ co-owner. However, she and her husband, Aaron Sprague, drew the line at adding televisions.

“Why don’t the yurts have TVs?” Roper said. “Because nature exists.”

One of Acadia Yurt’s hallmark dwellings sits in the shade of the woods of Southwest Harbor. Acadia Yurts offers the chance to stay in one of the company’s seven, amenity-filled yurts for a more comfortable camping experience.

Looking to explore and experience the wild beauty of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park while still enjoying the amenities of home? The yurts, rented for weeklong stays from mid-April through October, provide that option. For shorter stays, two shingled tiny houses are available for multiple-day stays.

The yurts, named after some of the peaks making up Acadia’s mountain range, can house from two to six people. For instance, the Norumbega Mountain Yurt has two queen-sized beds and a queen-sized pull-out couch and costs between $1,000 and $1,200 per week.

The Cadillac, Dorr, Flying, Sargent, Beech and Champlain mountain yurts contain one queen-sized bed and one queen-sized pull-out couch. The cost ranges from $900 to $1,100 a week depending on the time of year.

Five years ago, Roper and Sprague opened their yurt village as a fresh take on coastal Maine’s “cottage colony” tradition to give guests a vacation to remember.

Vacationers not only want to explore their chosen destination, but also “want the place that they’re staying in to be an experience,” Sprague said.

There’s a covered opening at the top of every yurt on the property. The opening in the dome allows natural light to stream into the space.

In addition, Roper and Sprague recently opened a wellness center onsite for guests and local residents. The facility features an infrared sauna and a sensory deprivation float tank. Roper is a licensed massage therapist and yoga instructor offering weekly classes as well.

The couple sees the wellness center as a means to provide self-care opportunities for people who normally don’t prioritize taking care of themselves.

“Growing up as a Mainer, there’s a lot of people who would never think to give themselves an hour-and-a-half-long massage, to treat themselves, to be able to take care of their body and their health,” Sprague said. “It just might be the culture here in Maine.”

Roper and Sprague strive to make their services affordable to a broad spectrum of people. All yoga classes are donation-based, meaning guests pay what they can; there is no minimum donation.

“You can come and pay nothing, and I do think that’s been appealing for locals” Roper said. “I’ve been teaching for years, and I’ve never seen some of these people before in class. But they’re coming out now and they’re doing things that are good for themselves and they’re seeing the benefits.”

All proceeds are then donated to a charity chosen each year. This year, all proceeds from the yoga classes will go to the Summer Festival of the Arts scholarship fund.

When Acadia Yurts closes for the season, Roper and Sprague will keep the wellness center open through the winter so local residents have access to services, and can continue their journey to making self-care a priority.

“When people are in better health, the whole community flourishes,” Roper said.