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Dispatches : Travel

Bourke House: The World's Nicest Tent

While you might not notice it immediately, this family’s private summer cabin was designed to mimic a series of tents.


Perched on a hill with stunning views of New Zealand’s Buckleton Bay, the retreat’s separate sleeping areas are connected to a central space–the heart of the base camp. Here, groups can gather to cook, eat, and lounge under a soaring white roof. Tethered by red masts, this horizontal plane rises toward the sea, while the deep overhang provides shade, much like a tent’s awning.


Low-maintenance materials (concrete, wood, and glass) make the transition from inside to out. The concrete terrace wraps around the full perimeter of the house, and encircles a brick fireplace.


In the summer, residents can slide open the glass walls to let in the sea breeze and take in views of the bay.


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An Old-School Northwoods Outfit

With its pine- and cedar-lined shores, rocky islands, and clean blue water, Burntside is the prototypical northwoods lake. And this 101-year-old outfit on the lake’s south shore is the prototypical northwoods lodge.

Immaculately restored FDR-era cabins sitting at the water’s edge? Check. A bar and restaurant serving freshly caught pan-fried walleye? Yep. Access to a fleet of boats and canoes for exploring 7,000 acres of deep, fish-filled waterways? Right again.

{%{"image":"","caption":"The menu at Burntside changes seasonally, and everything is made from scratch, just like you'd expect."}%}

Make Burntside Lodge your upscale jumping-off point for canoeing and backpacking trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (There’s an entry point to the storied BWCA across the lake, but beware—the first portage is a beast.) Or just kick back for a week of rustic R&R. Favorite on-site activities include paddleboarding, exorcising demons (and other toxins) in the Finnish sauna, and staring at the lake until your head is free of modern concerns.

{%{"image":"","caption":"Burntside Lake is 12 miles long and peppered with more than 120 islands for you to explore."}%}

If you get restless, just a few miles away is Ely, Minnesota’s answer to that small town in Northern Exposure, filled with friendly locals, divey bars and restaurants (try Ely Steakhouse), and outfitters such as Steger’s Mukluks, founded by Patti Steger, ex-wife of legendary Arctic adventurer Will Steger.

{%{"image":"","caption":"Each cabin and bedroom has unique design and furnishings, so guests can choose their favorites."}%}

But really, you can’t go wrong with sitting on a rock and staring at the lake.

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The Gateway to Yosemite

Two miles south of Yosemite National Park’s southern entrance, Tenaya Lodge is nestled among the towering sugar pines and cedars of the Sierra National Forest.

Enter the high-ceilinged lobby filled with Southwest-patterned armchairs and plush leather couches. Check in under the gaze of elk, mule deer, and one (very out of place) caribou. 

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Walk past the mammoth stone fireplace en route to your room, which is down a… long, sterile hallway? “Wait a minute,” you think. “This kind of feels like a Marriott.”

Well, that’s because a Marriott is exactly what Tenaya used to be. But don’t stop reading here. Tenaya—minus its hallways—is perhaps the most rustically glamorous (if indeed those words can be combined) renovation of a major hotel chain in the West.

All 297 rooms have received a thorough makeover, but for the newest accomodations, stay in the suites on the lowest level. They feel surprisingly boutique and not so chain-like, thanks to their ceiling-mounted showerheads, gas fireplaces, and private patios.

Outside, the lodge offers plenty to do. In fact, between the 25-foot climbing wall, 60-plus miles of mountain bike trails, and horseback riding right down the road, it’s highly likely you could stay here for a week and not even set foot in Yosemite.

And that’s just during the summer. Winter at Tenaya means horse-drawn sleigh rides through evergreen forests, guided snowshoe nature hikes, ice skating, and day trips to Badger Pass Ski Area—California’s original ski resort.

And, of course, the 2,900-square-foot fitness area, heated indoor pool, and Ascent Spa (athletes: opt for the deep-tissue sports relief massage) are available year-round, as are Tenaya’s four on-site restaurants. Whether you opt for a quick burger at Jackalope’s or the braised lamb shank at Embers, make sure to order a local wine and the cookie pizza for dessert. 

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All of which is to say that Tenaya’s marketing department pretty much nailed the lodge’s tagline: “It’s like roughing it, minus the rough part.”

Getting there: Tenaya Lodge is located along Highway 41, two miles from Yosemite’s South Gate. The lodge is 55 miles north of Fresno Yosemite International Airport, about four hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, and about five hours from greater Los Angeles.

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