I have never seen better proof of the power of paternal affection than watching my husband pack the car up for our camping trip last week. Gary hates camping. Actually, hate might be too soft. He abhors the idea with every fiber of his being. Years of Army training combined with the reality that bugs of all varieties find him delicious exhausted all his patience for being out in the woods many years before I met him.
But we have a four-year-old, and she really wanted to go camping. (Admittedly, there may have been some coaching by Momma, who believes that camping is an essential childhood experience.) I found Parks Canada’s version of glamping – the oTENTik – online and reserved one at the Cavendish campground, assuring Gary that I didn’t mind taking Amelia myself (which was true).
Having been promised that there were actual beds in the oTENTik, and faced with his daughter’s excitement over the impending camping trip, Gary gamely signed on.
And bought 5 cans of bug spray.
4 days of beachcombing, COWS ice cream, coffee on the peaceful dock overlooking the salt marsh, campfires, and many s’mores later, we were headed home and my husband informed us that he actually enjoyed the trip and would go back! I can’t imagine a more ringing endorsement than that.
If you’re thinking of checking out the oTENTiks in the Prince Edward Island National Park for yourself, read on for answers to the questions we had before we went.
Other campgrounds may have different setups, so this article is specific to the oTENTiks in the Cavendish campground at PEI National Park.
What the heck is an oTENTik?
The oTENTik is like camping without having to sleep on the ground or drive a massive RV around. Part tent, part cabin, you get a rustic experience but you also get power, a BBQ, and a mattress.
We chose the oTENTik because it gave us the camping experience – being in a campsite, having the campfire, and being (almost entirely) free of technology – without having to buy all the gear you need for proper camping. And also because it was the only way to convince Gary to come.
Are there bugs?
As it turned out, while we were glad to have the bug spray we didn’t need nearly as much as we’d expected. The weather was on our side – a bit cool, with a nice breeze coming off of the ocean – and campfires at night go a long way to keeping the mosquitos under control. However, it did rain on our second-last day and the mosquitos were out in full force as we packed up, so YMMV.
Is the oTENTik comfy?
There are real beds inside, with firm mattresses. I like a firm mattress, so found it very comfy, but if you’re a soft mattress kind of a person bring something fluffy to sleep on. A kitchen table inside as well as a picnic table on the deck and Adirondack chairs by the fire pit give you lots of seating.
Bunkbeds are always a hit with kids, although we convinced our 4-year-old to sleep on the bottom with us as the top looked a bit dodgy for a small wriggly human.
Is it private?
Not really. We were there in shoulder season, so the oTENTik next to us wasn’t occupied while we were there, but if you’re looking for an isolated camping experience, this isn’t it. Having said that, noise wasn’t an issue for us and camping people are generally very friendly. If you get a tent at one end or the other you will only have one neighbour, but tent O5 has the best view.
All the oTENTiks share access to the dock with four red adirondack chairs. This spot, perfect for birdwatching, wasn’t overly busy while we were there, but again – it was shoulder season.
Is it near the beach?
Yes! Cavendish beach – the section of it just for campers staying at the PEI National Park – is just a short walk away. You can actually see it from the dock, but you’ll need to walk around the long way to get there. It’s just a couple of minutes.
Speaking of the beach, Cavendish beach is quite nice (although it doesn’t match Rissers IMO). You can do some beachcombing, there’s a lifeguard on duty during high season, and if you walk down to the right a bit, there is a small river connecting the marsh and the ocean. This water is clear, warm, and has fish occasionally swimming through. Lots of fun!
Can I run on this section of Cavendish beach?
I did. It’s rocky, more angled, and generally more difficult to run on than Crescent Beach in Nova Scotia, but the section I ran on was also utterly deserted and goes on for miles. Hang a left from the access point; if you go right you’ll run into that river I mention above which is wide enough that you won’t get by it without getting your shoes wet.
How much does it cost?
Unlike camping, glamping ain’t cheap. The oTENTik runs $120/night, plus your park entry fees.
What do I need to bring?The oTENTiks are new to the Cavendish campground, so I had some difficulty in figuring out what we really needed to bring, and we wound up carting way too much stuff. There’s a list on the Parks Canada site, but here’s what it doesn’t tell you:
- There are four Adirondack chairs around the fire pit (2 adult, 2 kids). If you need more than this, bring camp chairs.
- There’s a BBQ on the deck and utensils (tongs, flipper, etc) in a cabinet inside the oTENTik. If you don’t want to bring dishes, they’ll lend you those too!
- Like the list says, bring your own pots and pans, dishwashing liquid, dish towel, etc. There’s a place to wash dishes on the back of the washroom building.
- Inside the oTENTik there is power (yep, that means you can charge your phone. I know, I know, but my phone is my camera too…), along with two lanterns and lights in the ceiling.
- There’s even an electric fireplace!
- Bring sleeping bags, or sheets & blankets. Don’t forget your pillow!
- Bring something to start your campfire with. You have to buy your wood there, though – outside wood isn’t allowed in the National Park, and oddly they don’t offer kindling. So bring a lot of newspaper.
- There are no shelves to put your dry shower stuff (fresh clothes, etc) on while you shower, so make sure you pack in a duffle bag that you can hang from the one (1) hook on the door.
- If you’re coming early in the season, when the days are long and the sun rises early, bring something to block the sun from your eyes in the morning so you can get a few more zzz’s
- They supply a first-aid kit. We always bring our own anyway, but this is a nice touch.
Finally, for the love of God, do not forget to bring coffee and something to make it with. (I say this not because we forgot coffee, but because this is really critical. Long days of beachgoing and walking around combined with children who wake up early make caffeine vitally important.) The dock overlooking the salt marsh is a beautiful spot to have your morning cuppa and read a book or watch the birds:
- Book an oTENTik visit (I swear, I don’t get any money for this. I wish I did!)
- Check out what there is to do in Prince Edward Island here on the blog, or on the PEI tourism website