Imagine sitting at a table in the woods. The summer breeze makes the trees sway gently, as you enjoy a delicious campfire-cooked meal by soft lantern light. In the background, a record player sings classics from Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash, and somewhere in the distance a lonely bullfrog croaks, welcoming the setting sun.
If you’re looking for a unique, indulgent getaway in the Ottawa region this summer, Elements is it. Located in Renfrew, Ont., at about a 90-minute drive west of Ottawa’s downtown core, Elements Luxury Tented Camp and Nature Spa is the newest attraction in Ottawa’s surrounding region. And having opened about a month ago, it has already made quite a name for itself. According to Nicole Laframboise, President and Owner of Elements, this countryside oasis is already 90 per cent booked until the end of the summer season. “It’s gone really well,” she said.
Also, I can tell you from experience that the setting, the accommodations and the service here are nothing short of amazing. Need something at your luxury tent? No problem. Just radio the team of park rangers, who will assist you within minutes of your request.
In an interview with Ottawa Tourism, Laframboise explained that Elements is a full-service outdoor hotel. She noted that guests will find most of what they need in their tent, from glasses, to linens, to all-natural, Ottawa-made toiletries, but should they require anything else, they can just radio the park rangers like they would a regular hotel concierge. “[Guests] can expect that there’s always someone available and willing to run for whatever it is they’re looking for,” she said. In my experience, Laframboise’s friendly staff seemed to always be one step ahead of me; refilling my cooler with ice just as it started to melt and lighting my campfire just as the sun started to go down.
With the creation of Elements, it seems that there isn’t a single detail Laframboise has overlooked. In your tent that is simply but beautifully decorated, you’ll find a cozy, duvet-covered bed complete with mosquito netting, nightstands with lanterns, a large mirror, a charming seating area with classic board games such as Monopoly and Scrabble as well as a propane-powered fireplace.
Each tent even comes with its own telescope, should guests wish to admire the stars. Laframboise noted that as Elements is set in the countryside on 89 acres of land, there are “fantastic” opportunities for star gazing. “I wanted to let people enjoy that,” she said. “On clear nights, you can really see everything. It’s beautiful.” Also, upon checking in, each guest/tent receives a portable record player and access to Laframboise’s own record collection. Alice’s Restaurant Massacree by singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie is one of her favourites.
Laframboise said in the interview that Elements is a mix of camping and being in a hotel. She explained that Elements’ eight camp sites allow guests to be as close or as far from civilization as they please. She noted that some people who are new to camping might want to be close to the administration building or to other campers. “But others want to have a little more space and tranquility, so we put them at the other end of the property, which is Horton’s Hideout or Nature’s Reflection,” she said. Also, these two particular sites are just a short walk from the property’s scenic Lookout, which provides a great place to relax and take in stunning views of the Ottawa River.
For Laframboise, the best part of Elements is that it gives guests the opportunity to unwind and relax. “It’s being able to reconnect with nature,” she said. “You know, it’s going to sleep listening to the frogs and in the morning, the sunshine wakes you up. It’s really a healthy move for people.”
But though relaxing, Elements also offers lots of activities. You can go standup paddle boarding or pedal boating on a quiet, serene lake, participate in a complimentary yoga class – there’s even aerial yoga – go hiking, mountain biking or even take advantage of a small art studio. Laframboise noted that the art studio is fully stocked with sketch pads, pencils, water colour paints and more. “People are welcome to take what they’d like and wander the park or work in the art studio itself,” she said. The site also offers meditation tents as well as hammocks, which provide a perfect reading spot.
Want a bit more adventure? Elements has you covered there too. As this outdoor hotel is located in the Ottawa region’s famous whitewater playground, it’s easy to add an exciting day of rafting to your relaxing getaway. Laframboise noted that outdoor adventure company Wilderness Tours shuttles Elements guests to their whitewater rafting excursions and back. Did you know that the Ottawa region is one of the top whitewater destinations in the world?
With so many great places to relax and explore, Elements is an instagrammer’s paradise. But you can’t talk about this outdoor hotel without mentioning the food, which is included in your stay. All made on site, Elements uses local products as much as possible and even provides vegan as well as gluten-free options. Here, you’ll find generous “ready to picnic meals” as well as campfire-friendly cooking meals. Elements provides everything you need to cook your own meal over the fire. But again, if you need assistance, the staff is happy to help. And… One hour after dinner, enjoy a delectable S’more Board that is delivered to your tent. Equipped with Renfrew-made JJ’s Chocolate Sensations chocolate bark, homemade marshmallows and fresh baked cookies, this might be one of the best campfire desserts you’ll ever have.
Also, if you’re not too fond of being visited by wildlife during your stay, Elements has thought of that too. At night, the park is quietly patrolled by rangers as well as two friendly dogs named Bo and Pascal. In your tent, you’ll also find a large bell that is perfect for scaring away anything that gets too close.
For its first season, Laframboise said Elements will operate until mid-September. “It’s a soft opening year,” she said. “We want to gage how people use the facilities.” She added however that plans for expansion include winter ‘glamping’ (glamourous camping) activities as well as barrel saunas. “People will be able to enjoy the snow, but also be comfortable indoors,” Laframboise said, adding that she is also looking at more permanent structures for the winter season.