I may not be much of a camper, but I can totally get behind glamping.
My best friend Annie and I had seen a post on Instagram (where else?) a few months back. It showed fancy tents on nearby Governors Island with a view of the Statue of Liberty. It seemed too good to be true—as these things usually are—but I decided to check out the link.
While a lot of the stays available were around the $500-$700+ per night mark, I did my due diligence. By that, I mean I checked the cost of every single date over a three month span.
Finally, I happened upon a random Sunday night toward the end of October with a $280 price tag, texted Annie furiously until she responded, and booked it before it could disappear. We booked the “Journey Tent,” which is the lowest tier and features a queen bed.
Given my affinity for planning, it should come as no surprise that I had looked up every dining option on and off the retreat by the time the night was over. While the dining options on the property sounded amazing, their prices were way out of our comfort level. The problem is, Governors Island doesn’t have a ton to offer in the way of amenities. It wasn’t clear if Island Oyster, another restaurant I’m familiar with strictly because of Instagram, would still be open at that point in the season. So we decided to make that Plan A, with a contingency plan of smuggling in snacks and surviving off of those.
Fast forward to the day of the trip. The retreat offers a complimentary water taxi for guests, but they don’t start until significantly after check-in, and we wanted to make the most of our time. Instead, we booked the Governors Island ferry from Manhattan for $3 each! My kind of price. Tip: when the ferry confirmation email advises you to arrive 30 minutes beforehand, they’re not lying—we were shocked by the length of the line. The ride itself is only a few minutes, so you spend significantly more time boarding and waiting. It’s super easy and convenient, though.
From the ferry dock, a Collective Retreats representative took us to the retreat by golf cart. This may sound silly, but it was one of the highlights for me! You get to take in the incredible views of lower Manhattan while speeding around the back of the cart and feeling like a VIP.
Once the retreat area came into view, we had a total “Uh oh, is this Fyre Fest 2.0?” moment. I guess that’s what seeing cream-colored tents in an open field will do to you these days. Luckily, as we pulled in, we realized we were not about to be on yet another docuseries.
The first thing you see once you ride through the gate is a large lawn with hammocks, fire pits and adirondack chairs. The compound is anchored by an elevated bar with natural-yet-chic wood pieces in neutral colors. There’s a deck with comfy, minimalist couches and tables. Behind that, you can find the covered restaurant seating.
We were brought to a concierge tent where we were greeted and asked to fill out a COVID health waiver. We were also given wristbands to wear throughout our stay and a lock for our bathroom. More on this later.
Our side of the lawn featured the smaller Journey Tents that I mentioned above. The opposite side housed the large tents—quite literally where the other half lives.
We entered our yurt (“I stayed in a yurt” is my new favorite phrase) to a super cute, intimate bedroom. There was a bed with crisp white linens, two wooden chairs, a safe in the corner, and a bench with coffee offerings. Bonus points: there was a combined AC/heat unit that we didn’t expect! Game changer for end-of-October weather.
So, back to the bathroom. Based on the website photos and description, we thought our bathroom was connected to our yurt. We quickly discovered that this was not the case for our type of yurt, just for the more “luxurious” ones. Instead, we were directed to an area of bathroom tents and were shown how to use our combination lock to keep the tarp down. Despite the unexpected situation, the bathrooms were actually huge and quite nice! There was a normal sink, toilet, and a wall shower. I insisted I was going to use the shower because it seemed like such a cool experience…but that was before I realized how chilly the temperature outside would get.
After we claimed our bathroom, we walked a short distance to Island Oyster. Yup, it was open! It’s worth noting that everything on the island closes at 6 or 7pm depending on the day of the week, so we went for a late lunch/early dinner. Our food wasn’t anything to write home about, but the views were great—including the view of our bartender.
We headed back and chilled out for a bit before layering up and heading to a fire pit with the wine we had hidden in our Yeti water bottles. At about 7:30, the retreat brought out boxes of S’more ingredients and roasting sticks. Holy yum. We asked one of the employees if he had any insider knowledge for us. He told us there would be a movie playing at 9pm and that free champagne would be served. Sold.
After several trips to the bathroom tent, we went back to our home base to put on comfy clothes, eat the cheese and meats we brought as our Plan B dinner, and had Annie practice reading my tarot cards. Whenever we peeked outside, we didn’t see the movie playing, so we figured it wasn’t happening. Until we went out an hour later and saw people huddled by the screen, free champagne in hand. It didn’t look like there was any left so we went to the bar, which is open until 11pm. We jokingly complained to the bartender about our missed opportunity, so he graciously poured champagne for us anyway! It was so nice, and made up for the fact that I had to pour out my $18 cocktail because it was way too strong for me.
Right before bed, we put our chairs outside of our yurt to take in the epic views of the Freedom Tower and Statue of Liberty. Annie surprised me with mini cupcakes and a candle for my upcoming birthday! It was the perfect end to the night.
We planned on doing the complimentary 8am yoga the retreat offers, but after being woken up early by a low-flying helicopter that felt like it was about to land on top of us, we decided we’d rather be lazy. Shocking, right? Our continental breakfast tray was dropped off and we sat outside enjoying the yogurt and pastries it included. I skipped the coffee because I’ve never used a real coffee pot (I’m a Keurig girl!) and I also didn’t want to trek to the bathroom to get water for brewing. Can you tell I wouldn’t do well at a real campsite?
Check out was incredibly easy and fast, and an employee gave us another ride back to the ferry. Before we knew it, we were back on the mainland.
Overall, our experience at Collective Retreats was incredible. It was such a unique activity and something I will never forget. If I could wake up to those views every morning, I would—but I would also have to build an adjoining bathroom. 😉
If you’re interested in glamping too, the company does retreats all over the country and I would completely recommend booking one if you can find a good deal like we did!