Nestled in the Russian River Valley, AutoCamp’s custom Airstream trailers and midcentury pavilion provide a boutique camping experience.
First established as a logging community in the late 1800s, the town of Guerneville, California, has grown to become an artist enclave, queer haven, and tourist destination. Seated in Sonoma County, Guerneville benefits from its proximity to wineries, redwood forests, beaches, and the bucolic Russian River, which winds along the 101. It has also been riding a new wave of revitalizations, most recently manifest in the opening of AutoCamp’s second location at the end of the town’s main strip. A cross between boutique hotel and campsite, AutoCamp Russian River is known for its Airstream accommodations, artfully furnished tents, and midcentury modern Clubhouse.
Over at Dwell.com, we had written about the Clubhouse before its opening and were eager to see the “glampsite” for ourselves, so we packed our bags for a weekend trip. What we discovered there is equal parts design and adventure. Whatever the category of trip—family outing, Airstream appreciation, or corporate retreat—AutoCamp allows you to “rough it” in style.
“A cross between boutique hotel and campsite, AutoCamp Russian River is known for its Airstream accommodations, artfully furnished tents, and midcentury modern Clubhouse.”
The heart of the community
Turning off Old Cazadero Road into the parking lot of AutoCamp, we were greeted by the Clubhouse, a modernist structure designed by ANACAPA. It provides a sense of arrival and sets the tone for the experience. It also stands as metaphor for the continued renewal of Guerneville, since it sits on the very site of the clubhouse belonging to Spooner’s Resort, an ill-managed, unsavory RV park that was previously on the property.
For the 3,000-square-foot structure, Dan Weber drew inspiration from midcentury masterpieces like the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe and the Kauffman House by Richard Neutra. The pronounced horizontal planes of the Clubhouse are a launchpad for the soaring verticality of the surrounding forest. Its robust material palette of board-formed concrete, locally harvested redwood, and blackened steel not only speaks to the natural setting, but also acts as safeguard against the periodic flooding that occurs in the area.
The Clubhouse evoked a persistent sense of homecoming as we jetted to and from camp. For guests, it is the reception area and rallying point: a hanging fireplace and custom-designed furniture by Alexis Moran invite you into their halo of warmth; on the north side, an outdoor fire pit offers views of the meadow and the glinting Airstreams that encircle it. There’s a lounge section stocked with books and magazines, an ideal spot for enjoying a cup of joe from the coffee bar—and for those staying in canvas tents, the Clubhouse provides luxurious bathrooms and showers. With so much traffic, the Clubhouse is the true heart of the community, a place to decompress, play a game of dominoes, and meet and swap stories with fellow travelers.
Ryan Miller, co-founder of AutoCamp, is excited about putting down roots in Guerneville. Originally from southern California and now a Bay Area resident, Miller had been driving up the coast on a road trip when he came across the town. Immediately, he knew it was something special. “It’s the tightest community,” he said. “You get the sense that something is peaking.”
The AutoCamp experience is always evolving, and there’s room for the community presence to grow even stronger. Future programming like yoga classes, ecology talks, movie screenings, kids’ activities, and maker workshops will revolve around the Clubhouse. Already, it has hosted a pop-up event with local entrepreneur and restaurateur Crista Luedtke—whom many credit for Guerneville’s transformation—serving dinner, and Phoebe Dahl of ethical clothing line Faircloth Supply Co taking over the Canteen, the Clubhouse’s general store.
Setting Up Camp
By day, the 23 Airstreams on the grounds have a striking effect, their silver bodies giving off a pearlescent glow; by night, their windows gleam in the darkness. Whether you’ve been a longtime fan of this American icon or just discovering the classic camper, staying in a custom-designed Airstream is a rare experience. Thanks to the vision of architect Dan Weber and interior designer Lauren Geremia, the accommodations strike a balance between rustic and modern, emphasizing comfort without losing their connection to the outdoor setting.
“She had a good feel for the culture,” said Miller of Geremia. “It was cool to work with someone who could facilitate so many creatives coming together.” From sourcing artwork to recruiting furniture makers like the aforementioned Moran, Geremia helped realize the warm, folksy vibe that pervades AutoCamp. We were taken with every detail: pendant lights by Schoolhouse Electric hang on either side of an indulgent Casper mattress, and vintage Observer’s books provide a bit of bedside reading. The homespun touches complement luxe elements like the marble tiles lining the bathroom and the crisp walnut cabinetry.
“Whether you’ve been a longtime fan of this American icon or just discovering the classic camper, staying in a custom-designed Airstream is a rare experience.”
For those who prefer to hibernate at home base—or just want to relax after a day of traipsing through the woods—the Airstream is equipped with a wall-mounted flat screen TV and a Bluetooth sound system. A thoughtfully stocked kitchen and a private deck area allow you to brew coffee or fry eggs and bacon in the morning. And no campsite would be complete without a fire pit, the perfect stage for roasting s’mores (psst—if you forgot to grab marshmallows at the store, the Canteen stocks grab-and-go S’mores Kits).
The 10 canvas tents on site, made by Wyoming-based Sheridan Tent & Awning, harken back to Guerneville’s heritage as a logging town. Geremia’s stylings—think Wes Anderson meets the W Hotel—create a cozy-chic atmosphere that caters to families, friends, and romantic couples alike. AutoCamp originally had a funky, vintage style, but over time, says Miller, “We found ourselves in a clean, modern aesthetic and layering textiles.”
An accessible cabin built by Shelton Huts, run by Mattie Shelton and Evan Walbridge in Santa Barbara, rounds out the grounds. A steel structure wrapped in canvas with plywood floors and walls, the hut has a glass facade that offers a lush view of the banks of Hulbert Creek, which runs along the west side of camp. Custom fabric curtains designed by architect Jeff Shelton, Mattie’s father, provide shade and privacy.
“Think Wes Anderson meets the W Hotel.”
Launchpad for Adventure
You won’t be at a loss for things to do at AutoCamp. Emerging from your Airstream or tent in the morning is an event in itself—bundled against the early chill, we helped ourselves to coffee in the Clubhouse and looked out at a meadow cloaked in fog. Linus bikes, helmets, and locks are available on a first-come, first-serve basis; on our journeys into town, we spotted several of these distinctive baby blue beach cruisers. You can check out beach towels and umbrellas to bring to the river or borrow a bocce ball set for a leisurely game on the green. An adjacent playground, basketball court, and tennis court, though not affiliated with AutoCamp, are easy to access as well.
Where else you go is up to you. Describing AutoCamp, Miller said, “It’s a platform to jump off of. The best experience at AutoCamp is using it as a base camp for exploration.” From exploring the local scene to getting lost in nature, the Russian River Valley has much to offer—and AutoCamp puts it all at arm’s reach.
“It’s a platform to jump off of. The best experience at AutoCamp is using it as a base camp for exploration.”
Nightly rates for tent accommodations start at $139, while Airstream camping starts at $225. △