Are you the type of traveller that likes to colour outside of the lines? Then you might appreciate a change from boring, cookie-cutter hotel rooms. Ban the box and consider a unique alternative. Bed down for the night in a lighthouse, or a circus wagon, a prison cell, or a private island once the site of a military fort.
It takes a bit of adventurous spirit to venture away from chain hotels with their daily newspaper delivery and in-room coffee makers. But if you dare, you’ll be rewarded with a sleepover that’s an experience itself. From rainforest vistas and ocean views, alt hotel stays can put you front and centre in nature. Others get wacky with accommodations housed in a giant shoe or a castle of ice. So if you're looking to think outside of the box, give these spots a try.
11 Unique Alternatives To Boring Hotel Rooms. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers:
Birds of a feather flock together in nests, and so can you in a human nest. Located at the Tree Bones Resort in Big Sur, California, this quirky woven nest made out of tree branches and roots holds two adults comfortably. There’s a ladder for guests to climb up, sleeping bags and pillows in tow, and unlike an actual bird's nest, no knowledge of flying is required.
Get On Track
Back in the 1900s, the rich and infamous would travel across the country in private rail cars. Fast forward to 2013 and just about anyone can bed down for the night in a rail car from the Victorian era at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel in Tennessee. There’s no clickety-clack to lull you to sleep, so you'll have to be content in a queen-sized bed that’s on a track to nowhere.
As long as the heat works, you’ll love sleeping in a tundra buggy that roams Cape Churchill, Manitoba, home to the world’s largest concentration of polar bears. Operated by Frontiers North Adventures, the Tundra Buggy Lodge looks like a train on wheels with sleeper, dining and lounge cars. Lay down your head on a comfy bunk and bear spot until your eyelids close. Each bunk has a window looking out at the action.
See The Light
Are you more of an introverted than extroverted traveller? Then the Quirpon Lighthouse Inn may fit the bill. It’s located on a remote island off the coast of northern Newfoundland, conveniently situated next to, well, nothing. But that’s the point. Whales and icebergs are the only other visitors in these parts, and that suits many guests just fine.
The Spitbank Fort was completed in 1878 and sits like a tiny private island off the coast of Portsmouth, England. The weapons are long gone, now replaced with the amenities of a luxury property that can be rented for you and 18 of your wealthiest friends. Or stay just for one night and sip champagne in the hot tub. Exclusivity doesn’t come cheap: suites start at $796 a night.
Join The Circus
Get in touch with your inner child -- the one that fantasized about running away to join the circus. Spend the night in a showman’s wagon circa 1920, located in Shropshire, U.K., by Quality Unearthed. It’s all authentic, complete with hand-painted ceilings, engraved windows and wood panelling. Now parked next to a horse stud farm, it’s ideal for couples looking to spice up their evenings together.
The Jules’ Undersea Lodge is all about surf, no turf. Located near Key Largo, Florida, it was designed in the '70s as a mobile undersea habitat. For over 25 years, the resort has catered to those who like to sleep, eat and live underwater -- you can even get your pizza delivered there. Divers and snorkellers apply within.
There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, but she didn’t stay here at this boutique B&B housed in a giant boot. Located near Nelson, New Zealand, the Boot is a stand-alone cottage ideal for couples. Surrounded by hazelnut trees and gardens, its quaintness is perfect for fairy-tale beginnings or endings. In the morning, breakfast is delivered the front door by elves, or the owners of the nearby estate.
The swinging sixties was a time when people were encouraged to break out of their bubbles and get creative. Architect Pascal Hausermann built Museumotel as a utopia of nine individual bubbles/rooms, near Raon L’Etape, France (not far from the German border). There’s no television in the bubble, but there’s plenty of art and sculptures to gaze it. Groovy, baby.
A Night Behind Bars
It's ironic that for decades inmates tried to get out of Latvia’s infamous Karosta Prison during the Second World War, only to have guests trying to get in to have the “full prisoner experience”. Stays come complete with Communist-era amenities, like uncomfortable beds, tiny cells, verbal abuse from guards and warning gunshots. And as a bonus, it is haunted – a bargain at $16 a night. Nightmares are complementary.
Sleep On Ice
Quebec City's famous ice hotel splits its guests into two camps – those who have the best night of sleep ever and those who suffer sleeplessness until dawn. Sleep quality aside, this icy destination is a spectacular setting for an overnight stay, complete with ice chandeliers, bar, and carved snow artwork. Those who enjoy cold comfort can book now for stays starting January 5, 2014 and ending March 23.