I’m always looking for unique adventures to have and always thinking about where I’m heading next. However, like most people, I’m limited to 15-days of vacation a year, and of course, my bank account can’t support multiple international excursions either.
During the pandemic I really looked for experiences to have within Ontario (my home province) that weren’t far from Toronto and that offered a unique getaway that felt like a staycation. That’s when I saw a friend of mine travel to an authentic Romani caravan in Orono, Ontario last summer and knew I had to have it on my list for this year.
Where is Orono, Ontario?
Orono is located in the province of Ontario, Canada, just under 1.5 hours from Toronto. It is in the municipality of Clarington in Durham, Ontario. To get there, your best bet is to drive. Since I don’t have a car, I took the GO Train to Oshawa and had my friend who I was traveling there with pick me up from there. It was only about 20-30 minutes drive from that GO so you could always take an Uber from here.
What is a Romani caravan?
Also known as a vardo, a Romani caravan is a traditional horse-drawn wagon used by British Romanichal Travelers as their home. The wagon is typically highly decorated, intricately carved, painted brightly, etc. The heyday for these lasted for roughly 70 years from the mid-1800s through the first two decades of the 20th century. You can read more about the history here.
In this instance, the Airbnb hosts, Joanie, and John had purchased their caravan off a local antique collector.
This Airbnb consists of the Romani caravan that has a small sink, some cupboard space, a non-working wood stove (for décor only at this point), and a double bed. This is the main sleeping quarters, however, they’ve also converted an old horse wagon into a gazebo that has a day bed (also could be slept on if you bring blankets), some chairs, and a table. This is a great spot to store your coolers of food and drinks, spend time when the bugs are bad, or if you end up with rainy weather.
They do have a generator onsite that you can turn on and off and controls some lights in the main sleeping wagon. There are flashlights and candles otherwise and for the gazebo. A fire pit with a grill on top is included to cook your food, but if you end up here on a rainy weekend, you are a short drive to a bunch of restaurants and food options. The hosts cook a fantastic (free) breakfast every morning for you up at their main house on the property during your stay.
What to do nearby
There is actually a ton to do in this area. However, staying on the property is a good, relaxing option to. If you are looking for an adventure, here are some things I suggest:
There are a few wineries nearby. The one we visited was a fruit winery (aka they make wine from other fruits than grapes) and also an orchard, it’s called Archibald’s Winery. We didn’t visit but there’s also one called 1840 Farmhouse & Vineyard with more traditional wines.
If you are visiting in the summer, you’ll find a ton of fruit stands and markets along the back roads. You can find a full list of farms and markets to visit to pick up local produce and food here.
There are some great conversation areas to hike nearby. The Orono Crown Lands are really close and full of easy, family-friendly trails. There is also the Long Sault Conservation Area in Bowmanville. We went to the Orono Crown Lands and it was easy, beautiful, but had lots of bugs! So bring bug spray.
Shopping at Primitive Designs
Our Airbnb host really emphasized how great this place is and he was not wrong. This is truly a unique shop that imports a tons of goods from all over the world. Even if you’re not in a shopping mood it’s cool to just come and see this place.
Haute Goat Farm
A cute family-friendly activity is to go see the goats at Haute Goat Farm. They also have fluffy alpacas too! It’s free to just go and wander around but they also host goat walks, goat yoga, etc. that you can buy tickets for in advance. Their café on site is also fantastic if you need a local lunch spot.
Tips & FAQ
Is there a bathroom? There is a compostable toilet/outhouse right next to your caravan. There is also a compostable toilet and shared shower space up at the main house you can use. Towels are provided.
What should I pack? Definitely a cooler for your food and drinks. Extra flashlights (I brought a headlamp) come in handy, and all the essentials for cooking over a fire. I suggest disposable cutlery and plates as there isn’t a place to wash dishes. This should go without saying, but don’t forget bug spray, and sunscreen!
Are linens included? Linens are includes on the main bed, but if you want to sleep on the day bed in the gazebo, you’ll need to bring extra.
Is it hot? The caravan area is within the forest with giant trees to canopy the area. It’s essentially shaded all day which means your caravan doesn’t become as hot as it could when in the sun.
Who is this accommodation NOT for? If you hate camping this is probably not for you. Although you have a mattress to sleep on at night, you are in nature, and need to cook your own meals, use a washroom that is similar to peeing outdoors, etc. This is basically just like camping but without the tent and a few extra perks.
The property: There is a little off-grid cottage they also have on the property that you can rent. It’s similar in terms of amenities, just more space. Click here to check it out.
Space: If you are a very tall or large person, or traveling with one, the bed in the caravan may be too small for you. I am 5’8 and it was snug. I would recommend booking the above cottage on the property I mentioned if you are larger as it has a proper, full size bed in that rental.
To book this Airbnb, click here