Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Campgrounds do not generally generate headlines (unless it's fusing glamour and camping, aka glamping) in the way that new resorts, attractions, cruise ships and destinations do.

However, when a campsite steps up its game with new management, facilities, activities and accommodations that range from bare bones to comfortable in a beachfront Caribbean location that is hard to top, I, for one, am intrigued.

Take Cinnamon Bay, located on the one-mile-long Cinnamon Bay Beach, the longest beach on St. John, is the only campground in the Virgin Islands National Park.

California-based Redwoods Parks Co. took over operations last November, and the site is on the comeback trail, according to general manager Charles Willis.

"We are rebuilding here, adding accommodations and upgrading all facilities," Willis said.

New to the location are 55 eco-tents: 180-square-foot canvas tents with a camp stove and associated amenities, a choice of two twin or one king bed and a large elevated outside deck with tables and chairs.

The 40 semi-attached "cottages," offering four twin beds and a cook stove, are scheduled for renovation.

For the real-deal camping enthusiasts, there are 31 platform sites (tent and some gear provided) and bare tent sites (aka pitch-your-own tent).

Summer rates for the eco-tents start at $104 per night (beachfront eco-tents start at $119) and the cottages at $95 (beachfront cottages start at $119). The platform and bare tent sites start at at $39. Peak season rates take effect after the traditional closure from Sept. 5 to Nov. 1 and range from $42 at the platform and tent sites to $149 per night for the beachfront eco-tents. Although most bookings come direct or through Expedia, Cinnamon Bay will pay 15% commission and is looking to increase agent participation, Willis said.

"We appeal to different markets depending upon the time of year," he said. "We get snowbirds in the winter, families at holiday periods, couples and younger people in the summer.

"The beauty of Cinnamon Bay is that it is the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable and affordable beach getaway."

All four bath house locations have dedicated facilities for men and women. Currently there are no hot water showers, but one may be added in the future, according to Willis.

Cinnamon Bay's Pavilion Raintree restaurant and bar has upgraded its menu. It serves three meals a day in season and offers a food truck parked beachside during the day near the watersports hut with lunch and cold draft beer.

Other amenities include equipment rentals, guided tours of the park, a retail outlet and 15% discounts at island grocery stores. A food shack, bar and retail shop are open year round at Trunk Bay on St. John, also operated by Redwood Parks.

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