We can only be grateful that the US does everything so much McBigger and McBetter, because without that super-sized can-do attitude, we might never have experienced one of America’s best inventions – the slick, stylish Airstream trailer. It’s an incredible feat of engineering and a joy to behold, with effortless, curved lines, a sparkle of silver and a spacious, luxurious interior. This is no ordinary caravan – it’s style on wheels.
While the shiny, classic homes-on-wheels have had a bit of a renaissance in recent years – popping up on US film sets, hotel roof-tops and hip, London restaurants – a rural meadow on the Isle of Wight is one of the more unexpected locations to find them. This is the home of Vintage Vacations, brainchild of photographer Frazer Cunningham and stylist Helen Carey. Their love for all things retro compelled them to import initially just two of these beautiful caravans, a 1965 Tradewind and a 1971 Safari. Today there are almost 20, ranging in age (and size) all the way back to 1946.
It’s no surprise, given the couple’s background, the lengths that they have gone to ensure there’s real comfort and style in these caravans. The exteriors were in mint condition when the Airstreams were bought but Frazer and Helen have restored the tired interiors, staying as faithful as possible to the mid-century origins. You can almost imagine Marlon Brando stepping out from the curve-top door of the 1960s models, smoking a cigarette and throwing a moody look in your direction. Inside, the 60s theme continues with yellow-lacquered kitchen cupboards, colourful curtains and rock ‘n’ roll CDs, as well as retro games including Tiddlywinks and Fuzzy Felt. The 1940s vans, meanwhile, lack the full-on bubble curves and have an older, wooden finish inside, with classic late 40s tablewares and an old whistling kettle on the oven. The result in every van is an effortless blend of holiday comfort and retro chic.
When you’re ready to return to the present day, you’ll find the usual holiday diversions at Newport, the island’s biggest town, just 15 minutes in the car. You could take in a show at the historic Apollo Theatre, visit the farmer’s market on a Friday morning or hang out at the Quay Arts Centre, a thriving gallery, café and live arts venue housed in a former warehouse on the river bank. Or pop to nearby Ryde and the Isle of Wight’s western coast. Nettlestone, St Helens and Bembridge, all have good beaches – just remember to bring your stripy bathing suit and retro swimming cap.
FacilitiesEach airstream has a fridge, cooker, toaster, well-equipped kitchen, shower/bath (there's a shower in the airstream and a separate shower and toilets in the adjacent farmhouse), linen and towels, radio, CD player, hairdryer, Fuzzy Felt, Tiddlywinks and a picnic bench, sun loungers and BBQ outside. Shop-in-a-shed – bits of vintage, handmade tea-cosies and the like. Breakfast packs and speciality bakes available to order in advance and free-range eggs available on the farm. Badminton net, bats, balls and games available to borrow. Check individual units for more specific details on each Airstream.
Glamping only – though there is 1 extra space for bring-your-own classic campervans and vintage caravans. No dogs allowed.
Treat yourself to a scenic chug through the countryside on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (01983 882204). The nearest station, at Smallbrook Junction, is a 15 minute walk away. It's a tiny bit further to Rosemary Vineyard (01983 811084), one of the largest producers of English Wine – covering 30 acres just south of Ryde. Free guided winery tours are offerred every Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (11am, 12pm, 1pm) and last around 30 minutes. They take you through the winemaking process and the equipment used, followed by a tasting of their wines, juices, liqueurs and ciders
Food & Drink
Order up a special breakfast ‘hamper’ packed with local goodies (ok, it arrives in a brown paper bag) from the Wight Hamper Company (01983 875535). There are many pub and restaurant options in nearby Newport but for a great view across the island and out to the Solent, head to the beer garden at The Blacksmiths Arms (01983 529263) in Calbourne on the main Newport to Freshwater road. Good Sunday lunches plus guest ales.
Opening TimesMar–October; most trailers are on week-long bookings during Jul & Aug, although some short break stays available.
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