Out on a Limb
Written by Oryx
If your vision of a tree house is planks and nails in a backyard oak, come walk the rope bridge from tree house origins to the luxury – yes, luxury – they present.
The tales of Robin Hood and Winnie the Pooh, among other literary references, made tree houses children’s fantasy. And so, in the latter half of the 20th century, indulgent fathers ventured into the trees to bring those dreams to life.
Long before that, though, they were built as a means of survival. When Europeans first made contact with people of the South Pacific, they found communities high among the trees, where they offered protection from attacks.
While bred by necessity, pleasure would eventually become the purpose. In a small town west of Paris during the 19th century, a treetop restaurant welcomed diners, their food delivered via a system of ropes and pulleys. Hotels ultimately capitalized on the endearing nature of tree houses, in recent years taking the comfort of a backyard retreat to greater heights.
The get-in-touch-with-nature-based Green Magic Nature Resort in Kerala, South India, boasts a tree house 60ft above the ground. A water-counterweight pulley raises a cane-crafted cage that serves as the elevator to your leafy pent-house. The room includes double beds with an attached bathroom with flushing toilet, crafted on a ceramic tile floor.
Australia’s Secrets on the Lake in Montville, Queensland, raises the stakes as a consummate romantic getaway. Perched in the trees surrounding Lake Baroon, the houses are luxurious – handcrafted swing seats on the deck, ele-vated walkways with magnificent carvings, and fully-electric soft light cascading over elegant dйcor around a log fire and spa.
Adult comforts meet children’s adventure at Kulturinsel Einsiedel in Zentendorf. Home to Germany’s first tree house hotel, which won the German Tourism Award in 2006, the dragon and castle-filled adventure park includes five houses constructed 10m high in a majestic black locust tree, accessible only via stairways and ladders. Beware, parents – your children may get lofty expectations.
Tree House Disney Style
The 1960 film Swiss Family Robinson followed a family stranded on an island, building a tree house as safe haven from a group of pirates. The adventure-filled tale was the core of the Adventureland attraction when it opened at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1971.
The six-storey leafy fortress includes fully improvised living quarters, right down to the organ in the living room and the skylight atop the parents’ bedroom. The furnishings are taken from the ship that was wrecked, most notably the massive helm (steering wheel) set in the middle of the living room. Ropes from the ship drive a water-wheel system that dips buckets of water from the stream.
As the movie is based on Johann David Wyss’ 1812 novel, the whole tree house is set up in period style. Built of cement and steel with more than 330,000 polyethylene leaves, the structure weighs about 200 tons, and its root system goes four storeys into the ground.
Disneyland Park in Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland, have versions of the tree house as well.
Tree Houses to Buy
Amazon Tree Houses
If you can imagine it, Scotland-based Amazon can build it. From simple structures (approx. US$12,000) to expansive retreats large enough to host parties (approx. US$80,000) Amazon will run full plumbing and electricity while main-taining the health of the host tree. From rope ladders to crafted staircases, sitting areas to bedrooms and entertain-ment rooms, Amazon provides it all.
UK / Africa
Tree House Life
In Surrey, Tree House Life touts adventure-inspired designs, with the caveat their structures don’t require customers to be young, but young at heart. For kids, climbing walls and scramble nets can lead to Indiana Jones canyon bridges and zip wires. For adults, a resort line capitalises on the setting, casting luxury living under an African thatched-roof that five-star resorts would be proud of.
Free Spirit Spheres
Throw out everything you ever envisioned a tree house to be. These spherical units – made of wood or fibreglass – blend tree house and sailboat technology. This Canadian company’s round design makes these structures work in tight spaces where a conventional structure couldn’t go. Insulated and heated with diameters between 9 and 10Ѕft, each is wired for both power and sound.
La Cabane PerchEe
Based in France but having constructed tree houses in Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland, the company notes it does not nail a single plank into the trees, preserving them completely.
Tree Top Builders
Based in Pennsylvania, this company’s structures run the gamut, including rope swings, zip line kits and a rope and bucket for lifting toys, rocks and other goodies into your treetop retreat. Extension bridges, reaching as long as 80 feet, can connect multiple houses or platforms across trees, touting replication of structures seen in Lord of the Rings or the Star Wars Ewoks’ village.