At Melnsils, You Can Sleep in a Boat, Barrel, or Bunker

This campsite in Latvia offers much more than just a bed for the night. Inspired by the sea, local history, and traditional lifestyles, Melnsils has built several unusual cabins for immersing oneself in the rugged coastal landscape.

Camping “Melnsils” is a place to enjoy peace and silence by the sea and nature.
Camping “Melnsils” is a place to enjoy peace and silence by the sea and nature. Photo: courtesy of Melnsils

A far cry from the towering resorts one associates with Southern Europe’s beaches, Melnsils is a modest campsite on a small stretch of the nearly 500-kilometer-long Latvian coastline. While it does not boast five-star lodgings, the campsite has a handful of unusual cabins for spending an unforgettable night mere steps away from the white sand beach. In the dunes amid the pines are two underground bunkers and two converted boats – both available to rent for the night.

Insight into local history

The bunkers are no gimmick. Roja Parish, where Melnsils is located, witnessed two world wars. Apparently, as the campsite explains, the dunes were once the site of trenches. Now, one can stay there in bunker replicas kitted out in a relatively authentic manner. The larger one sleeps six people, and the smaller one – four, with everyone staying in bunk beds. A wood-burning stove provides heat on chillier nights, but that’s about the only “extravagance.”

In another reference to the history of the area, the two converted boats hint at the traditional livelihoods of the local people. For centuries, the shores of the Gulf of Riga have been home to seafaring folk, fish a significant part of the regional diet, and the fishing industry a driver of the regional economy. The fact that these boats are now adapted to accommodating guests, however, illustrates the role of the leisure and tourism industries today in light of social, economic, and environmental changes over the years.

The smaller boat – Vilhelm – accommodates two people and has its own mini kitchen, while the larger “ship,” Uszihtiba, even has its own toilet and shower. Most people staying in the campsite’s range of cabins have to make their way to the shared facilities. The walk to get there is just one reason to pack warm clothes if planning a stay in Melnsils. With the sea so close, it can get windy.

Where you can sleep in… a barrel

While the bunkers and boats are, arguably, the most unusual lodgings at Melnsils, the campsite also offers beds in its guest house, several larger holiday homes, and barrel cabins with large sea-facing windows.

In 2023, the Barrels even got to star in the Eurovision Song Contest! They featured in the so-called “postcard” video about Latvia played right before the country’s performance. The band representing Latvia – Sudden Lights – went for a winter swim in the sea and gathered around a fire to warm up afterward with the campsite’s cute barrels in the background.

Along with the accommodation, Melnsils has its own onsite tavern for food and drinks, parts, a Latvian-style sauna, several hot tubs, boats, bikes, SUP boards for rent, and even a mini zoo. Guests can book fish smoking masterclasses and sauna rituals, altogether making it quite a self-sufficient destination.

Additionally, Melnsils is close to several interesting attractions, like the giant radio telescope in Irbene, Lake Engure Nature Park, and Cape Kolka, where the Gulf of Riga meets the open Baltic Sea. The area promises a Baltic kind of beach holiday.

Lelde Beņķe-Lungeviča

Lelde combines an education in journalism with a background in destination marketing. She is a Riga-based communications professional and runs LifeInRiga.com, which she defines as the hybrid of an expat blog and guidebook. Latvian by nationality, Lelde grew up in Australia, went to school in Latvia, studied and worked in several countries before happily settling in Riga. Anything Lelde does, she does with a deep dedication.

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