Discover the Ultimate Vintage Vacation

For boho-chic and retro styling at its best, Vintage Vacations is the epitome of vintage cool. It’s all 50s nostalgia with flashes of fabrics, brightly coloured prints, crochets and crockery and not a nylon sheet in sight.

Thirteen years ago, Helen and Frazer Cunningham started off with just one vintage aluminium 1965 Airstream caravan. “We bought it via ebay in America after a couple of glasses of red wine,” confesses Helen. So what began as a hobby, after 25 years in the photographic business soon turned into a life-changing and lifelong passion. Now the couple are proud owners of 13 original Airstream trailers shipped over from America to the Isle of Wight and 5 vintage British caravans all gloriously restored by Team Cunningham.

“We had a holiday home on the Island and the original idea was to use it ourselves and maybe rent it out for the occasional holidaymaker or for a photo shoot,” recalls Helen, a former London stylist.  “But once we had our hands on our trailer we really caught the bug and had a 'what if…' vision for a whole field of retro caravans.”

Thus Vintage Vacations was borne out of a wonderful vision that now encompasses other such holiday delights, such as The Shack, The Mission, The Scout Hall and The Bungalow. What is really fascinating about this couple is how they use their collective antennae not just with their vintage styling, but how they hunt out quirky places in super cool locations. “We put our hearts into all of our projects and the feedback we get from our guests is so positive,” says Helen. One group included an airline captain and his extended family all the way from Mumbai.

The ethos behind the airstreams is very much back-to-basics as there is no Wifi or TV, so anyone staying has little choice but to interact with each other, come what may. There are plenty of games to keep couples or families, both occupied and stimulated. “One father admitted that was the first time he had ever played snakes and ladders with his seven year old daughter,” recalls Helen.

What is truly beguiling is all the interiors are beautifully put together with far more mod cons than you would expect including a toaster and hairdryer, air conditioning, cooker hood extractor fan and four-ring gas hob. All are child friendly with the ‘Spatanettes’ having enough room to cater for a child cot. Helen and Fraser have also added a few beautifully restored vintage British caravans to their fleet to catch any overspill. Their names alone – Mabel, Doris, Gloria, Stanley, Roger – are all endearingly catchy and reminiscent of a much loved grandparent.

The couple’s winning enthusiasm and eye for retro detail has also been rewarded by scooping many top accolades including winning the myIsleofWight Awards for Cosiest Cottage Hideway 2015 for The Shack and Best Place to Go Glamping for two years running, 2014 & 2015, for their Airstreams.

Other quirky places to stay include The Shack, a wonderful coastal retreat that sleeps four and has a glorious wood burning stove. A wooden veranda has stunning coastal views in which to quaff your aperitifs. The shack is peace and quiet personified. A solar power system caters for up to three hours of lighting per day, as there are no electrical sockets. But don’t worry, as there’s enough to charge your mobile phone every day.

The Bungalow is a tradition 1960s holiday chalet, nestled in a small site by the seaside at the picturesque hamlet of Bonchurch, on the outskirts of Ventnor. There are 3 bedrooms (1 double, 1 single/twin, 1 2 x bunks) to pick from and it has its own parking space.

For large groups, the hugely impressive, The Mission, is a former tabernacle outside the Chale Village, which sleeps 8, and offers a truly unique atmosphere. Externally the building has been re-clad and repainted using original materials and paint colours. While internally much of the original interior remains untouched; it’s open-plan and very much a ‘building-within-a-building’ inside the main body of the hall. On offer are 2 mezzanine bedrooms floating in the roof-space, an enormous open sitting area with a wonderful wood burning stove; large bathroom with sunken bath…sunken into what was the baptismal font!  The Vintage Vacations tick list continues. Beautifully restored 1950s English-Rose kitchen, outside a decked courtyard grass area, summerhouse and BBQ area. You can see why The Guardian named Vintage Vacations, ”The offbeat accommodation specialists….”

For more information: 07802 758113.

Sarah Sims

17 May 2016

By Sarah Sims in Articles