As the mercury rises, demand for vacation rentals is about to pick up. So why not break from the pack this summer and explore some of America's less, shall we say, "conventional" getaways?
How about spending the Fourth of July perched atop an active lighthouse (we dare you to find a better place to watch the fireworks), or barbecuing in front of a converted 1920s-era train caboose?
From floating inns to dome-shaped beach homes, mountain yurts to palatial log cabins, AOL Real Estate explores some of America's wildest vacation rentals. Click through the gallery to see the full list.
Wildest Vacation Rentals
Vacation Rentals You Won't Believe
With the mercury rising, demand for vacation rentals is about to pick up. So why not break from the pack this summer and explore some of America’s less, shall we say, “conventional” getaways? Ever thought you’d spend your Labor Day perched from the top of an active lighthouse? (Never mind the barbecue, check out that battleship!) Or how about tanning in front of a converted 1920s-era train caboose? From floating inns to dome-shaped beach homes, mountain yurts to psychedelic Earth ships, AOL Real Estate explores some of America’s wildest vacation rentals. Click through to see the full list.
Price: $215/night + tax
Location: outside Seattle, WA
The Point No Point Lighthouse, the oldest active lighthouse on the Puget Sound, is available for rent all year round. Guests will stay in the original 1880s-era keeper's home, which offers panoramic views of the sound's many islands, as well as the breathtaking silhouette of Mount Rainier.
Just an hour's drive from Seattle, this historic site offers the best of both land and sea. The keeper's quarters are just steps away from the beach, and nature enthusiasts will be thrilled to explore the nature reserve adjacent to the lighthouse, where bald eagles, seals and other rare wildlife can be found.
If you decide to visit during the off-season, says Jeff Gales, executive director of the Lighthouse Society, the rental fee is only $195 a night. Mild weather throughout the fall make Point No Point a perfect autumn destination, he says. And in the winter, adventurous travelers can stay for storm watching.
The rental itself features two bedrooms, a formal dining room, full kitchen and bathroom, and a breakfast nook.
The real lure for maritime tourists is the jaw-dropping view of every manner of ship that crosses this still-busy waterway. "People staying will literally see every ship coming out of Seattle," says Gales. "Battleships, submarines, cargo ships, coastguard cutters, cruisers – everything imaginable."
Price: $150/night for two-night stay
Location: Natural Bridge, VA
All aboard! Local Virginian Tom Bradshaw decided to convert this slice of Americana into a 200-square-foot, one-bedroom dream machine, perfect for the hobo at heart.
Visitors will appreciate the refurbished red cedar interior, cherry floors, and original curved wood ceiling. While the exterior reflects a working train during America's Great Depression, the cabin affords all the modern luxuries we've come to expect -- cable television, a Bose radio and microwave oven. And fret not, rambling tramps -- your dog companion is welcome, for an additional fee.
The cabin features a shower with a demand water heater, a two-burner stove (for that open can of baked beans) and a cupola for your little tramps to climb up into.
Outside the caboose, warm up by the "hobo fire pit" on those chilly Virginia nights. There's also a large stew pot for "cooking hot dogs or toasting marshmallows," the owner writes on his website. Because what tramp's journey would be complete without a hearty helping of franks and beans?
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Spend a reclusive weekend in this exotic mountain hideaway, just 20 minutes away from downtown Santa Barbara. This one-bedroom chalet sleeps up to four and offers all the amenities a family could need for a walk on the wild side.
The living room area offers a working wood-burning stove to add to the timelessness of the setting. Located on a 10 acre family ranch in the foothills of Santa Barbara, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the lush greenery from every angle of the home.
Surprise your special someone with a romantic weekend in this tropical hideaway. Retire to your California king-sized bed after a long day of hiking and swimming on the natural trails surrounding the premises.
Or take the opportunity to hone your culinary craft, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, in this full kitchen.
After enjoying your treetop haven, explore the lush environs surrounding the property. The waterfall pictured is in walking distance of the chalet, and a perfect place to cool off after a hot trek through the woods.
Price: $590 for two nights, summer rate
Location: St. George Island, FL.
"It's a spherical beach house," you'll tell your landlocked neighbors back in Iowa. "Dome. Ecile. Get it?" You'll try and explain. Perhaps it's one of those you-had-to-be-there situations, you'll say, thinking back to the crystal clear water and misty air of Florida's breezy coast.
This unique 3-bedroom, 2-bath domicile is set right on the beach and offers amazing views of the ocean. The nautical theme within adds to the whimsical effect of living in a tortoise-shaped vacation home on the beach.
The home features a well-rounded amenities package, including an entertainment system, a double futon for guests, and a fish cleaning station for the avid fisherman.
Perhaps the best feature of all is the wraparound deck for truly panoramic views of the seashore.
Price: $375 per night
Location: Boston, Mass.
Ever see an elephant float? The White Elephant Inn bobs along in Boston's Charlestown Navy Yard. The wooden houseboat--a labor of love that took one man five years to build--sleeps 10, is air-conditioned and has a fully equipped kitchen.
The main stateroom has a king-size platform bed, wood-paneled walls and built-in closets. And if the rocking motion of the boat doesn't put you to sleep, don't worry. There's also free WiFi for middle-of-the-night web surfing.
Dine with a view of the Boston skyline. There's a roof deck with gas grill, but if cooking on vacation isn't your thing, the marina has its own tavern, just steps from the houseboat door.
The wood-paneled living room is big enough for the whole gang, as long as you don't mind hanging out under the watchful eye of the namesake pachyderm.
Slightly inebriated vacationers, be warned: Once your houseboat sets sail, you may be tempted to test your sea legs with a quick walk around the premises. As this photo makes amply clear, the rear exit is no exit once your vacation rental is out on the open seas.
Location: Crested Butte, CO
This 4,150-square-foot log cabin -- if you can call a home of this size a cabin -- includes 6-bedrooms and 4.5-baths in sight of Crested Butte's majestic mountain ranges. For the family sick of road trips to the beach , Shangri-La offers an entirely different take on summer vacation.
Vaulted ceilings and amazing views of the mountain terrain define this wide-open living room. Gaze out at the natural beauty of the many mountain ranges just outside the window, including the Red Lady, Oh Be Joyful and Mount Crested Butte.
Amenities include cable television with 180 channels, a stone fireplace, and a large outdoor jacuzzi.
Location: outside Westport, Ireland
Located in the verdant countryside of Ireland's west coast, an old preserved chapel awaits vacationers keen on injecting a whole lot of holy into their getaway. Built in 1836, the stone-built church offers guests soothing bucolic views. Nearby Clew Bay allows visitors a range of activities as well, including sailing and fishing.
For a taste of authentic Irish culture, church-stayers can walk the five kilometers it takes to reach Westport, a traditional town which has an all-important pub. The dining hall pictured here enjoys the sort of towering ceilings offered only be a church. Underfloor heating and a wood-burning stove -- beneath the altar windows here -- keep the premises warm on colder days.
The conversion kept the severe aesthetic features of the place intact even as it converted the space to include two double bedrooms with roll top tubs upstairs and another double below.
Couches of the living room sit in front of an open fire ready for a gathering of pious proportions. The whole place can accommodate quite a few guests: in addition to the three doubles, the chapel also offers four-bed bunk room downstairs, perhaps for the acolytes of the family.
Price: $120 - $295
Location: outside Taos, New Mexico
Staying in an amalgamation of rubbish might not strike you as fun, but that's okay: earthships aren't for everyone. The cluster of eco-conscious rentals are located in a remote area in New Mexico which is subject to severe weather conditions. Temperatures can reach 100 degrees in the summer and drop to as low as 30 below zero in the winter. Amazingly, The Greater World Earthship Community, which has about 50 occupied earthships in addition to three rental homes, claims the homes maintain a 72-degree room temperature all year long solely through thermal-solar heating and cooling.
Many of the homes use bottles and mud to create ornate, color-dotted walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows encircling the perimeter let in enough sun to store heat which is released at night.
The Earthships, so named for their purportedly forward-thinking designs, use a solar and wind power apparatus to produce power. Waste is anathema to the ships's creators, so if you thought yours would be funneled away for good, well, you thought wrong: the little-green-engine-that-could processes all household sewage in indoor and outdoor treatment cells and reuses it. "Toilets flush with grey water that does not smell," boasts the Web site. Nice!
If you're a little freaked out, don't worry: you don't need to sport hemp T-shirts and dreadlocks to be eligible to rent. But it's probably safe to say that wouldn't alienate anyone -- at all.
Location: Kailua Kona, HI
Affectionately described as “The Sydney Opera House meets Stonehenge,” this uniquely bulbous getaway combines the best of Hawaii’s picturesque landscape with cutting-edge design. Also known as the Onion House, this three-bedroom oasis takes its name from its one-of-a-kind layered canopy.
Whether traveling with your honey or a mess of hyperactive children, this delightfully offbeat property offers something for the entire family. The home sleeps six total.
Ditch the humdrum resorts in favor of your very own Hawaiian love nest. The home includes a 70-inch swimming pool, fireplaces, a fully-equipped kitchen, and drop-dead views of the ocean.