By Mark Lebetkin
The Active Times

Remember the good old days when a tree house was a rough-looking assemblage of two-by-fours and plywood wedged into the crook of your backyard oak tree?

These days, tree houses are more than just hideaways for the Bart Simpsons of the world. They represent a creative challenge to architects all over the world. Firms like Germany's baumraum, which specializes in offbeat projects, and designers like Pete Nelson, a Washington State-based genius of the form, have made it their mission to bring this humble concept into the future.

They fuse the natural world with the artificial in ways that are often stunning: spheres suspended in British Columbia's Pacific rain forest; a "mirror cube” that looks like a woodsy warp in the space-time continuum; a sleek, modern cabin overlooking the German countryside, set in the ‘V’ formed by opposite-leaning oak and alder trees.

These tree houses -- if that’s even the right word -- are the subject of a recent photo book, Tree Houses: Fairy Tale Castles in the Air, by Philip Jodidio (TASCHEN). The book’s range, both in terms of the designs presented and geographic distribution, highlights the universal appeal of the idea of living -- or at least staying -- in the tree tops. Depicted are well-appointed hotel rooms in the air and the aerial dwellings of a remote Indonesian tribe. Taken as a whole, the effect is dizzying, and not just because of the heights.

These are truly awe-inspiring structures. In fact, we were so inspired that we took it upon ourselves to find a few more trippy tree houses not featured in the book and share them with our readers.

Tree Houses You Have To See To Believe Slideshow


Free Spirit Spheres: Vancouver Island, B.C.

Vancouver's coastal rainforest is home to a small resort called Free Spirit Spheres, which consists of spherical tree houses "suspended like pendants from a web of rope," according to the website. Designed by owner Tom Chudleigh, these three spheres -- named Eve, Eryn and Melody -- are impressively outfitted with electricity, plumbing, dining areas and beds. Be careful, though: they sway if you shift your weight around too much.


Dogfish Head Steampunk Tree House: Milton, Del.

Although not strictly a tree house, this 40-foot-tall sculpture on the grounds of Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery is made to look like one, sitting in a metal tree with metal branches. Although it’s viewable by all visitors to the brewery, the interior is only open to employees for use as a creative space.


Bialsky Tree House: Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Looking something like a deconstructed cuckoo clock, with a rope swing instead of a pendulum, this recycled-wood tree house was designed by artist Michael Ince of Brookhaven, Long Island.


The Alnwick Garden Treehouse: Alnwick, Northumberland, England

This huge, multi-story tree house looks like something straight out of Middle Earth, but inside it has a restaurant complete with roaring log fireplace and locally sourced food. It’s built into a copse of lime trees on the grounds of Alnwick Castle, built in the 11th century. Although it's a castle in its own right, the tree house only dates back to 2004.


Hapuku Lodge: Kaikoura, New Zealand

Nestled between snow-capped mountains and the South Pacific on New Zealand’s South Island, the town of Kaikoura is home to the Hapuku Lodge, which offers luxury hotel rooms built into the canopy of a natural teatree grove.


Tree Cabin in Sierra de Huétor Natural Park: Andalucía, Spain

This charming listing, set in a nature park near the base of southern Spain’s Sierra Nevada, is accessible by rope bridge and sleeps two. It currently rents for only $42 a night.


Mirrorcube: Harads, Sweden

You have to look closely to see this tree house in Sweden’s Treehotel. Its outer walls are made of reflective glass—don’t worry: they’re visible to birds -- offering panoramic views of the countryside. It sleeps two and has a living area, toilet and rooftop terrace. Designed by Swedish firm Tham & Videgård Arkitekter.


The Eagle's Nest: Calvados, Lower Normandy, France

Those afraid of heights had best stay elsewhere. Perched 72 feet above the ground, the Eagle's Nest is the highest in a France-wide network of roughly 200 tree houses-for-rent, called La Cabane en l’Air. It's part of the Château de Canon property on a teaching farm in Calvados, home of the eponymous apple brandy. Accessible by rope ladder and hanging bridge, it has a small terrace for visitors to survey the surrounding landscape from lofty heights.

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For the complete list of Trees Houses You Have To See To Believe, go to

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