“I feel like all our work and life experiences have led us to this moment,” Kathryn Rudisill of Gold River Camp told me on my visit to the property. Gold River Camp is everything you imagine for a glamping campground retreat in the woods. This appeared to be true from their website, and I wasn’t disappointed walking onto their property, meeting the Rudisills, and hearing more of their story.
After Kathryn and her husband, Trevor, returned from an around-the-world trip in 2018 they knew they didn't want to return to their 9 to 5 jobs and lifestyle. Recently having completed a renovation flip in Charlotte, they had both the experience and capital to take on a larger project. So, they started looking for properties not just to flip, but to build a business and call home.
Kathryn recalled her first impression of the Gold River Camp property. “It had good bones, and we knew we could put in the work to build something of our dreams,” she said. For the previous owners, Gold River Camp was centered around the activity of panning for gold in the river. The cabins meanwhile, simply provided a place to sleep. The Rudisills decided to flip the script and make luxury outdoor accommodations the focus.
Today, Gold River Camp has beautifully decorated spaces in various styles and sizes with a range of amenities. This includes:
- A full-service cabin with a kitchen and private bath (The Cottage)
- A boho-chic suite with a kitchenette and private bath (The Terrace). A guest suite with a private bath (The Bower) that can be reserved as an adjoining room with The Cottage.
- 5 tiny cabins, two on the river.
- Two luxury glamping tents on platforms and two bell tent glamping sites.
- One full hookup RV spot and three tent spots.
The campground had sat empty for a couple of years, so there was a lot of work needed to get it to its current condition. This is where Trevor's contractor experience and their previous house flipping adventure came in handy. Getting the campground open for business took just under half a year.
Being blown away by how Instagram-perfect each space was, I asked Kathryn where she found her furnishings and decorations and if she worried about damage from campers. “Ideally I would be sourcing a lot from thrift and consignment shops, but since those are limited here, a lot comes from stores like Ross and Marshalls,” she said. She also utilizes liquidation sites and stores for linens and other items at lower prices. “I want everything to look beautiful and clean, but I also don’t want to be upset if I need to replace a damaged sheet,” she added.
Gold River Camp’s decor focuses on the small touches to curate a simple, yet elegant look. She also takes inspiration from the places where they traveled. “Stay in the space,” Kathryn advises other glamping owners. Doing this helped her determine the items needed to make a guest’s stay more enjoyable and comfortable.
While guests are invited to mine for gold in the river, it is no longer the primary reason guests book. Instead, Kathryn and Trevor spend their time focused on delivering high-quality customer service. In fact, when I asked Kathryn what she would tell someone wanting to get into the campground or glamping business, her first thought was, “You need to be aware that hospitality is your main job.”
By living on the property, the Rudisills can provide a level of service that many glamping sites don’t offer. How have they earned Airbnb’s Super Host status? Her past customer service experience working in restaurants and being a wedding planner has been a valuable asset. Kathryn also says the key for them is not sweating the small stuff, but instead accommodating guests’ needs. “Going above and beyond,” is their motto and has worked in achieving high ratings and returning guests.
In addition to the luxury feel of the accommodations, what makes Gold River Camp special is all the community spaces. An open-air pavilion provides a year-round gathering space for groups to socialize or play one of the provided games. There are also fire pits and benches located in scenic spots throughout the property. A big chalk board lets guest know what activities are on deck for the week.
The location for the campground, Marion, North Carolina, was selected primarily because the existing structures matched their vision and the price tag was within their budget. Kathryn told me she wasn’t familiar with the area and how they’ve been pleasantly surprised about being situated in an area with plenty of nearby outdoor adventures and other attractions. Find sample itineraries on the Gold River Camp website for large groups, families, adventure seekers, and couples highlighting local hikes, fishing, attractions, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and more. Some area highlights include:
- Lake James State Park (25 minutes)
- Asheville (45 minutes)
- Chimney Rock State Park (50 minutes)
- Linville Falls (1 hour)
- Little Switzerland (35 minutes)
And what’s campground life like with two young boys and living where you work? Their two-year-old was happy as could be digging in the dirt and greeting guests as they arrived. Trevor hung out on the porch and fenced-in yard with the baby while we chatted. Kathryn’s parents who retired and moved to the area to be closer help with cleaning one day a week giving them time to explore the area themselves and take a break. “We try to take time off once the weekend guests have checked in as well, we explore a new hike, try a new restaurant, or check out a local brewery. ” Kathryn explained. "I have never been good at self-care. It's tough for me to slow down and I'm probably too task oriented. But, learning that has helped me to step back and appreciate the family time that is woven into our daily routine. My love language is quality time, so getting that with my family is really a much needed reprieve!"
The best part though, Kathryn tells me, is the feedback from guests. "It melts my heart when someone sees the intention behind the project and appreciates the ' adult summer camp vibe' we are trying to achieve. They uses words like 'magical' or a 'hidden gem', and I know that they get it."
So, how do you book a stay? Most of their bookings currently happen through Airbnb or Hipcamp, but you can also book directly through their website. Also, make sure to follow them on Instagram!
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