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Lessons from the Campground: Ontario-Based Owner Shares Experiences Running Camping in Muskoka

Camping in Muskoka, formerly known as Gravenhurst Muskoka KOA campground, has been a cherished destination for outdoor enthusiasts since 1971. The campground, owned by Paul Cook, offers a serene retreat in the heart of Muskoka, characterized by large trees, and a family-oriented atmosphere. 

Image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com

In an exclusive interview with Modern Campground, Paul Cook, owner of Camping in Muskoka, shared insights into the history, challenges, and future plans of the campground, providing valuable lessons for the outdoor hospitality industry. 

“A Place to Get Away From it All”

Located in Gravenhurst (Ontario, Canada), Camping in Muskoka offers a natural setting with large trees appealing to those seeking a serene environment. Cook describes the campground as “a more family-oriented place, a place to get away from it all,” emphasizing a low-key and quiet atmosphere. 

Image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com

“We like to just try to keep it lowkey and quiet. We try to have a little bit of something for everyone. So we have cabins for people that don’t have any camping experience up to big sites with sewer hookups for people that have bigger trailers,” Cook added.

Image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com

Cook’s journey into the campground industry began in his early twenties when he started working for his father-in-law. “I kind of married into it,” Cook recalls. “I[t] started as a summer job with him and met my wife at a staff party that we used to have at the end of every summer. We got married, and I worked for my father-in-law for several years.” Eventually, Cook and his wife took over the campground, purchasing it in 1990.

Image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com

The campground faced various challenges over the decades. In the 80s and 90s, rowdy campers posed difficulties, and financial challenges were also prevalent, with the campground relying on operating loans to get through the winter months. However, the advent of online reservations has provided a steady income stream, alleviating some financial pressures.

Image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com

Economic factors have recently impacted the business. Last year saw a slight downturn compared to the year before due to high interest rates and gasoline prices. Cook attributes this to decreased disposable income among potential campers.

Advice for prospective campground owners

Cook advises campground owners to anticipate increased regulatory scrutiny and suggests seeking professional help for permit applications and regulatory compliance. He notes that doing as much as possible independently to save money may no longer be viable. This shift highlights the growing complexity of operating in the campground industry.

“Getting permissions and approvals is getting a lot harder in Canada for sure. So I’d really work with a professional for that. If you’re applying for permits, the regulatory stuff, the sewage and the electrical and all the rest that goes along, anything that’s government controlled is probably getting a lot harder to get in place first,” the owner told Modern Campground.

Looking ahead, Camping in Muskoka has a succession plan involving Cook’s son and son-in-law, ensuring the business remains within the family for a third generation. Future expansion plans include potentially adding more cabins, which have proven popular and financially viable for the campground.

Image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com

Cook’s experience highlights the importance of adaptability and foresight in the outdoor hospitality industry. The transition from seasonal financial instability to a more stable income model through online reservations demonstrates the impact of technological advancements. Additionally, his focus on maintaining a family-friendly environment while adapting to changing camper demographics provides a model for other campground operators.

The insights from Camping in Muskoka can benefit campground and outdoor hospitality operators by emphasizing the need for adaptability, regulatory compliance, and attracting a diverse camper base. Cook’s reflections offer valuable lessons in managing and growing a campground business amid evolving economic and regulatory landscapes.

Paul Cook’s journey from a summer job to owning and operating a successful campground illustrates the potential for long-term success in the industry. His commitment to maintaining a peaceful, family-oriented environment while planning for future growth sets a benchmark for other campground operators.

By learning from Cook’s experiences, campground and outdoor hospitality operators can better navigate the complexities of the industry and continue to provide memorable experiences for their guests. 

Featured image by Camping in Muskoka via campinginmuskoka.com 

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VanessaRipple
VanessaRipple
May 23, 2024 2:58 pm

Let’s chat about the cool stuff happening at this Muskoka campground! Owners are going green with solar power, embracing eco-tourism, and acing social media to attract nature lovers and campers. Amazing, right?

Riley Wind
Riley Wind
May 23, 2024 3:21 pm

Have you heard about Paul Cook’s campground in Muskoka? It’s a gem, offering a peaceful getaway with hiking, water sports, and fun events. It’s like a hidden paradise for campers!

Alex Meadow
Alex Meadow
May 23, 2024 8:21 pm
Reply to  Riley Wind

You’re in for a treat! Let me tell you about Paul Cook’s campground in Muskoka. it’s an absolute gem! Can’t wait for you to experience it!

Jade5678
Jade5678
May 24, 2024 3:38 am
Reply to  Alex Meadow

This place is a hidden gem! You’re in for an amazing time! By the way, I heard they have the best paddleboarding experience around. definitely worth trying out!

Thomas Lopez
Thomas Lopez
May 23, 2024 6:39 pm

Isn’t it cool to learn about running a campground sustainably and offering unique experiences? Prioritize eco-friendly practices and fun amenities to draw in nature lovers and adventure seekers.

MysticRaven16
MysticRaven16
May 24, 2024 3:51 pm
Reply to  Thomas Lopez

I find it quite intriguing to discover the ins and outs of maintaining a campground sustainably while creating unique experiences. It’s inspiring to see innovation and conservation work together in camping. Nature’s wonders never cease to amaze!

UlyssesRidge
UlyssesRidge
May 24, 2024 4:50 am

I think tapping into the campground owner’s insights is key! Let’s focus on nurturing that camper community vibe and eco-friendly practices. 🌿 Get creative with marketing like teaming up with outdoor influencers or throwing themed events to draw in a mix of campers and grow the business. 😊

RavenBlaze96
RavenBlaze96
May 24, 2024 7:19 am

Isn’t it cool how Paul Cook’s campground in Muskoka offers such a sweet escape with all those fun activities like hiking and water sports? And his commitment to sustainability is inspiring, don’t you think? It sets a great example for eco-friendly camping. What’s your take on that?

WyattCedar
WyattCedar
May 24, 2024 12:21 pm

Have you heard about the awesome eco-friendly initiatives at that Muskoka campground? It’s great to see businesses leading the way in sustainable tourism. Their marketing strategies are spot-on for attracting a new generation of campers!

John Clark
John Clark
May 24, 2024 12:58 pm

Let’s delve into the campground saga! Get ready for a rollercoaster of regulations, permits, and legacy secrets for future campers in Muskoka. What other hidden gems will we uncover?

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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: Lessons from the Campground: Ontario-Based Owner Shares Experiences Running Camping in Muskoka! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/canada/ontario/lessons-from-the-campground-ontario-based-owner-shares-experiences-running-camping-in-muskoka/