Beyond the Beach: Technology and Tradition at Camping on the Gulf

June 6, 2024

Mary Hunter is not your typical pioneer. Instead of trekking out West, she’s making waves at a beachside campground in Miramar, Florida. With the latest tools at her disposal, Mary ensures that checking in to Camping on the Gulf is the smoothest part of any guest’s day.

A Legacy in the Sand

Since 1968, Camping on the Gulf has offered something extraordinary—camping spaces right on the sandy beaches of Florida’s Panhandle. 

“It’s always been such a great story of how the family who owns the park came here, loved this area, and had the foresight to start a campground,” said Mary, Camping on the Gulf’s General Manager. “To understand the uniqueness of what this property is, to be sitting in the middle of all this growth, and to have a campground right here on the beach, that’s very unusual these days.”

This unique setting naturally draws a diverse group of campers, all eager to enjoy the direct beach access that few campgrounds can offer. While Mary and her team appreciate all their guests, families that camp together hold a special place in her heart.  

Connecting Through Nature, Nurturing Through Experience

“I love our snowbirds,” Mary shared. “They’re great during that time of year, but I always get excited when it’s time for the kids to come. They’re amazed that they can run down that hill and they’re at the beach. They’re getting back to nature even though they’re on the beach.”

Observing families come together to enjoy the outdoors—whether they’re cooking breakfast outside or simply sharing space in their camper rather than darting in all different directions—reminds Mary why she loves this work.

And some moments are more powerful reminders than others.

“Easter weekend, a couple of years ago, I saw a family out at the picnic table, dying their Easter eggs,” Mary recalled. “That’s what I think is so cool about our park: we’ve survived the growth of this area to be able to continue to provide moments like this. I think it’s great.”

Encounters that Enhance the Experience  

Mary’s commitment to creating an enriching environment for her guests goes beyond sing-alongs and s’mores by the firepit. She makes sure families have opportunities to experience things that will stand out in their memories for years to come. 

“Bubba the alligator has been coming here for probably 20 years,” Mary said with a smile. “The kids get to pet him and ask his owner lots of questions, so there’s an educational piece to his visits. We also have Nonie from Nonie’s Ark who brings in smaller animals, like a sugar glider and different birds. So the kids get to see things up close that they may never get to see.”

From impromptu jam sessions at the pavilion to cornhole to fun, yet educational animal shows, Camping on the Gulf has something for seasoned snowbirds and first-time families alike. But the experiences aren’t limited to the outdoors; they extend into the camp store.

More Than Just Supplies

Transitions from outdoor adventures to the practicalities of daily needs are seamless at Camping on the Gulf, thanks to their well-stocked camp store. It’s more than a store, though. It’s an integral part of the guest experience, carefully crafted under Mary’s vision. 

“When campers shop in our store, they’re looking for something a little nicer,” Mary explained. “They want to make sure it doesn’t look like they’ve been to one of the chain stores. We have plenty of those in Florida.”

Mary and her staff make sure they keep the necessities on hand so that if a guest forgets to pack a toothbrush, there’s no need to leave the property in search of a new one. But they also have elegantly branded merchandise that captures the feel of the park and allows guests to take a piece of beachside camping home with them. 

“Your camp store is important,” Mary said. “It’s a great auxiliary income, but you also want it to reflect the prices your guests are paying and what you want your campground to be.” 

Simplifying Payments with CampLife Pay

Integrating technology to enhance guest convenience, Mary introduced CampLife Pay, a payment processor specifically designed to work with CampLife reservation software. CampLife Pay simplifies processes and offers versatile payment methods—including Apple Pay.

“One of the good things is that if the kids come into the store to get snacks, they can use Apple Pay,” Mary said. “Their parents can give them a certain amount of money on their Apple Pay account. The kids love it. They don’t have to have their parents with them, and we don’t have to run the card. It works really well for us.” 

This ease of use aligns with Mary’s vision of making everything as hassle-free as possible for her guests.

“I want to make it easy on our campers,” Mary shared. “When they come in, they’ve been driving or pulling a camper for six or seven hours. The kids are tired and hungry. Let’s make it easy on them, and let’s get them out to the beach.”

CampLife Pay also streamlines operations for Mary and her team. 

“CampLife Pay helps us on our chargebacks,” Mary said. “I can look at them and attach everything I need from the system. I’m not faxing and making copies. Everything can be done within CampLife. That’s what I love; how easy it makes things for us.” 

Honoring the Past, Pioneering the Future

As Mary looks to the future, she is keenly aware of the legacy she’s a part of and eager to build on it.

“Since 1968, there have been a lot of people before me,” Mary expressed. “They were pioneers at the time. They had new ideas, and credit is due to all of these people who have gotten the park to where it is now. They set us up to take it even further.” 

Mary’s dedication and the idyllic setting of Camping on the Gulf are what make it a great example of exceptional outdoor hospitality. Her use of technology—like CampLife Pay—simplifies operations and enhances guest experiences by making transactions seamless. This technology ensures that each guest leaves with lasting memories and looks forward to returning.

Inspired by Mary’s story? Visit our website or reach out to discover how CampLife’s tools can support your efforts so you can focus on what truly matters—creating unforgettable experiences for your guests. Join us in continuing the tradition of innovation in the great outdoors, and see how you, too, can make a lasting impact on your campground community.  

Ready to get started?

Manage your park with seamless and modern reservation software for just $3 per reservation.