The Hideaway Campground / Photo via Facebook

A Home Away from Home: The Gay Campground to Visit This Summer

Located in Collins, Georgia — about a three and a half hour drive from Midtown — The Hideaway Campground is one of Georgia’s premier gay campgrounds.

Roy McLeroy and his husband, Eduardo Hernandez, were inspired to open their own campground by the trips they had taken to different gay campgrounds, such as The River’s Edge, which is also in Georgia. Together in the early 2000s, McLeroy, his mother Dorothy Karesh, and Hernandez decided that they wanted to buy land to start a gay campground.

McLeroy was working as a truck driver at the time and living in California with his husband. The three originally set their sights on Texas as the location for their future business, but quickly found that the options there were quite expensive and decided to expand their search to the Southeast.

“We looked in Texas first, and it was hard to find land there,” McLeroy told Georgia Voice. “Then we found this campground [in Georgia] that was already existing, but it was very small and not successful.”

After visiting, McLeroy and Hernandez decided to buy and flip the existing facility.

“We fell in love with it,” McLeroy said about the campground. “It was perfect, because it was out of the norm; it wasn’t in the city, it wasn’t near any major highways, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”

After purchasing the site, McLeroy and Hernandez transformed it from a small campground into a luxurious getaway that offers a premium stay for everyone’s preference, from spaces to pitch a tent to deluxe cabins. In 2007, The Hideaway Campground opened to welcome gay visitors from across the country.

Beyond renovating and managing the facility, McLeroy and Hernandez also worked to establish close ties with the community around Collins. McLeroy said that he and his partner made sure to get to know the local sheriff and business owners, many of whom are friends and supporters of the campground today.

“We’re really proud that the community here has grown to know us and really care about us,” McLeroy said.

Introductions weren’t initially easy; McLeroy said that there were more than a few members of the local community who didn’t want a gay campground in the area.

“It was very difficult at the beginning, because we’re in the Bible Belt and we got some pushback from some people,” McLeroy said. “But I feel that we really changed a lot of people’s opinions.”

McLeroy showed the community that he and the visitors to his campground weren’t bad people, they were just people. While it took time, community members eventually came to accept and support McLeroy’s business, and now local vendors will partner with The Hideaway and come to the campground for events, such as fundraisers that The Hideaway has hosted that have raised thousands of dollars over the years.

After more than 14 years of owning and managing The Hideaway, McLeroy said that his favorite part of running the campground is the stories that he hears from visitors. The Hideaway is open 12 months a year, but McLeroy said that his guests’ positive experiences make the workload worth it to him. Visitors have made lifelong friends and met their partners while staying at The Hideaway, and McLeroy said he loves knowing that his campground was what brought people together.

“It’s a job from morning to night, seven days a week, but it’s worth it,” he said. “When we see people meeting here, it’s worth it.”

The Hideaway offers day and night visit passes and also has a waitlist for those who want to reside on the property permanently. McLeroy said in the future, he hopes that the business can continue to grow and accommodate more guests and residents, offering potentially life-changing visits for even more people.

If you are interested in visiting The Hideaway, you can book at royshideaway.com.