Walt Disney World is famous for its theme parks, but what you might not know is that Disney also lays claim to one of the best and most frequented family camping destinations in Florida.
Covering over 700 acres, the Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort offers vacationers a taste of Florida's great outdoors in a fun, just-rugged-enough setting that first timers and seasoned campers can appreciate. With full-amenity cabins, campsites and a vast amount of recreational activities, Fort Wilderness is a destination in itself.
The Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort opened just one month after the Magic Kingdom’s debut and is one of the original accommodations at Walt Disney World Resort. Since then, budget- and adventure-minded visitors have flocked to the campground, and for good reason. Value-priced campsites start at around $48 (in select seasons), making Fort Wilderness the most affordable place to stay on Walt Disney World property.
The resort is situated on Bay Lake, shares shoreline with many of Disney's other locations, and is mere minutes away from the Magic Kingdom via boat transport.
A stay at Fort Wilderness can be laid-back or active and upbeat, with activities to suit both tastes. You'll find plenty of both, from serene kayaking opportunities and horseback riding, to jogging trails and Disney character dinner shows.
Campsites and Cabins
Camping has never been this comfortable. For those wanting a home away from home, fully equipped Wilderness Cabins are available, outfitted with nearly everything you'll need during your stay.
For campers, Fort Wilderness has private sites to accommodate recreational vehicles of all sizes. Sites feature water and electrical hook-ups, and each has a picnic table and charcoal grill. Large RV sites have a full concrete slab and sewer connections, while the pop-up/tent spaces have a smaller slab and coquina rock bed for setting up tents.
You'll find privacy in the way of natural barriers of wax myrtle and cypress trees between the campsites, which add to the feeling of seclusion and solitude. For groups of 20 or more, primitive camping is available at Creekside Meadow.
Fort Wilderness amenities include “comfort stations” – showers, restrooms, and laundry facilities – within a short distance of most campsites. A concierge at the resort can assist you in getting theme park tickets.
Dining options include the Trail's End Restaurant buffet and Crockett's Tavern, where you'll find pizza, appetizers and a full bar. You can pick up groceries, camping supplies, sundries, and propane tanks at the resorts two stores, the Meadow and Settlement Trading Posts.
The campground is pet-friendly and even has a kennel for the four-legged members of the family. High-speed Internet access is available in the cabins.
You won't run out of things to do during your stay at Fort Wilderness, and there's something for the whole family. Some of the activities require an additional fee, so plan ahead and decide what outings you are interested in. The costs are affordable and you will return from your trip with some great memories.
On the water
Explore the waterways in a kayak, and take in some great views of Florida's wildlife along the way. Fishing? This is one of Disney's best-kept secrets. You can cast a line in the canals from the bank, or take a guided bass fishing excursion out and reel in some of the largest bass found anywhere (sorry folks, catch and release only).
Saddle up at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and enjoy a 45-minute ride on one of Disney's horses or ponies. The trail ride will take you down a scenic loop trail lined with pine and cypress trees. Don't worry if it's your first time riding -- you'll be following along in a group that includes experienced guides to help you along. Don't want to ride? Take a 45-minute tour on a horse-drawn wagon instead.
Here's an interesting fact about Tri-Circle-D: The ranch has a blacksmith and it's the home of Cinderella's white ponies as well as the majestic horses seen on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom daily.
Don't forget your bathing suit when you come to Fort Wilderness. There are two locations to splash the day away: the Meadow Swimmin' Pool and the Wilderness Swimmin' Pool. Check the campground's current calendar of activities for special events and games going on at the pools.
Bring your bike or rent one from the Fort Wilderness Bike Barn. The campground is connected by sidewalks and paths so most everything is accessible by bikes, skates, scooters – even electric carts (which are available for rent).
Nature trail and jogging trail
Want to jog, walk or bike a trail? Fort Wilderness has a 2.3-mile rugged Fort Wilderness Exercise Trail.
Fort Wilderness offers a two-hour “Wilderness Back Trail Adventure” on Segways. No experience is necessary; training is provided before the tour through the pristine Florida landscape in and around Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds. Guests must be at least 16 years old and weigh 250 pounds or less.
Other family activities at Fort Wilderness include games at the arcade, tennis, horseshoes, a dinner show, a nightly campfire sing-a-long with Chip N' Dale, archery and an outdoor movie at night.
Fort Wilderness as Your Basecamp
With clean, convenient campsites and facilities, affordable rates and a strategic location, Fort Wilderness is the clear favorite for many visitors looking to not only stay on Disney property and visit the attractions, but to get a Florida outdoors experience as well. It's easy to get hooked, and many families do, returning year after year from all around the country.
When planning for your next trip to Walt Disney World, ditch the hotel reservations in favor of sleeping bags and s'mores – you'll be pleasantly surprised.