Fort Wilderness Recreation

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

The resort has miles of paved paths for use by pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists. However, if that is not enough there is also the Fort Wilderness Swamp Trail that begins next to the Settlement Trading Post and meanders through a cypress swamp along the shore of Bay Lake. It is accessible only by foot, and mosquito repellent is recommended.

There is also an exercise/nature trail that runs for 2.3 miles of paved and unpaved roadway, connecting the resort with the Wilderness Lodge Resort (behind the bike/boat rental building on the beach). I've not personally checked this out, but it is on my list of things to do on a future stay when the weather is comfortable.

Bicycles, golf carts and non-motorized boats can be rented from the Bike Barn.

The Bike Barn is the place to rent canoes and paddle boats for use in the canals as well as bicycles and electric golf carts. Some people bring their own golf carts, which can save considerable money. Golf carts are best reserved in advance, as sometimes there are not enough to satisfy all the requests. Reservations are taken up to a year in advance. The daily rental is approximately $43 a day plus tax, and many people rent them for their entire stay for transportation within the resort.

It is certainly more convenient to drive your golf cart to the Magic Kingdom boat or the bus to the other parks, and it's also a lot more fun. The golf cart parking spots have electric hookups so your battery will be charging while you are gone. To rent a golf cart you must be at least 18 years of age, but only need to be 16 with a valid driver's license in order to drive one that an adult has rented.

A couple of the golf carts available for use.

Bicycles are another popular mode of transportation within the resort. There's no need to wait for an internal bus to arrive when you can hop on your bike and pedal to the bus or boat that will take you to your final destination. Helmets and infant seats are provided upon request, and there are even bicycles with training wheels for the younger set. Bikes are rented by the hour and by the day, although if you can bring your own from home you can save enough money over the course of the trip to splurge on a nice dinner out somewhere.

Surrey bikes are also available, as they are at almost every Disney resort by now! These rent on a 30-minute basis and seat either four or six people. Kids love them, but will have to be a certain height in order to reach the pedals. Otherwise, the adults will be doing all of the work!

Ft Wilderness Marina

The Fort Wilderness Marina is home to the motorized boat rentals. The WaterMouse boats are small two-passenger speedboats that are great fun! The driver must be at least 12 years old and five feet tall, although the renter must be at least 18 years old. The boats are rented in 30 minute- or one-hour increments, with a slight price break for taking the hour. The 30-minute rental is approximately $22, while the hour is just over $30. Life jackets must be worn by all passengers at all times, and it is likely you will get wet from the spray from the waves.

Also, although these boats claim to hold two people, unless it is an adult and small child you may not get very much speed. The lighter the load, the faster the boat will move. There is also an upper weight limit, but I would strongly recommend that if two adults want to ride, they should each get their own boat even if their combined weight falls below the limit.

Also available are SunTracker pontoon boats and a limited number of sailboats. For all boat rentals a valid driver's license or Disney resort identification card is required. Fishing enthusiasts can book a fishing excursion from the marina as well. There is a bass fishing excursion, which lasts two hours and is conducted three times per day. The cost is $165 to $195 depending on the time of day, and which accommodates up to five people. Fishing guide and equipment is provided and reservations are necessary. There is also a Children's Fishing Excursion for 6 to 12-year-olds.

There are also Recreation Family Plans for those parties who expect to make use of the WaterMouse and pontoon boats. These plans are open to any resort guests, but if you were staying at a different resort, you would need to come to the Ft. Wilderness Marina to use the boats under the plan. These same plans may be offered at other resorts with full marinas as well. I know last Thanksgiving they had the plans available at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge.

The Captain Plan allows the family to use 4 hours of rental (total; not per person) for $115 plus tax. Since the normal rental is approximately $30 per hour, this plan provides minimal savings.

The Family Plan is a weekly rate for unlimited use of the WaterMouse and pontoon boats for up to four people. The cost is $199 plus tax and is a flat fee whether you will be staying a full week or only a few days. This plan is very attractive to my teen son, who would like nothing better than to spend a week at Villas at Wilderness Lodge and spend all of his days on a WaterMouse. To be fair to other guests, people on the plan can take a boat out for an hour at a time. If nobody is waiting to rent that boat at the end of the hour, they can stay out for another hour. Otherwise they have to return the boat and wait for the next one to be available.

One of many playgrounds.

Other recreation is scattered throughout the resort. There are several playgrounds, tetherball stations, and a basketball court. This is a great resort for allowing children to burn off pent-up energy while adults relax at a picnic table with a cold beverage or snacks.

Pioneer Hall - the center of downtown Ft Wilderness.

While not exactly recreation, dining is a big part of most people's vacations — and Fort Wilderness happens to be home to a couple of dinner shows. The Hoop Dee Doo Revue is the most popular dinner show at all of Walt Disney World, and has been running for over 25 years. It features the corny comedy and lively music of six talented actors. Themed to the Old West, it is described by Disney as “a foot-stompin', hand-clappin' Western revue.” It's fun for all ages, even the very “cool” teens. Dinner is all-you-can eat and consists of salad, fried chicken, ribs, corn, baked beans, and strawberry shortcake. Unlimited beer, sangria, and soda is also included.

While it's not a gourmet meal, it's always been delicious on my visits, and the sangria especially is a favorite of mine. The cast moves throughout the audience interacting with the guests, and towards the end some people are selected to come up on stage and be in the final number.

Reservations are required, and they are taken up to two years in advance. Seating is set based on when you make your reservation, so for the best seat call as far in advance as possible.

Cast of Hoop Dee Doo Revue during Christmas season.

The other dinner show is conducted seasonally, and is called Mickey's Backyard BBQ. The cost is the same as the Hoop Dee Doo revue (around $50 to $60) but here the food is burgers, hot dogs, and sometimes ribs. The characters show up and teach line dancing to the guests. It sounds like a good opportunity for children to enjoy the characters, but if you are not a fan of line dancing or country western music, I would book a character breakfast or dinner elsewhere.

Trail's End Restaurant is very popular for its relatively inexpensive buffet meals. Many people travel here from other resorts specifically because the food is good and the price is lower (partly due to not having characters at the meals). Crockett's Tavern is right next door and serves appetizers and pizza as well as beverages.

If the Petting Farm doesn't appeal to you, Crockett's Tavern is another place to wait for your Hoop Dee Doo Revue seating to begin.

The dock and nearby beach is a great spot to watch the nightly water parade.

You can view the Electrical Water Pageant nightly from the beach at 9:45 p.m. This is the only parade that has been running without change since Walt Disney World opened in 1971. People attending the 7:15 Hoop Dee Doo Revue can be outside in time to watch this delightful parade. A series of connected floating barges each illuminate while music is playing. It creates a parade of sea creatures first, then switches to patriotic music and scenes of red, white, and blue.

Many peacocks roam freely throughout the campground.

As you can see, there is plenty to keep you busy during a stay at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground even without going to the theme parks. With the Wilderness Cabins it is also a great vacation spot for people not willing to give up air conditioning and daily housekeeping, too!