I have written several blogs touching on the various activities found at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, but two recent events have prompted me to revisit this resort in-depth. First, I stayed in one of the cabins for the first time. And second, while I was there, I created a comprehensive video of this sprawling campground. So here goes, a look at one of the best loved spots at Walt Disney World that has perhaps the most loyal following of any resort.
One of the first things I notice whenever I visit Fort Wilderness is that the other guests staying here are extremely outgoing. Everywhere I wander, people say “hello” to me when I pass them on a sidewalk or while I’m browsing at one of the two trading posts. There is just something about this place that makes people friendlier. I’m normally a “keep to myself” kinda guy, but this sociable attitude is infectious and in no time at all, I’m initiating the greetings. If you’ve visited here before, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t ventured to this portion of Walt Disney World yet, you’re in for a treat.
Fort Wilderness officially opened on November 19, 1971. It has grown over the years and currently covers over 700 acres with 409 Wilderness Cabins and 784 campsites designed to accommodate tents and recreational vehicles. The name “Fort Wilderness” came from the fort found on Tom Sawyer Island located at Disneyland.
Fort Wilderness has three distinct areas, The Outpost, The Meadow, and The Settlement. Campers arrive at The Outpost via Vista Boulevard. Like all Disney resorts, a large sign welcomes guests to the property. Those driving RVs proceed to a special “drive-thru” check-in counter. Visitors staying in a cabin should park their vehicle and check-in at the Reception Outpost. Guests staying in tents may use either check-in spot. The Reception Outpost was constructed out of pine logs imported from Montana.
After finishing the required paperwork, the receptionist will give you a map and driving directions to your campsite or cabin.
There is limited automobile parking at The Outpost and none at The Meadow and The Settlement. Guests who wish to take advantage of the various activities available at Fort Wilderness should walk, bicycle, use the internal bus system, or use an electric cart. Electric carts can be rented at Reception Outpost and cart and bicycle parking is available at all three areas of the campground. If you do rent an electric cart or bring your own, be sure to read the “Rules & Regulations” guide given to all guests at check-in. Electric carts can be reserved in advance by calling 407-824-2742. Drivers must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license.
If you don’t have a bike or electric cart, you will probably be using the internal bus system within the campground. Three routes navigate the 700 acres and take guests to the various loops, The Outpost, The Meadow and The Settlement. The routes are designated by color — Orange, Yellow, and Purple. All bus stops have maps with easy-to-read indicators. Like all Disney buses, the ones at the campground are clean and reasonably efficient. However, some people dislike the fact that in order to go to any theme park or Downtown Disney, you must first take a campground bus then transfer to another bus or boat. This can easily add 15 to 20 minutes to your journey.
The designers of the campground did their very best to disturb as few trees as possible when creating Fort Wilderness. This area is a surprise to most first-time visitors. They have no idea that such a peaceful spot exists on property. Groves of pine and cypress surround the campsites and roadways. Combine this with numerous canals and grassy knolls and you have the perfect spot to pitch a tent or park your RV. Fort Wilderness Campground consistently receives AAA’s Level 3 rating (their top) and Trailer Life Magazine awarded this property with a 10/10/10 rating, the highest possible.
The campground is divided into 28 loops. Some of these loops are designated for cabins, some for RVs, and some for campers and tents. Most sites are separated from one another with a barrier of bushes and trees, adding a secluded nature to the area.
The loops for RVs have concrete pads ranging in size from 25 feet to 60 feet deep and widths of up to 25 feet. Those intended for tents have a concrete pad for your car and a sandy patch in which to set up camp. All sites have electricity (120/220 volts), city water, charcoal grill, picnic table, and cable TV hookup. All but 90 sites offer full sewer hook-ups. The ones that don’t are intended for tent campers. Check-in time for campsites is 1pm and check-out at 11am.
There are a number of comfort stations located around the campground. These are clean facilities that offer toilets, showers, laundry facilities, ice, and campground information. I was especially impressed with the showers. Each shower is individual with its own, private dressing room. Unfortunately, I could not get an adequate picture of the shower and dressing room to share with you here.
The campers at Fort Wilderness love to decorate their campsites. Christmastime is especially festive with strings of multicolored lights and holiday adornments. However, Christmas isn’t the only time campers pull out all the stops. Take a look.
Pets are welcome at several of the loops at Fort Wilderness. When making your reservations, make sure to let the cast member know you will be bringing your animal family with you. While enjoying the campground, pets must remain on a leash. However, Waggin’ Trails Dog Park offers a wonderful, fenced-in grassy field where you can let Rover run free with other vacationing K9s. The dog park is located next to the playground at loop 300. A number of signs point the way so you can easily find this doggie retreat from anywhere within the campground.
For those of you who like the idea of spending some time communing with nature, but have neither an RV, camper, or tent, Disney offers the Wilderness Cabins. Introduced in 1997, these “cabins” are actually modular homes that have been given a rustic feel both inside and out. The exterior of the cabins is covered in real timbers. A deck, complete with picnic table, is accessible from both the living room and bedroom. A charcoal grill is just a few feet away. Note, there is only room for one car.
An extensive use of wood is applied to the interior of the cabins. Combine this with country furniture, “lantern” style lighting, and Native American rugs and bedspreads, and you’ve got yourself a real rustic retreat.
The cabins measure a little over 500 square feet and can sleep six, four in the bedroom (one double bed and twin bunk beds) and two on the Murphy bed in the living room.
The living room has a loveseat (that will comfortably seat two adults), a coffee table/ottoman, and a children’s table and two small chairs.
The dining area features an oval table with a bench seat and three full-sized chairs.
The kitchen has a stove/oven, microwave, full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, and a double sink. The kitchen is fully stocked with cooking utensils, pots and pans, dishes, and flatware.
The bathroom has a combination shower/tub, a sink, and toilet.
In the two closets are a vacuum cleaner, iron and board, collapsible crib, safe, stepladder, and broom.
There are two TVs, one in the living room (with DVD player) and one in the bedroom.
High-speed internet connections are available for a fee. WIFI is not available in the cabins. I do not know if Disney plans to add it in the future.
Pictures of the Living Room:
Pictures of the Dining Area:
Pictures of the Kitchen:
Pictures of the Bathroom:
Pictures of the Bedroom:
Things I like about the Wilderness Cabins:
The cabins are located at Fort Wilderness. This is fantastic! If you’re not a camper, but still want to experience the rustic appeal of this wonderful portion of Walt Disney World, the cabins are the way to go.
The kitchens and bathrooms have recently been refurbished.
The kitchens are well appointed. Just about anything you’d need to prepare a meal is here.
The Murphy bed is far easier to open and close than the convertible sofas found elsewhere on property. Since the beds use cables to counterbalance their movement, even a person with limited strength can effortlessly operate them.
What I don’t like about the Wilderness Cabins:
The cabins are advertised as “sleeps six.” I would not like to put this to the test. In the bedroom, the double bed is pushed up against the wall. If the inner sleeper needs to get up in the middle of the night, they must disturb their companion. The same is true of the Murphy bed. One side of the bed is a mere six inches from the couch when open. It is impossible to enter or exit the bed from this side.
The bathroom only has one sink. If six people were really using this cabin, two basins would be most useful.
The living room only has seating for two adults. Others must sit on the less than comfortable dining table chairs to watch TV.
Although the kitchen and bathroom have been recently refurbished, the rest of the cabin has a dingy feel about it. I realize it’s supposed to feel rustic, but the rooms at the Wilderness Lodge accomplish this with a cleaner feel.
I’m hoping this last complaint is just a misfortunate oversight rather than being indicative of the overall housekeeping provided at the cabins. During my stay, I found a number of items that should have been attended to before I arrived.
A can of beer was left in the refrigerator.
Empty bags were found in a kitchen cabinet.
The top of the refrigerator was very dusty.
A dead and dried lizard was found lying in the middle of a counter.
Would I stay at the Wilderness Cabins again?
Probably not. If I want the “home-away-from-home” feel a separate bedroom and kitchen provide, I would rent one of the DVCs found at other resorts around property. However, I’m a champagne and caviar type of guy. I’ve never really been into camping. I’m sure others love these rustic cabins and can’t imagine staying anyplace else.
I have created of video of the Fort Wilderness Cabins. This should give you a good idea of what they offer.
That’s it for Part One. Check back tomorrow when I discuss the many activities that can be found at Fort Wilderness.
27 Replies to “Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground – Part 1”
I stayed at the cabins in the mid 90’s with my parents and then again 2 years ago with my husband and our 3 kids. The second time around I was struck by just how little had changed in almost 2 decades. The cabins looked exactly as I remembered them- bedding and all! Fortunately our cabin had been cleaned well prior to our arrival, but the dated dÃ©cor and bad lighting does indeed give the place a “dingy” feel. That said, there is one “pro” the cabins offer which will keep us coming back- and that’s the separate bedroom for the kids. I love my kids like crazy, but after all the excitement of a day in the parks, it’s sooo nice to put the kids to sleep in the bedroom and have some peace and quiet to relax with my hubby. For that reason, and everything else the fort has to offer (love the ferry to MK), I would recommend the Cabins at Fort Wilderness to families travelling with children.
Our family always stays at Ft. Wilderness because 1) our 6 year (now) loves the golf carts which has become part of the tradition; 2) when you get off of the boat, you can leave the madness of the parks behind – you’re newly relaxed and the kids can enjoy the playground; 3) we enjoy our own breakfast in the morning – a slow start to the day and 4) the fried chicken can’t be beat. What you nailed is the housekeeping – it has continually proven to be the WORST around. It’s never been good for us and Disney refuses to address this which I just don’t get. But we’ll keep going back every year because it’s now a tradition we embrace.
I forgot to add, when we were there we left a loaf of bread, lunch meat, and cheese in the frige. We thought maybe the next person would want it. That way it would be thrown out. They were not used, we just bought to much.
I have been twice to the cabins at Ft. Wilderness. First time was in 08 we had 6 of us. My DH,DD,17,DDF 17,(daughters friend)DD 14,DS 5 and me. I liked the rustic feel and the spacing was not bad for us. I biggest complaint was that it was to much $$ to rent a golf cart, and that I couldn’t just walk to the loby and go shopping or get a drink. The second time was last year. All the same people minus the DDF. I had a better cabin spot(more in the center) I was more relaxed, we walked more and went to the little shop. The beauty of the place is wonderful. I love the smells and the animals all around. The People are great too, just like you said Jack.
We went in October both times and it is great to walk around the campsites and look at all the Halloween stuff. Would I go back, yes. I steellove my Wilderness Lodge type hotels too.
I stayed in the cabins at Fort Wilderness a few times with my family when I was in high school. We all loved it, and if we had to choose between Fort Wilderness and the Polynesian (the other hotel we stayed at multiple times), it would be a tough call. It is so much more peaceful than the regular resorts and the setting is beautiful. We took our golf cart to the docks and took the boat whenever we could. The bus system just wastes a lot of time, especially during peak hours. I grew up in suburban South Florida, and my siblings and I got to see deer, peafowl, rabbits and squirrels, which was a huge deal to us. I would definitely recommend it.
Great review of Fort Wilderness so far!!
We travel to “The Fort” several times a year in our little camper and LOVE being there. I’ve been going to the Fort since 2001, started in a tent, and now stay in my travel trailer.
Several folks have mentioned the clearing. This was done to remove the destructive and non-native Potato Vine that was taking over everything. It looks MUCH better than it did right after the clearing. They are reintroducing native plantlife that will create the previous privacy without the destructive vine.
We (my sister, niece, son and I) stayed in the cabins in 2002 and absolutely LOVED them. At that time there were no cleanliness issues – in fact our mousekeeping experience was one of the best we’ve had. Plus, we received towel animals every day. Our first night, returning late from Magic Kingdom, we turned up our cabin’s drive and had a lovely welcome waiting for us. The lights were on in the cabin and all of the kids’ stuffed animals, and Mickey balloons were looking out of the curtains as though anticipating our return. The kids – ages 5 & 6, were mesmerized. It was one of those Disney moments you never forget.
We also greatly enjoyed all of the wildlife at the campground. There were resident peacocks on our trail, wandering the campsites, that we thoroughly enjoyed seeing, plus bunnies, armadillos (the first we northerners had ever seen) and more bird species than I could name. One morning, when I opened the cabin curtains, there was a pileated woodpecker in the tree inches from the window!
We never minded the buses – and we were within walking distance of the pool. Also enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Trail’s End. At that time they used to bring characters to the Fort before breakfast. Also liked having the kitchen and dining area. My other sister, who lives in Orlando, was able to visit us without going into the parks. One night I cooked and another she brought Olive Garden take-out, so we were able to enjoy family time, as well as the Disney experience.
Thanks, Jack, for your review – it brought back many fond memories. We visit the Fort – if for no other reason than to see the Disney horses – every time we go to Disney! Looking forward to the next installment.
Great review of Fort Wilderness. My family of four (at the time, five now) stayed in a cabin four years ago along with my wife’s parents and had a great time. Out of all the Disney resorts, it is hands down our favorite.
While there is limited space in the cabins, we did not find them uncomfortable. Many RV’s and campers in general have limited space. We had all camped prior to staying in the cabin, so the tight quarters were not a surprise. We are all fairly easy going so being close to each other was not an issue. Now, if I had the in-laws some of my friends have, it would be a different story… 🙂
I would highly recommend renting a golf cart to anyone staying there, we did and did not regret it a bit. Waiting for the bus gets old when you want to run to the trading post or pool or parks. Make sure you reserve your golf cart in advance as they book up.
The other thing we absolutely love about Fort Wilderness is the ferry to (our favorite park) the Magic Kingdom. My kids loved the boat ride although it did put them to sleep on the way back so we had to carry them.
My family stays at the fort almost every year! Looking forward to May when we go back again for 16 nights. The beer was left as a welcome for you to the fort maybe!
Our first family trip to Disney we stayed at the cabins. It was my wife, adult brother, 5 yoa son, 6 month old daughter and myself. I like staying at a different resort each time and my first hurdle planning a trip is to convince my wife not to do the cabins again. She loved it.
Disney provides everything you need to cook and eat. They provided a Pack and Play for our daughter so we needed nothing. From our cabin the pool was close so we had access to an extra bathroom. The bus system was easy to navigate and again was close to our cabin. Probably our biggest complaint was supplies at the outpost were expensive, but that was expected. (we flew in, no car to go out to town)
For those with bigger families or those looking for a resort that gives you a break from everything Disney, this is the spot. Since that trip we have become tent campers but I couldn’t picture tent camping here. I want just a little comfort spending that much money on a vacation.
See you in August Walt!
Thanks Jack! This brings back memories of our family trip in the 80’s to Fort Wilderness!! Looking forward to Part II!!
Thanks for the review of Fort Wilderness until this year that is the only resort we have stayed in. It has always been like coming home. Thet best part of the Fort is the peace and quite that is a welcomed escape from the hussle and busle of the parks.
Thanks Jack for all the great information. My husband and I and our four children (my daughters – ages 25, 24, 21 and my son, age l8 all stayed in the cabins March, 2011. We loved it. We did not feel crowded at all. The kids all slept in the bedroom and my husband and I slept on the Murphy bed. We had no problems. I would definitely recommend staying there for a larger family. In fact my husband and I and my sister-in-law will be staying there this December. I am so looking forward to it.
Thanks, Jack, for the great review. I grew up going to the fort with my parents in the 70s & 80s. We did the travel-trailer thing. The fort sure was a wonderful place to explore as a kid. Last year, I returned to the Fort as an adult with my own kids. We stayed in the Cabins. While we thorougly enjoyed our time, I have to agree with some of your comments. The cabins looked a little worn and the lighting inside could be improved. I found several (live) lizards in and around the closet, which didn’t bother me too much. Afterall, I am invading their territory! One thing that struck me on this trip was how big the fort as gotten. To get from one end to the other seemed to take forever on the buses. I miss the open-air trams from years ago. I felt a electric cart rental was a must, especially with kids. Going to/from the pool in a bus just felt weird.
Thanks for saving me the money… I love staying in cabins in the Smoky Mountains and think my money would be better spent there, as I’m fairly local to WDW. I’ll save the cash for AKL or similar.
As always, thanks for writing!
I go camping in Fort Wilderness twice a year (April and November) and each time always notice something different. But the thing that is always the same is the beauty, peacefulness, and continuous viewing of wilderness animals. No animatronics here! Just deer, turkey, and the usual ground critters. I love every minute of it and always look forward to my next trip!
To me it doesn’t get any better than waking up and seeing deer quietly go by as you have your morning coffee. And when the sun starts setting to conclude your day, you are often visited by the same as well. The walking paths are great and I’m sure measure a few miles in length. My favorite area to walk is the connecting path to the Wilderness Lodge. This path is usually loaded with deer in the evening and the night sky can be absolutely breathtaking. I’ve had some truly wonderful times staying at The Fort. Memories that will last a lifetime.
Now… if they would only do something with the River Country area. It would be nice if it was revamped as an adventurous pool area.
I love FW.
On my last visit I noticed much of the undergrowth was removed and replaced with mulch. The sites seem less private. Do you have any insight into this?
I noticed this too. However, I have no inside knowledge as to why Disney did this. Perhaps it was for fire safety.
Thanks for another wonderful blog! I have been staying at Fort Wilderness since I was 3 (I’m almost 28 now) I agree with the previous commenter that campers are generally very friendly and outgoing. They help each other out even if they are complete strangers (fallen awnings, can’t get the fire lit, etc.) I have never stayed in the cabins, but through the years I have stayed in a pop-up camper, travel trailer, rv, and tent at fort wilderness. There isn’t anything NOT to like. For those of us who stay in the parks from open to close, we just need a place to rest our head and shower at night, and the fort offers that at a really cheap price. We have slept 9 people in one campsite before, and we all know the more money you can save when visiting Disney, the more often you can GO!!
Hi Jack! I haven’t stayed here in awhile, but I have always found it to be beautiful. I have even seen deer wandering around on MANY occasions.
The cabins are awesome. They provide a lot of space and amenities that make you feel at “home”. Everything in FW is very well layed out, and I have always enjoyed dining at Trails End. Yummy!
Myself, my wife, our then 2-year-old and my brother-in-law and two nieces stayed here in 2008.
We obviously needed accomodations for six and didn’t want to get seperate rooms. We probably should have, seeing as how the girls were teenagers. But thats a whole other blog post!
While it was a bit tight and the one sick objection you raised are spot on, we never felt too cramped at our cabin.
I personally loved it and the surrounding property of Fort Wildnerness.
I loved waking up every morning and catching the boat to the Magic Kingdom.
I would recommend these to anyone to try at least once.
Thanks for all your hard work on the blog, Jack. I look forward to them every week!
You listed a can of beer left in the refrigerator as a negative? In my mind, that’s at least a $5 value while at WDW. Bonus!
Ewww! I think I would have turned around and walked right out the door if I had seen that dead dried lizard. I am not what you would call an “outdoorsy” kind of girl. My favorite sport is shopping! That said, I have never stayed at FW, but I did visit my grandparents long ago when they brought their motorhome down and we went swimming, cooked out, etc. I also enjoyed horseback riding at FW. It truly is a beautiful resort. But due to our small children, ease of transportation is a must and FW doesn’t fit our needs. Perhaps when I am retired and have more leisure time we can reserve a site there. Thanks for another awesome blog!
Great, thorough review!
I’m much more of a deluxe resort kind of girl. Having said that, my family thoroughly enjoyed our stay in one of the cabins. My brother and his family were staying on property in their RV. Because we wanted to be close to them, we opted to stay at FW instead of one of the other properties. My father, sister, and I stayed in a cabin. We were on almost opposite ends of the property – a great distance – but still at the same resort which truly added to our enjoyment.
About the cabin: ours was immaculately clean and well stocked. I couldn’t believe how clean it was and everything was in very good shape. Our shelves in the bathroom that are empty in the photo above were stocked with extra washcloths and hand towels as well as cute Mickey & Minnie bath products. No trash, no dead animals, no dusty appliances, etc. I agree that the bathroom could use another sink for larger groups although I thought the size of the bathroom overall was pretty big. I would never put six adults in a cabin. We had two in the bedroom and one on the murphy bed. We used the bunkbeds to hold purchases, totebags, and all the other extras that you sometimes have trouble finding room for in a hotel room. (We drove so we put our empty suitcases in the trunk of our car.) We really liked being able to spread out a bit more. Although we were on the dining plan, we did keep a few things for snacks and breakfast items on hand. If there had been more of us, I would have the same issues with seating space/comfort mentioned in the article. You know what was nice? Mousekeeping does the dishes. Even if you load the dishwasher, they’ll make sure it has been ran and put the dishes away. We had all those cute washcloth/towel animals and pipecleaner flowers throughout the cabin every day. The one thing that really bugged me though – no phone in the bedroom.
It’s kind of expensive but if you have room in your budget, I strongly encourage the rental of an electric cart. You can bring your own but we rented one. It was extremely convenient. During the 10 days we were there, we got in the habit of taking a ride around the resort every evening before turning in (even when it was 1:00 AM). It was a nice way to decompress and enjoy some quiet time together. It was so nice to be able to zip over to the brother’s campsite, to the pool, to pick up packages, to run do laundry, etc. (If you get one, I strongly suggest you hang a scarf or something on yours to easily identify it. Makes it easier than reading numbers on 40 of them coming back from the park.)
The theme is much more subtle there. The roadsigns are super cute with Chip & Dale, you SEE Chip & Dale there (campfire), and there are other Disney motifs around. But I agree it isn’t quite as Disney as other resorts. Personally, I enjoyed the low key approach but that’s me.
Sorry for the longwinded comment/mini review. I just continue to be surprised at how much I enjoyed staying there.
I have never stayed at fort wilderness before but my mom’s family has when they were growing up. This blog brought back fond memories for my mom and she started talking about all the things that her and her family used to do on those trips. As for me, I do enjoy the outdoors so one day I might try this place out. Can’t wait for part 2 and as always keep up the great work.
This looks like a very nice/peaceful place to vacation; however, when I visit disney I’m looking for the “disney feel”. This seems more like a weekend in the wilderness than a weeken in the WORLD. I know some people RAVE about these cabins/campsites…but after reading this and watching the video, I don’t think I personally would enjoy it. I want the disney feel ALL around me, and it seems like the other resorts give more of that feeling.
Before judging the campground, read Part Two of my blog and watch my video of the entire resort. This might change your mind
I’ve read you’re newest blog about THE Fort. We’ve stayed there ten times and enjoy it more each time.
One of the reasons that the people staying there are so friendly is that they are all campers. Campers are generally more outgoing with each other than people that stay in hotels.
I’ve only been in the cabins to see a firend once, they’re nice, but I like my motorhome much more. In my MH everything in it is mine, because we brought it with us. And we have all of the same comforts.
I’m looking forward to part 2 of Ft. Wilderness.
Thank you for the wonderful article! My husband and I will be experiencing Fort Wilderness for the first time this fall.
We are driving down and staying two nights before we meet the rest of my family at the Boardwalk Villas. We love to tent camp and will be bringing ours with us. During our time there we are not going to any parks and just enjoying what The Fort has to offer.
I look forward to part 2!