Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is an actual campground with both campsites and cabins at Walt Disney World. This review features photos of the both, the dining options and other amenities, and thoughts on the experience of staying at Fort Wilderness.
The overhaul of the Fort Wilderness Cabins is entirely complete (we’ll get to that below). We’ve stayed at Fort Wilderness several times, and this review covers our experiences over the course of our vacations at Fort Wilderness, mostly in anecdotal form.
Update: As of September 20, 2017, Fort Wilderness Campground has finally reopened after Hurricane Irma. The rest of Walt Disney World reopened over a week ago following the storm, but mature tree damage at Fort Wilderness was pretty extensive, and took longer than anticipated to reopen. Either way, we’re glad to see ‘The Fort’ once again welcoming guests, and we are already looking forward to our next visit. Now, on with your regularly scheduled review…
Fort Wilderness really is an experience, one that feels unlike any other resort at Walt Disney World. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t realize you were just outside of a theme park. Not only is the “resort” isolated from the rest of Walt Disney World, but it’s also largely untouched and under-developed. It also offers a wealth of outdoor recreational activities and perks you won’t find anywhere else at Walt Disney World. With that said, Fort Wilderness definitely is not for everyone…
When I was young, my parents and I used to stay at Fort Wilderness in our camper. The few memories that I could recall from Fort Wilderness are good ones. I remember getting a Dale (dressed in his Chip ‘N’ Dale Hawaiian shirt) plush on one of our first trips there at the Outpost, going to the Hoop De Doo Revue a couple of times, and swimming at River Country, but that’s about it. However, I hadn’t even visited there in roughly 15 years prior to booking a return trip.
When Sarah and I first stayed at Fort Wilderness, we didn’t book it because of my fond memories, but rather, for lack of a better option. By the time we went to book a room, none of the Value Resorts had discounted rooms, and for only $20 more per night, we could do a Fort Wilderness Cabin. Why not, we thought?
My biggest concern initially was the internal bus routes at Fort Wilderness, as we have heard that they can make getting to and from Walt Disney World’s theme parks a pain. After that first trip, I reported back that my concerns were unfounded…
After subsequent stays at Fort Wilderness (and visits there to eat), I think it’s a bit more complicated and at least in part depends upon where you’re staying within the resort, to which park you’re headed, and when you return.
During our most recent stay at the Fort Wilderness Cabins, we were reminded of how frustrating its transportation can be. There are 3 internal bus routes that deliver guests to the front and back of the the resort, with buses departing from the front to take guests to the parks, and boats departing from the back (Settlement) to take guests to Magic Kingdom (and other Bay Lake resorts).
This might not seem bad as a twice-per-day thing, but the resort is so spread out that a bus is also necessary if you want to eat, shop, or swim. The internal bus route is about as efficient as it can be, and although it can be a bit quirky and initially confusing, it gets the job done. Over the course of a week-long trip, though, that extra time can add up–and can get old.
However, this is the price you pay for the seclusion Fort Wilderness offers: it’s a necessary evil if you want this level of spaciousness and seclusion. I don’t think it’s possible to have it both ways, and given the situation, the Fort Wilderness bus routes are very workable. With that said, the spread out nature of the resort is also why so many Fort Wilderness guests rent golf carts.
Likewise, the marina transportation was quick and enjoyable. The smaller boats that transported guests to the Contemporary and Magic Kingdom showed up promptly and provided an enjoyable and unique method of getting from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom.
Taking a boat from Fort Wilderness is such a great and relaxing form of transportation. Although it’s not technically an “attraction,” this is one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World.
The entertainment and recreational offerings at Fort Wilderness are robust. I’d say the daily slate of entertainment at Fort Wilderness is better than any other resort at Walt Disney World. There are numerous paid offerings, from fishing to archery classes to boating, and more.
There’s also a lot you can do for free. From nature trails to the Electrical Water Pageant to campfires (I’m probably forgetting a lot), there’s a ton to do. Most notable among these is Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along, which is a nightly campfire show that occurs at 7 or 8 p.m., depending upon the season.
There’s also the petting zoo at the Tri-Circle-D ranch, and the Settlement Trading Post, which sells is your typical gift shop/grocery location.
If you’re looking to rent a recreational option, the Meadows Recreation Area has a bike barn and the Fort Wilderness waterways and bicycle trails. You can also swim, and play tennis or volleyball at the complex.
Fort Wilderness also contains one of the hidden gems of Walt Disney World: Trail’s End Restaurant. This is an all-you-cant eat (although it has tested an a la carte menu at times) cafeteria found in Pioneer Hall. We already have reviews of the Trail’s End Breakfast Buffet and the Trail’s End Dinner Buffet, and we’re working on one for brunch (spoiler: like the other meals, it’s also awesome).
The cabins were recently overhauled, and we have a comprehensive look at what was changed–including improvements and downgrades–in our new Cabins at Fort Wilderness Review. Suffice to say, these cabins feature a full kitchen, living room (that doubles as a bedroom), and bedroom with queen bed and bunkbeds.
The cabins sleep 6 plus infants in a crib, but sleeping 6 adults comfortably would be quite a feat. Uncomfortably, you could probably sleep 8 people in one of these bad boys.
I’m not really sure what to say about the camp-sites, other than “they exist.” Actually, there’s quite a bit more to know. There are roughly 800 campsites at Fort Wilderness spread out across 20 loops. These campsites are secluded from one another by an overgrowth of brush and trees.
Campsites are back-ins with a combination of paved driveway and sandy pad. Each site is ~25 feet wide and includes a picnic table, charcoal grill, electricity, and water hookups. There are four categories of campsites at Fort Wilderness: premium (big rig-friendly), preferred (better location), full-hookup (includes sewer), and partial (ideal for tents).
There are 15 comfort stations located throughout Fort Wilderness Campground. Some loops have their own comfort station and some of the smaller loops share a centrally located station. They’re all relatively convenient to access.
One final note on the campground front: at Christmas-time, campers go wild decorating their campsites and golf carts at Fort Wilderness with all sorts of displays. (Hence the above photo, which otherwise might seem random.) It’s pretty cool to see, even if you’re not staying at Fort Wilderness.
One of my favorite things to do at Fort Wilderness is get up early and walk to the marina (no matter where we’re staying) to watch the sunrise. This early morning walk of the resort is a great experience, and really made me appreciate the place all the more. It’s so tranquil and undeveloped, and in many ways, still retains a lot of the charm of old school Walt Disney World.
It’s almost as if Fort Wilderness Campground is “off the grid” and hasn’t been victim to as many of the changes made that have sanitized and made some of the other original ‘Vacation Kingdom of the World’ resorts less endearing.
While I would definitely stay at Fort Wilderness again soon at the opportunity, it’s definitely someplace where we’ll stay when we have kids. I look forward to our kids enjoying playing at the playground, fishing, and enjoying other things like the Campfire Sing Along with Chip & Dale.
To me, it seems Fort Wilderness offers more for young children to explore than many of the other resorts at which we stayed. In an era when entertainment for kids primarily occurs in front of an LCD screen, Fort Wilderness is a breath of fresh air.
Overall, Fort Wilderness Campground is a breath of fresh air if you’re looking for somewhere at Walt Disney World that is totally different and lacking the same amount of hustle and bustle as the theme parks. If you want somewhere to stay that will balance out the chaos of the theme parks, or if you just want to get in touch with nature, Fort Wilderness is an exceptional option. The amenities and entertainment are wonderful, cabins are really well done, and camping at Walt Disney World is a unique experience. My only real quibble is the transportation system, but even that is about as good as it can be considering the nature of the resort. I would not hesitate to book a stay at Fort Wilderness if a more rustic setting appeals to your party. It’s unlike anywhere else at Walt Disney World, and is a great way to shout SERENITY NOW! and get away from it all.
Not sure which Walt Disney World hotel is right for you? Check out our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page, which offers quick-hit capsule reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of every Walt Disney World hotel, plus links to our reviews and photo pages for every hotel we have reviewed. Looking for comprehensive Walt Disney World vacation tips? Make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
What do you think of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort? Have you stayed in a cabin at Fort Wilderness? What about one of the campsites? Have any tips in terms of entertainment, dining, or recreation at Fort Wilderness? Are you a “Fort Fiend” or is Fort Wilderness not your style? Any questions? Hearing from readers is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments below!