Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fort Wilderness: Camping at Walt Disney World

Campground Overview

Fort Wilderness Campground at Walt Disney World in Orlando is one of the highest rated campgrounds by RVers.   In the past, I have stayed in cabins at Ft. Wilderness, but this time had the pleasure of giving it a try in our new motorhome.

When we retire, we'll probably be staying several weeks each year at Ft. Wilderness because most of our family lives in Orlando.  Knowing this, we have not only stayed there a couple of times in cabins, but we've strapped the bikes on the car and driven out there just to explore.  Our house, soon to be sold, is only 35 minutes from its gate.

Fort Wilderness sits on WDW property between the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.  There's a hotel nearby called the Wilderness Lodge.  You can take boats from the campground to the Lodge and the Contemporary Hotel, and to some of the parks.  When you hop on the boat at FWC, you'll either go to the Lodge, Contemporary and back to FWC or directly to the Contemporary.  Each leg is about 10 minutes.

Once at the Contemporary Hotel, you can hop on the monorails and pick your way to EPCOT or ride directly to the Polynesian and Grand Floridian hotels, the Transportation Center, or the Magic Kingdom.

Buses run like clockwork through the Campground and will take you just about anywhere on Disney property.  They are clean, have stops close to the campground areas, and best of all - they are free.

When you arrive at FWC, you'll spend about 10 minutes checking in.  You pull up to a building in your RV, take care of the paperwork and then begin your drive into the campground itself.   Soon after leaving the front area, there's a pull-off where you can "un-hitch" your toad before heading to your site.

Fort Wilderness Campground is divided into several camping "loops".  Each loop is numbered by hundreds:  the "200" loop, the "1100" loop, etc.  Many of the loops have a variety of site sizes.  Premium sites are usually larger and cable TV is included.

There are two pools on-site.  The smaller one is situated near the cabins to the left as you enter the campground.  The larger pool, which has several water features and a snack bar, is behind the first of two "Trading Posts" and is located in the middle of the campground.   Both pools are heated.  When we were there, the small pool was 83 degrees when the air temperature was in the 50's.

Also behind the largest Trading Post (in the campground's center near the large pool) is the outdoor movie area, where Disney movies are shown every night after some live entertainment with Chip n' Dale characters and a fire to make s'mores and roast marshmallows.

At the back of the campground is the beach area, which really backs up to a large lake with canals to the various parks and the docks for the boats.  Before you get to the docks is another Trading Post on your right.  To your left is Trail's End, a buffet restaurant that serves three meals every day.  Next to the restaurant is the Hoop Dee Doo Review, a live western-themed show that also offers up some southern food.  It's best to have reservations for all of the restaurants whenever possible.

There are also places to ride horses at the campground, and there's a pavilion behind Trail's End that seasonally operates Mickey's Backyard BBQ.  It offers food, live country music and even line dancing.

To get around, you'll need to walk or have bikes or a golf cart.  You can park one car by your RV if you have a large site and there are about 4 or 5 car spaces at the Meadow's Trading Post.  Other than that, car parking is non-existent in the campground itself.  There's a large parking lot at the entrance, though, and plenty of busses that will take you to stations throughout the campground.  If you are staying for a while, you'll really appreciate having a golf cart.  They rent for about $60/day, though.

RV Sites

The loops containing RV sites are accessed from the main roads in the campground.  Everything is paved, and sites are either asphalt or concrete.  The roads in the loops are tight, but you'll have no problem getting a big rig through as long as no one has poorly parked their toad or someone is otherwise blocking the way.

Although the sites are close, it doesn't feel tight.  The entire campground is extremely well landscaped.  When we looked out our RV's windows, we saw almost nothing but trees.  Very, very nice.

Because of the way they angled the sites, backing in is not too difficult.  You may find that you're coming very close to some trees, but as long as you pull up to the right spot before backing, you'll do fine.  As you face a site from the street, they have placed extra pavement to the site/street corner to your left - providing ample room to manipulate a larger motorhome.  Most of the loops have staggered sites, so that your "driveway" isn't directly across from another one.  While you may not have to dodge a car in front of you, you still have to be careful about the garbage and recycle containers that are generously spread throughout each loop.

We stayed at a premium site that was about $85 per night.  Expensive, yes.  But there was plenty to do without leaving the campground, the site was nice, and we had 50-amp service with full-hookups.  There was also great cable TV with many digital HD stations and a lot of specialty Disney programming, including park guides and a generous helping of cartoons for the kiddies.

When you check in, you're given a waterproof wristband that has your account number encoded so that you can make purchases on WDW property without carrying around your credit card.

A fun thing about the sites and camping at FWC is that a lot of the campers decorate their sites with holiday decorations or just a lot of Disney memorabilia.  We always enjoy hopping in a golf cart at night and just riding around looking at sites.

Camp Fires

Fort Wilderness is pretty strict when it comes to what kind of campfires you can have at your site.  Take a look at this paper that explains your options.

Tips for staying at Fort Wilderness Campground

  1. Reservations!  It is Walt Disney World, after all.  You'll want reservations for anything that offers them.  This applies to the site itself, as far in advance as you know your plans, to every restaurant and even the golf carts.
  2. If you're taking children, bring your own ingredients and tools to roast marshmallows and make s'mores.  They sell them at the outdoor theater, but you'll pay Disney prices for everything.
  3. Plan to get a golf cart if you're staying for any length of time.  It's places like this that are driving me to buying one of my own.
  4. Be sure to go to some of the nearby restaurants that are easily accessible by boat and monorail.  The Contemporary Hotel has a great character buffet (Chef Mickey's) and there are nice restaurants at the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian.
  5. Checkout is at 11. Someone was there to clean our site as we pulled out about 11:10.  Check in is at 1pm, but you can get there a little early and probably have a good chance to go ahead and get into your site. 
  6. It costs more of course, but they have a limited number of 6-seater golf carts if you need them.

What we did

We arrived at Fort Wilderness about 12:30p on a Sunday in mid-January.  We were with another RVer and had told them at reservation time that we'd like to be near each other if possible.  We were assigned spots next to each other in the 1100 loop, which is the first loop to the left as you enter the campground.

We had made reservations for two restaurants:  Trail's End and Chef Mickey's.  The food at both was really good, but Chef Mickey's is expensive ($40 for an adult) and they were running 30 minutes late when we got there for our 1pm reservation on a Monday.

We rented golf carts and, as in the past, were glad we did.  We went out one night looking at decorations and  saw a lot of Christmas decorations still up even though it was three weeks into January.  We have read and talked to people about camper (and Disney-employees) having golf cart parades, with decorated carts, at Halloween and Christmas.

Our grandkids had a lot of fun running around the site, playing in a small tent by the RV, going to make s'mores and visiting the beach one night when the fireworks went up at 8pm.  They loved Chef Mickey's with all of the characters that stopped by our table for pictures and enjoyed the boat ride to and from the Contemporary.

Fort Wilderness Campground is a clean, beautiful place with a lot to see and do.  It's expensive, though.  We'll be back for sure.  I just don't know how practical it would be to stay there for a long time given the cost.


  1. Hope you know about the ultimate site for Fort Wilderness and all things Disney. You could be a member and I don't recognize you by name, but it's a great site with great people.

    Ray Adams Board name: southernview -- Ray

    1. Thanks, Ray! We had never seen that site, but it looks like it's a good one.