Food, drinks, games and a day of fun in the sun is exactly what your next family vacation needs. From swimming and paddling, to lounging by the cool waters of a river, Wekiva Island has something for everybody. Springs are one of the best ways for kids to have fun within nature and one of the many things to do for kids in the Orlando area.
So take a break from the devices and head to this holiday paradise to unwind and party, Florida-style. Read on to learn exactly how to embrace the Sunshine State of mind, because you are definitely not going to want to leave once you arrive!
Where is Wekiva Island?
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Drive northwest from downtown Orlando for about 30 minutes to get to this Central Florida Eden. Located at 1014 Miami Springs Drive in Longwood, make sure your map is guiding you to “Wekiva Island” and not the close by “Wekiva Springs.” This is because they are a separate private area, and are not associated with any parks.
This man-made, privately owned ecohaven on the Wekiva River is about 1.5 miles from the Wekiwa Springs State Park. From the headwaters of the Wekiva River originates the Wekiva Springs, a glorious natural respite from the heat of summer.
Parking fills up pretty quick, so set an alarm so you can get there nice and early. And remember that guests can not enter on foot unless they live in the vicinity and have ID to prove so. But if you are going to shuttle using the river, you can park at Wekiva Island for $25, but make sure you remove it by closing time.
Quick tips: Consider renting a cabana as they come with 2 reserved parking spots. You can save more on both money and fuel by carpooling as well.
What is Wekiva Island?
Formerly known as Wekiva Marina, this beautiful spot was first known to be a fish camp in the 1960s and even served as a famous set for the Johnny Tiger movie. The place was truly an iconic landmark till the bar was unfortunately razed to the ground in 1999 because of an accidental fire.
The Weinaug family later bought Wekiva Island in 2008 and brought it back to life, transforming it into the perfect green getaway it is today. Perfect for both adults and kids alike, Wekiva Island is a 2,000 sq.ft. private retreat that is surrounded by water from the Wekiva River and a short canal too.
From solar energy panels, recycling bins, educational signage to fresh art on the walls, this family-owned and operated business makes it clear that it is rooted in three core principles: art, education and sustainability. In fact, their current goal is to be fully carbon-neutral by 2030.
What Are The Opening Times For Wekiva Island?
During the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day), Wekiva Island hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on all days except Friday and Saturday (till 11 p.m.). In fall and winter, it stays open between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays to Thursdays, and on Fridays and Saturdays it stays open till 10 p.m. Note that Wekiva Island does close earlier at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
How Busy Is Wekiva Island?
If you really want to relax and enjoy the Florida sunshine, you’ll be better off skipping the weekends and popping by on weekdays instead. There will likely be far fewer people, allowing your family the space it needs to get some quality R&R. As a general rule of thumb, freshwater springs in Central Florida are usually pretty busy during the summer. Wekiva Island is no exception, and fills up by 10 a.m. Beat the crowds by getting there as early as possible!
Once a year during wintertime, Wekiva Island hosts their Winter Wonderland event that is complete with a visit from Santa, a Christmas Movie screening, story time with Mrs. Claus, Wekiva River sleigh rides and more. So come celebrate the holiday in style, and keep track of other upcoming events through Wekiva Island’s official website to plan your trip accordingly. The website also displays a super useful real-time capacity meter on all days of the year to help visitors see how full the island is before arriving.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Wekiva Island?
The answer to that question depends on everything you want to do while there! Your first option is to keep it simple and spend most of your visit enjoying the natural wonders of Orlando without doing anything else. You can do this for a mere $2 per person insurance fee upon entry.
Wekiva Island canoe rentals are usually charged on a per day or half-day basis. While they are available all day long, they tend to cost more before noon and are found to be cheapest to rent post 4 p.m. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the clock as rentals need to be returned latest by 6 p.m.
Canoe, kayak and SUP prices range from $35 to $50 per vessel. However, you can always cut costs by bringing your own, because the launch fee is only $10 on weekdays and $20 on weekends. As rentals are on a first-come-first serve basis, it makes sense to save time by filling out the waivers on their website beforehand.
If you wish to have a dedicated space to escape from the sun, rent one of the ten cabanas offered on site. The Wekiva Island cabana rental costs depend on when you are visiting, weekdays are easier on the pocket for sure. The rental rates can go from $130 for 6-10 people to $280 for a group of 12-20. They sell out pretty quick, so booking them online is definitely recommended! You can also reserve the beach volleyball court, or rent an event space in advance for some quality time if the extended family and friends are vacationing together.
While there is no Wekiva Island camping ground, a 10 minute car ride will get you to Wekiwa Springs State Park. Costs are $30 per night onward and include onsite amenities like water and electricity.
What is the water temperature at Wekiva Island?
A 72 degree water temperature all year long is what makes Wekiva River the place to be during the summer. The slow moving river is perfect for a nice long dip when kids want to cool down after chasing each other about. While teenagers might prefer paddling to burn off extra energy, younger kids will enjoy racing each other in the water with their floaties. Just a quick reminder that large floats might be charged additionally.
Note that swimming is advised only along the boardwalk area and the designated swimming sections along the site. Also, there are no lifeguards at Wekiva Island, so it’s up to parents to keep a watchful eye on their kids.
Can You Tube At Wekiva Island?
Tubing is the perfect way to introduce your kids to the joy of simply floating about. And if your child is old enough to swim alone, they’re old enough to enjoy the float. It will take them a little while to get the hang of it and to start to really enjoy it, but they’re sure to be having a blast in no time! In fact, families flock year after year to lounge under the sun in the cool waters of the Wekiva River.
While the river has no designated run, visitors are more than welcome to tube along the river in the assigned swimming area. Note that you will have to bring your own tubes as there are no rental options available.
Are There Alligators At Wekiva Island?
Floridan waters are home to gators, and the Wekiva river is no exception. While the designated swimming areas are safer, swimming into the river grass is an absolute no go. As always in Florida, keep an eye out.
The golden rule is to “stay away from the weeds,” as the marshes and lily-pads are where alligators and snakes reside.
Wekiva Island Campground Information
There are no provisions for camping at Wekiva Island, but worry not; Wekiwa Springs State Park is only 2.6 miles away, and there are many camping options to choose from.
First-time campers have 60 fully-equipped campgrounds to choose from, with a fire pit and grill, picnic tables, restrooms and water and electricity services. Pick between backpack camping, youth camping, horse camping, canoe camping and group camping, and have a great time exploring Florida’s great outdoors!
Things To Do At Wekiva Island With Kids
Paddling in the Wekiva River
Exploring Florida by kayak or paddle board is great fun, but the most preferred activity here is Wekiva Island canoeing. Paddle upstream for 35-40 minutes to reach Wekiwa Springs State Park, pay the $2 fee, park your vessel and enjoy the springs. For a longer adventure, take a right at the fork and head to Rock Springs. Vessels come with safety life vests along with paddles.
Take advantage of Wekiva Island’s collaboration with Paddleboard Orlando, and offer your little ones insight into Florida’s wildlife, where they will get to learn how to spot local birds, deer, and even gators!
Sometimes, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing! So sprawl out on the boardwalk, work on your tan and finally get around to listening to that old playlist of yours as you unwind. Kids can spend time building sandcastles, bird watching, or running about.
Wekiva Island Cabanas
Lean back in Adirondack chairs, lounge on the comfy couch, and order food and drinks straight to your reserved cabana. Wekiva Island cabana rentals allow you to bring in food and non-alcoholic beverages, so you can feel free to eat to your heart’s content, especially the BBQ from the grill! And when it gets too warm, you’ll be so grateful for the provided ice cooler. Popular with large groups, the river-facing cabanas are the best spot for private moments and making memories worth a lifetime.
Share ghost stories on Firepit Fridays
Wekiva Island’s themed dinners are the perfect opportunity to gather around and share scary stories over some yummy smores. These events really are the best way to unwind after a long day of fun on the island.
Get Your Art On
Take your kids on a quick tour of all things art at the gallery CERO, which features pieces from locals and artists from across the world. The week-long Wekiva Paint Out event in spring celebrates the plein air art of Wekiva Springs locals who paint at the boardwalk in Wekiva Island, along the Wekiwa Springs State Park trails, and even in canoes on the Wekiva River.
Home School Program
9-14 year olds get to learn all about nature in half day or two-day activities which incorporate immersive learning with exploratory field trips. Registration usually begins between January and February, and again between October and November, so check the website for updates.
For some good old fashioned American fun, toss a frisbee or play a game of cornhole with younger children. You might even enjoy a friendly game of volleyball with your teens. Winner gets bragging rights for a year – obviously!
Eat, Drink and Make Merry
Wekiva Island’s bar, the Tooting Otter has a wide range of snacks, drinks and meals to choose from. And if you stay till 5-7 p.m., you can sample their craft beer and wine on discount at happy hour. If you’re looking for more of a quick bite, Without a Paddle Cafe, the onsite food truck, will keep your bellies full with local specialties like beef brisket and gator tacos.
Fishing and Boating
Bring a valid fishing license along with your bait and tackle, and let your kids try their luck in the river. Reminder: Fishing from the dock is not allowed.
Family Tips For Wekiva Island
- Pack a bag with summer essentials like medicine, sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray, and hats.
- If you are going paddling, carry your valuables in sealed plastic baggies to keep them safe. A good GPS, a picture book on nature and wildlife, and tons of patience are some tools you’ll want to bring along with you on the river.
- Energy efficient restrooms which conserve water are available round the clock for a quick change out of those wet clothes. Carry a separate leak-proof bag to store swimwear.
- Noodles, floaties and tubes all run on air, so carry an air pump if you are bringing your own inflatables.
- Note that coolers aren’t allowed on Wekiva Island unless you are setting out on a canoe, kayak or paddleboard, or have rented a cabana. If none of these apply to you, you will have to opt for food from the food truck.
- Carrying alcohol is strictly prohibited both on Wekiva Island and the river. Coolers will be checked and you will be asked to leave if you break this rule.
- If you find that you have forgotten something at home, don’t fret, because the General Store will probably have what you need. It also has tons of goodies and souvenirs to take home!
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