Wekiwa State Park in Orlando
We really do love Disney
Fay and I have lived in Orlando for over 30 years. We have certainly spent enough time at Disneyworld and the theme parks to last a lifetime. In fact, for years we would purchase an annual "after 4:00 Florida Residents Epcot pass" that would allow us unlimited evening visits year round.
The park admission was a great value, particularly because we got to attend concerts by famous old rock and roll bands in the spring and fall. Unfortunately, the thing we tended to overlook was how much money we spent on food and drinks every time we went. No question that even though we got the Florida resident discount, Disney always managed to make a good profit off us too! All-in-all though, it was well worth it to be able to experience such a fantastic place whenever we wanted.
Disney's Fort Wilderness (photo by Chris Bona)
Disney's Fort Wilderness is wonderful!
When we started camping, we had no idea what we were doing, so we decided that camping at Disney would likely be a safe bet. I'm mean if anybody could make it foolproof it would have to be them. So our for our first time out (which was with a tent) we headed to Fort Wilderness at Disneyworld.
What an incredible place! It was so clean and so perfect. They had thought of everything, and obviously, there was no shortage of things to do. We were certainly camping, in the woods, with nature and wild animals around us. But like I said, it was just so perfect. The bathhouse was air-conditioned. A shuttle bus would even come by and drive you are around so you didn't have to "hike" too far. But the armadillos around our campsite...we still wonder if they were real or animatronics!
Wekiwa Springs State Park in Orlando
A bit of "Real Florida"
...Before the arrival of the first roller coaster!
While we loved our experience at Fort Wilderness (and I'd certainly recommend it for anyone that's a big Disney fan), we eventually were ready to move onto something a bit more natural. We found that there were a lot of campgrounds around Central Florida, including some great state and county parks.
So when it comes to Orlando campgrounds, there is one that has certainly become our favorite. It's on the north end of town, the opposite end from Disney, the other theme parks, and all the massive tourist destinations (and tourist traps!). It's Wekiwa Springs State Park, located between the local communities of Longwood and Apopka.
While it's a great place, it's not too perfect. The habitat is all natural and allows you to experience real Florida, not all the man-made attractions that Orlando is famous for.
The trees have been there for hundreds of years, nothing newly planted. There are no shuttle buses...you get to hike through the woods The bathhouses are nice, but not air-conditioned. And the raccoons around your campsite will definitely eat any food you leave out.
The central feature of the park is Wekiwa Springs. It's a natural Florida spring with a large swimming area, that feeds the Wekiva River (yes..that's not a typo...the springs is spelled with a "w", and the river with a "v".). The water is crystal clear and full of fish and other water creatures. Probably one of our favorite activities is canoeing down the river and experiencing natural Florida at it's finest.
Wekiwa State Park...our favorite of the Orlando campgrounds
Fay and I have written a review of the campground here on my website. Like most of our reviews, there are several photos (including ones of the bathhouse should you want to use it). For additional information about the park, simply go to Google and search for it.
I certainly don't want to discourage you from visiting the tourist attractions in Orlando. No question that they are among the finest in the world. Wekiwa State Park, however, gives you a chance to experience real Florida, as it was before humans ever set foot here (or rode the first roller coaster!).
Be sure to drop me a note if you have any questions.