Orlando might not have an ocean, but it sure has some mighty-fine waterways. Central Florida’s unique environment and ecosystem are fueled by the ever-flowing upwelling of natural, freshwater springs that bubble up from below the earth’s surface. First discovered by Florida’s Native American Indians, these aquatic phenomena keep a constant cool temperature year-round and continue to provide refreshing recreation for visitors who seek the simple life of relaxing along the river with a drink in hand.
One of the most popular spots for people who paddle, boat or simply enjoy lazing by a river is Wekiva Island. Here the unique ecosystem of this spring-fed river offers guests tons of great activities to enjoy some fun in the sun or a swim in the springs. Here’s a list of our favorite things that make Wekiva Island Orlando’s Riviera.
Boardwalk With Adirondack Chairs
What sets Wekiva Island apart from its nearby neighbor Wekiwa Springs State Park is the winding wooden boardwalk along the Wekiva River and Sweetwater Canal. Here guests can lounge in wooden Adirondack chairs placed along the water’s edge that can be moved and arranged to create intimate seating for your group.
What better way to cool off than to jump in a river that remains a constant 72 degrees all year? Guests are welcome to enjoy swimming along the boardwalk area or in other designated swimming locations along the river. Flotation devices are available for rent but outside floats are welcome, however large floats will be charged a small fee. This pet-friendly park is also a great place to bring your pooch for a fun swim.
The Tooting Otter
A favorite local gathering spot on the river, The Tooting Otter is Wekiva Island’s outdoor and indoor bar where you can relax with drinks on the water or cool off in the AC and enjoy their newly renovated craft-beer and wine bar inside. Choose from a comprehensive menu of craft and domestic beer, wine, soda, water, snacks and delicious food items like fresh mahi tacos and shrimp po’boys are always readily available.
Canoes, Kayaks, Paddleboards and Boat Launch
Wekiva Island is one of the best destinations in Central Florida for paddling water sports. Perfect for advanced paddlers with their own equipment as well as total beginners, paddling here is as easy as putting in and taking off. Canoeing is one of the most-popular water activities at Wekiva Island, with more than 100 two to three-person canoes available for rent at your convenience. Kayaking is a good option for those looking for an intense workout or others who want a leisurely cruise. Paddleboarding has quickly become an exciting and favored water activity at Wekiva Island where guests can test their balance as they explore the river at their own pace with this standup sport. The Island’s boat ramp is available for launching your own personal canoes, kayaks or motorboats (up to a 25-horsepower maximum) for a small fee.
When the summer Central Florida sun is hot, cool off by renting one of Wekiva Island’s signature river-banas (a cabana on the river). Spend the day in the shade of a private retreat on the river equipped with comfortable couches and rocking chairs. Cabinets and ice chests are also available. With several different sizes to choose from, you’ll be able to find the cabana for your family. Be advised: these sell out on the weekends from March to September so it is highly recommended to book early.
The clear water of the Wekiva River flows directly from the Florida aquifer and into the surrounding wetlands and uplands. These conservation areas have adapted to host a diverse variety of plants and animals, including many protected species. As you visit Wekiva Island and travel along the river, you have the opportunity to witness turtles, alligator, otters, bears, deer and even the occasional monkey in addition to a large range of bird species.
Wekiva Island is determined to help reduce its carbon footprint and be a part of helping decrease risks associated with climate change. All new buildings, developments and major renovations at Wekiva Island are designed to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emitting, energy-consumption performance standard. When you visit, look around for additional examples of green technology. These include rainwater collection cisterns, re-used material, solar hot water, solar electric generation, low-flow and dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals and native landscaping.