As mentioned in our Overview, Fort Wilderness is very large and just getting around can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are many options to get to, from, and around the fort. Let’s run through all of the assorted possibilities.
Getting into the Resort
Let’s start with your arrival. While there is a back way to get to the resort, we generally like to see the big Disney World welcome sign so we drive a little further to make sure we come up World Drive. When we get to the Magic Kingdom parking booths, we stay to the right (the lanes are labeled for resort guests) and then just tell them we are going to Fort Wilderness – in case the big camper we are towing did not make it clear. Fort Wilderness is on Vista Drive which is your first right past the parking booth and Fort Wilderness is a little ways down on the left.
On your first day, you will likely go through the main entrance. There is a security station where you will need to present an ID. If you are camping, you will be directed to the Reception Outpost drive through to check-in from your vehicle. From there you can proceed to your site. If you are staying in a cabin, you will be sent to the parking lot where you will walk into the Reception Outpost Wilderness Homes building. Either way, a cast member will provide you with everything you need to get your vacation started.
Depending on when you arrive, they may not yet have a site for you. In that case you will be directed to the stand-by lot where you can park your vehicle while you get started on your fun. They have a lot of pull through spaces for RVs. During one of our trips these lots were full, but there was a grassy overflow area just outside the gate that we were able to park in. Once your site is available, you will get a text and then you can proceed directly to your site.
Once you have checked-in, you no longer have to use the main entrance if you leave and return. There is a side entrance where you can scan your magic band to open the gate. Usually you do not need to actually touch your band to the Mickey. Just get as close as you can and it will read it. The picture below shows where this gate is in relation to the main resort entrance.
- The blue circle is the main entrance on Vista Blvd
- The red circle is the overflow lot
- The yellow line shows how to get to the side entrance from the main gate
There are several other things we like to do in Orlando so we usually find ourselves leaving and returning several times. Using the side entrance is very helpful.
After getting settled, you will no doubt want to explore the resort. Be aware that there are only 3 places to park a car/truck/van at Fort Wilderness.
- The Reception Outpost parking lot
- Your site/cabin
- Two 15-minute parking spaces at the Meadow Trading Post
If you want to go anywhere else in the campground, you will need to use a method other than your vehicle.
The method we use most often is to walk. We generally stay in the preferred loops so we are close to the transportation, including the marina, as well as the Settlement Trading Post. The Meadow Trading Post and pool are also not too far.
If you have bikes, they are a great way to get around. There are sidewalks along all of the main roads throughout the resort. There are also bike racks at key locations such as the trading posts and the pool. No bikes are allowed in the area in front of the Trails End and Pioneer Hall, but other than that you can get pretty much anywhere on 2 wheels. There is also a very nice paved trail that connects Fort Wilderness to the Wilderness Lodge.
If you did not bring your own bikes, they can be rented from the bike barn near the Meadow Trading Post. They rent them by the hour and the day. We are not sure if you can rent them for multiple days without returning them.
What might be the most common method to get around is to bring or rent a golf cart. If you are staying in one of the more secluded loops, this may be a good option. There is parking for them near the marina, the Pioneer Hall, the Outpost, and the pool. One issue we have with the carts is that it can get very congested when a large group is trying to leave these parking areas after the fireworks or when the Hoop Dee Doo is over. We have never rented one ourselves, but we have seen the chaos and have, thus far, avoided it.
Finally, there is the official Disney Bus Transportation. There are three routes within the campground – Yellow, Orange, and Purple. Each route serves different loops and will usually have 2 buses running. The sign board on the bus will indicate the color of the route as well as whether it is going to the Outpost or the Settlement. Get on whichever is heading in the direction you need. During the day, there are rarely any crowds at the bus stops and few people on the buses themselves. We have found the bus drivers to be among the friendliest at Disney. They usually ask where you are going so that they know where to stop and they are willing to patiently answer any questions you have.
The bus transportation is actually the slowest method of getting around. We are generally not in a hurry so we will wait the 10-15 minutes for a bus when we do not feel like walking.
It is possible to spend your entire vacation within the confines of Fort Wilderness and never get bored, but most will venture out into the world. As with getting around internally, there are a few options for getting where you need to go.
There are two boat routes from Fort Wilderness. The first route is a loop that links Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, and the Contemporary. There are two boats on this route. One runs clockwise and the other counterclockwise. The skipper will tell you where they are going next. If both boats arrive at about the same time, make sure you get on the one whose next stop is where you want to go.
The second route runs directly to/from the Magic Kingdom all day. For most of the day, this is the only Disney transportation between Fort Wilderness and the Magic Kingdom. See the section on the bus transportation for the only exception to this.
Buses for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all leave from the Outpost Bus Depot. Likely the quickest method to get there is to take an internal bus that is heading to the Outpost. Once there, you can view the monitor that shows the estimated time when the next bus will arrive for each destination. There are no queues for the different destinations. When a bus arrives, it is basically a mob. You will need to jockey for position and make sure you get a place. Nothing prevents someone that just showed up from getting on the bus before those that have been waiting a while — other than a sense of honor. We have not yet done rope drop from Fort Wilderness via the buses so we are not sure if there are cast members around to keep order during the busier times.
We mentioned earlier how the boat is the only way to get to the Magic Kingdom from Fort Wilderness. There is one exception to this. Between about 3pm and 9pm, there is a bus that runs between the Magic Kingdom and Fort Wilderness. This is so that people going to the Hoop Dee Doo from other resorts have a way to get to Fort Wilderness – via transfer at the Magic Kingdom. Be aware that this special bus departs from the Settlement Depot NOT the Outpost Depot. A sign board will be placed at the Settlement Depot when this bus is operating.
Using Disney transportation has its benefits much of the time – particularly when you are not in a hurry. But it can be burdensome if you are trying to rope drop a park and have to take a bus to the Outpost and then another to the park. For this reason, when we have rope dropped a park from Fort Wilderness, we have driven ourselves. It is about a 10 minute drive from our campsite to Epcot. Resort guests get free parking. There are numerous cast members in the lot to direct you to exactly where you need to park. The lots are divided into sections with unique names and each row within the section is numbered. At the end of each row the section and row number is painted on the ground. We recommend taking a picture of your row so you remember how to find your vehicle later.
We would NOT recommend driving to the Magic Kingdom. The boat has a more direct route so you will get there faster taking a boat than you will driving. In addition, the parking lot for the Magic Kingdom is across the Seven Seas Lagoon so even if you drive, you will still have to take the ferry or monorail to get to the park itself. The direct boat would be faster.
Hopefully this helps you as you get settled and make your way around the resort and the world.