Many of Orlando’s attractions, resorts, and theme parks offer various fun-filled activities outside of the traditional shows and rides. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Walt Disney World. Over 20 on-property hotels offer countless entertainment options, my favorite of which can be found at the many marinas found throughout this vacation kingdom.
These marinas offer a variety of equipment for rental from mini-boats known as Sea Raycers to pontoon boats to bicycles. They make it possible to enjoy a more low key, hands-on experience rather than a day jammed packed in the theme parks, all while still feeling that special brand of Disney pixie dust.
Personally, I love renting a boat and hitting the Disney waterways. The open expanse of water stretched out in front of me, the fresh air, and room to breathe… it’s freeing. Couple the invigorating experience of being on the water with the sheer variety of waterways on Disney property and you’ve got a truly memorable experience to enjoy.
Boating around Magic Kingdom
The park that started it all is practically surrounded by water. The Seven Seas Lagoon connects with Bay Lake, offering a glittering, shimmering surface made for enjoying. There are three marinas in this area. Whether you chose to rent your boat from the Fort Wilderness, Contemporary, or Polynesian marina, you can explore both the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
I suggest starting off in the Bay Lake area, where it is often calm and relaxing. After getting into the groove of being on the water, take a spin around the now defunct Discovery Island and River Country waterpark. Cruise past the shores of Wilderness Lodge as water shoots up into the air thanks to the geyser. Then I like to cap it all off by heading into the Seven Seas Lagoon and pull up as close to Magic Kingdom as I can get. Finally, I stop. And I just sit there for a moment, on the water, with Cinderella Castle rising above in front of me. You have try it some time. Sit there on the open water, in your boat, and take in the view.
Although there is something to love about all three of the boating areas, I am partial to bobbing around the magical waters that neighbor the Magic Kingdom.
Boating around Downtown Disney
The water ways of the Downtown Disney area are a great example of the journey being better than the destination, in my opinion. There are a multitude of marinas in this area. Old Key West Resort, Port Orleans Resort, and the Cap ‘n Jacks Marina at Downtown Disney Marketplace. I recommend starting your journey at one of the two resorts.
Your excursion will begin along a winding creek. If you choose to start at the Old Key West marina, you will float past the tropical themed buildings of the original Disney Vacation Club resort. As you continue along, you will pass by the fairways of the Buena Vista Golf Course.
If you choose to start at the Port Orleans Marina (my personal favorite), the beautiful grounds will provide a lovely Southern backdrop for your boat ride. As you continue to follow the Sassagoula River, you will enter the rustic waters that border the Treehouse Villas. This portion of Disney property feels worlds away from the hectic theme parks. Individual vacation homes tower among the thin Florida pine trees. There are few places that offer the quiet and serenity that this nearly secluded section of Disney property offers.
Finally, these two canals meet up just before providing you a panoramic view of Downtown Disney. Suddenly the waters are wide and vast, and full of the hustle and bustle of this shopping and dining district. Seeing the whole of Downtown Disney from this vantage point is pretty impressive.
Boating around Epcot
The energy of the Epcot Resorts Area is hard to beat. This area is home to five resort hotels, (Disney’s Yacht Club, Disney’s Beach Club, Disney’s Boardwalk, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort hotels). The traditional Disney marina is found at the Yacht Club. There is an additional mini-marina offered in between the Swan and Dolphin hotels where guests can rent swan shaped paddle boats. These little beauties float along the lake in between the two hotels; it should be noted that they cannot head into the wider waters of Crescent Lake.
From the Yacht Club marina, take a spin around Crescent Lake. You can bob in the wake of the Friendships (the water taxi that services the area hotels). After making a few laps, head toward the Swan and Dolphin hotels and into the canal. Soon you will face Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What a view. Slow your pace and park yourself in front of the theme park. Take in the sights and sounds. You will most likely hear the Beauty and the Beast live performance or the thunderous effects of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.
The other major highlight of the Boardwalk area is the Surrey bikes. These bundles of joy are available at select Disney resorts. They are guaranteed to induce giggling spells among everyone in the group. But, there will be a follow-up post to come about the beauty of biking in Disney.
Boating around Walt Disney World: Things to remember…
- There are age requirements to rent boats. The smaller Sea Raycers require a minimum age of 12 while the pontoon boats and Boston Whalers require a minimum age of 18.
- As is customary at Disney, rental rates are a little on the high side. At the time of writing this post, rates are:
- $34.08 for 30 minutes on a Sea Raycer (small white and blue boats for up to 2 people)
- $47.93 for 30 minutes on either a pontoon boat (max. 10 people) or Boston Whaler (max. 6 people).
- Everyone must wear a life vest.
- Be sure to stay hydrated and wear sunblock.
- The waters are patrolled by Disney recreation and boating staff, but be sure to follow the rules and be safe.
- Walt Disney World’s official information on boat rental.
- Have a great time and enjoy!
This is the very first post from our newest contributor, Dani. I want to take this opportunity to welcome her to the OI contributor team. We look forward to sharing your experiences and insights with our readers!
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Thanks for the great article. I love the waterways around WDW. The ferry from the Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom is my favorite.