Seminole County simply does not get enough love. If you’re visiting Central Florida and you bypass Seminole County you’re missing a lot of local hot spots. One of which is Wekiva Island.
It’s been 3 years since my first visit to this paradise nestled in one of Seminole County’s best neighborhoods, the Wekiva Springs area. This is one of the most beautiful, tranquil destinations within Central Florida. If you’re adventurous and wish to have a more active experience, then venture to Wekiva Springs State Park. You can launch a variety of vessels from here (fees apply). Along your way you’ll come across all kinds of Florida wildlife and you can paddle up to Wekiva Island. This beautiful retreat along the Wekiva River is the only oasis of its kind.
If you’re like me though, you prefer a small dose of adventure with a bigger dose of relaxation. Rather than journeying down the river to the Island, I prefer to drive. The Wekiva Springs area is one of my dream neighborhoods. I live about 20 minutes away on the other side of Seminole County and always enjoy driving through this area. If you’re traveling from the attractions area you’ll be heading about 45 minutes, or about 30 miles, North of the attractions area. If you want to experience natural Florida and a favorite local hangout then the journey is certainly worth it.
There is ample parking (in a grassy parking area), you’ll be driving to a dead end of a neighborhood street so don’t be alarmed that the Island is somewhat hidden. Dogs that are leashed and looked after are welcome, outside food and drink, on the other hand, is not. You’ll have no need for your own refreshments anyway because Wekiva Island has two fantastic bars and a food truck style café.
It had been far too long since my last visit. We spent nearly 6 hours at the Island. The weather was perfection and accordingly we basked in the sun, taking breaks to walk into the springs-fed Wekiva River. Swimming in the river is invigorating, with a brisk chill and a beautiful, natural world beneath the surface. We relaxed in our folding chairs that we had brought along with us, sipping on cold Landshark Lager and listening to great music.
One week after my last visit the main building at Wekiva Island caught fire. The silver lining of this situation is Wekiva Island has been rebuilt and is better than ever. Much of the original bar was reworked, additional seating now offers scenic views overlooking the riverbank, and the cherry on top is the new Tooting Otter Beer & Wine Bar and General Store.
The addition of the Tooting Otter is ingenious. The original bar is more laid back, a wonderful outdoor bar meant for mingling or perhaps catching a game on one of the two TVs mounted at the bar. Tooting Otter on the other hand is more enclosed with a wide open entrance overlooking the river. The atmosphere is a little quieter and with a small pinch of sophistication. Wine tasting machines line the wall alongside a fun selection of merchandise ranging from souvenirs to sundries and other items to help you make the most of your day playing in the Florida sunshine. There’s even a framed menu originating from the restaurant that fed hungry patrons like my family oh so many, many years ago. A small corner bar hosts a friendly bartender ready to help expand your horizons with specialty craft beer and wine.
A small grouping of high top tables and a small seating area with a couch and comfortable chairs add to the welcoming atmosphere. During the week the merchandise is placed in the back storage area so that special events can take place. Every Wednesday a different event is offered. Visit website for more info. The wine and art night seems to be the most popular, personally I wanna check out Wildlife Wednesday. Trivia night looks to start on Thursday nights too, coming very soon. Wekiva Island is very busy on the weekends, so these weeknight programs are a great way to enjoy the Island in a whole new way.
During my recent visit I had enough time to relax, take in the amazing views, and sip on a SouthernTier IPA for only $5. I was there because that night Wekiva Island was being featured on a Travel Channel special. People of all ages gathered in their own groups, others mingling and making new friends. An active game of corn hole lead to laughter and friendly taunting. Kids of all ages splashed in the spring water despite the cloudy day. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards carried their riders through the waterway. My recent visit reaffirmed that this really is a local treasure. Wekiva Island is pure Florida beauty and fun all rolled into one.
Know before you go:
- Parking is free
- No outside food or drink
- Folding chairs and beach umbrellas welcome, pop-up tents, etc are not
- Riverfront cabanas available for rent (I seriously want to to do this one day)
- Kayaks and canoes are available for rent or you can launch your own for a small fee
- Leashed and looked after dogs are welcome (I did encounter a few dogs off leash so be aware in case your dog is skiddish)
- If driving, Wekiva Island is accessed through a neighborhood, please be respectful of the neighbors
- Please enjoy the island and drink responsibly
1014 MIAMI SPRINGS RD • LONGWOOD, FL 32779
Phone (407) 862-1500