For the naturalist in each of us, there’s nothing like relaxing next to a slow-flowing, lily-pad-laden river, surrounded by lush palmettos. Throw in a few cabanas and a boardwalk lined with Adirondack chairs along the bank of the Wekiva River, and a bar for good measure, and the result is Wekiva Island — a nature lover’s hot spot where the laid-back vibe of Old Florida still reigns. Once a simple marina just outside of Orlando that was partially destroyed by fire in 1999, the recreational area was rebranded and reopened by local entrepreneurs Bill and Mary Sue Weinaug in 2009. Word spread about the revamped venue, which has become so popular that capacity (250 guests) can be reached as early as 10 a.m.
People from 8 to 80 years old come out to enjoy a day with friends and family, tossing a football, playing volleyball on the sand court or lounging in the sunshine — and taking a dip in the river’s 72-degree, spring-fed water when it’s time to cool down. Renting a riverside cabana for the day is perfect for groups; find the handy power outlets and turn on some tunes, and fire up the provided grills for some lunch. Percivals Down Home cooks up burgers and more on weekends, as well as pig candy (sugary, peppered bacon), which is a must. The Tooting Otter, the island’s watering hole, provides refreshments (including beer and wine for adults). Service to the cabanas is fast and frequent.
The Wekiva River is the real star, sending canoeists, kayakers and paddle boarders downstream to view alligators and other wildlife. When returning to the island, nothing soothes sore paddling arms like a cold one from the Tooting Otter. wekivaisland.com