Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Magic Kingdom lays an often overlooked attraction: Tom Sawyer Island. I have fond memories of exploring this island as a child and, while I don’t visit each trip, I made a point to introduce my son to this old favorite on his first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. It proved to be a big hit with my son!
You may be asking “Why should I take time away from the attractions to visit an island? I MUST GET MORE FASTPASS+!!!” I get that, really, I do. When I visit the Magic Kingdom I thrive on obtaining as many FastPass+ reservations as possible. However, it’s important to slow down and take a break from all that. Put down your phone; heck, turn it off–you won’t need it where you’re going. Tom Sawyer Island is the perfect place to escape the more regimented, tech-ridden environment of the the Magic Kingdom. Best of all, it’s right inside the theme park so you can get back to the top-tier attractions with ease.
If you have never visited, or haven’t been in a while, here are my top reasons to make the trip across the Rivers of America to Tom Sawyer Island.
#1 Getting there is half the fun!
When was the last time you hopped a raft to cross a body of water? I’m not talking about a yellow, inflatable raft– I’m talking about an old school wooden raft. Never? You won’t be able to say that after a visit to Tom Sawyer Island!
To access Tom Sawyer Island, Guests board a river raft at the dock located near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Getting to and from the island is efficient: the inbound and outbound rafts run simultaneously and usually pass each other at the half way point. All told, the ride across the Rivers of America lasts less than five minutes.
Guests may wait for a raft during peak season, however, Tom Sawyer Island rarely attracts large crowds. When and if it does, they will open a second dock and operate additional rafts to accommodate demand.
DIStracted Tip: Due to the nature of this attraction, strollers and wheelchairs are not permitted on Tom Sawyer Island. Parents will need to leave their strollers at the dock in Frontierland. All Guests wishing to experience the attraction must be ambulatory.
#2 Maps–who needs ’em?
Upon docking at Tom’s Landing, Guests are left to explore the island on their own. If wandering aimlessly makes you squirm, be sure to check out the map posted near Tom’s Landing to get your bearings. On the other hand, if you prefer to uncover the unique experiences as you go, you can choose to go right, towards Harper’s Mill and Aunt Polly’s Cottage, left, towards Potter’s Mill and Fort Langhorn, or towards the heart of the island and the caves and play area.
DIStracted Tip: Guests should set aside approximately 30-60 minutes to experience all the island has to offer. The attraction closes at dusk, hence, be sure to allow enough time to explore if you plan to visit during the latter part of the day.
#3 Shade is abundant
Much of the island is shaded, providing welcome protection from the blaring Florida sun. Enough said.
#4 It’s a kid’s paradise!
Tom Sawyer Island is the perfect place for kids to run off pent up energy. After hours standing in line and under the watchful eye of parents, kids will appreciate the ability to wander and discover on their own terms. Here’s a brief overview of the experiences available on the island:
Fort Langhorn Kids will love exploring this fort which features a blacksmith shop, look-out tower, and escape tunnel. Fort Langhorn is located on northern most island and connected to the main island via a suspension bridge.
Mystery Mine This one-way mine features a eerie humming noise, glowing gemstones and maze-like passageways.
Injun Joe’s Cave This one-way cave boasts circuitous passageways, and a glowing, larger-than-life skull made of rock.
DIStracted Tip: There are lanterns throughout the mine and cave, however, they offer little light. Guests should be sure to give their eyes time to adjust to the light (or lack thereof) before proceeding.
Barrel Bridge This extremely wobbly and uneven bridge will leave you laughing. A must-do!
Tom Sawyer Scavage Fort This small play area, designed for kids ages 2-12 features a bridge, a slide and tube for kids to enjoy.
Checkers Who doesn’t enjoy a good old fashioned game of checkers? Take a few minutes out of your busy day to play a game at Tom’s Landing.
#5 Adults will love it too!
Parents can rest easy knowing that their little ones can’t go far: it’s an island after all! After long hours of keeping your kids in check, Tom Sawyer Island is like a mini-vacation from your vacation.
Yes, Tom Sawyer Island is a fantastic place for families, however, it’s also a appealing option for adults sans kids. There are several places on the island where Guests can kick back and relax in peace and quiet. No crowds, no noise–just you, a rocking chair and nature! Guests opting to sit on Pappy’s Pier (just west of Fort Langhorn) will enjoy a picturesque view of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as they cool their heels.
Finally, adults will enjoy the little nods to Mark Twain and his works throughout the island. One of my favorite elements is the partially whitewashed fence located near Aunt Polly’s Cottage.
Guests of all ages will enjoy exploring this hidden gem. Don’t miss it the next time you visit the Magic Kingdom!