By Glenn Hayes
When travelling to Orlando and visiting the world of a certain famous mouse, boating or classic boats may not be the first thing to comes to mind. It is possible that you may have seen some classic replica launches running guests of the lakeside resorts of Disney World to and from the park attractions. These attractive craft may have been the closest you would come to an interesting boat ride while in Orlando but now there are some new and very different ways to get out on the water.
Downtown Disney, the shopping and entertainment center of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida has a new restaurant and lakeside attraction called The Boathouse. As part of the revamping of Downtown Disney into the new and expanded entertainment complex that will be known as Disney Springs, The Boathouse has brought classic boats and a unique boating experience to Disney World.
As one of the new high-end eateries sitting on a large lake, the Boathouse allows diners to eat in booths that are built within classic craft as well as marvel at an impressive collection of nautical memorabilia. There is an outside and lakeside bar that faces a dock with an impressive collection of classic wooden boats, that is part of the personal collection of the restaurants owner. They include vintage hydroplanes, beautiful vintage and classic Chris Craft and an interesting variety of other craft including some of the latest offering from Chris Craft.
Some boats are available to charter for short cruises on the lake such as a The Venezia, a stunning 40-foot 1969 Italian water taxi replica that cost over a million dollars to build. The Venezia will take up to 16 guests on a trip around the lake complete with chocolate covered strawberries and a champagne toast. Such luxury doesn’t come cheaply though as it costs $115 per adult and $75 per child for an hour long cruise.
Another offering at the boathouse is The Lady Rose. She is a replica of an 1889 24-foot Saloon Launch which was originally powered by a single cylinder steam engine (but is now powered by more modern and less smoky means. Designed to take couples on a romantic lake cruise the happy couple can enjoy champagne and strawberries. The cost is $150 for the couple.
The most interesting and unique offering at The Boathouse however is their amphibious car tours. Just look for the crowd of gawkers at the side of the restaurant and you will find a row of nine Amphicars launching themselves into the lake via a boat ramp. Drawing a large crowd these small classic amphibious cars carry three adults or two adults and two small children down the ramp and into the lake. They then journey the perimeter of the lake returning about 20 minuets later to the ramp and drive back up the ramp to a waiting turntable as water drains from the car.
Built from 1961 through 1968 these classics convertibles are a rare breed with a little under 4000 ever built and far fewer in existence today. They are as at home on the road or in the water. The captain (or driver) engages the twin propellers located below the rear bumper and proceeds to drive straight into the water. Once afloat passengers enjoy a dry and quiet ride cruising along at about 7 knots with the captain pointing out interesting Disney trivia and chatting about the other craft at The Boathouse.
So next time your at Downtown Disney make a splash and do something unique. Visit The Boathouse for a great meal, immerse yourself in all the wooden beauty for the boats and nautical memorabilia on display and experience a ride in a car on the lake.
The Boathouse 407-939-BOAT (2628)
Tours offered 10 AM to 10 PM daily (weather permitting) with walk up reservation possible.