June 1956 – present
Frontierland – To access the island, head to the dock on the western side of Frontierland, across from the entrance to the Haunted Mansion. A raft carries guests back and forth from Tom Sawyer Island to Frontierland every 10 minutes or so.
Tom Sawyer Island originally opened in 1956, one year after the park’s official opening. The island had Fort Wilderness, an activity area similar to Big Thunder Ranch, Tom and Huck’s Tree House, and a show area now used as the Fantasmic! stage. For almost 40 years, the island remained largely unchanged, until the construction of a stage for Fantasmic!, which opened in 1992.
But in 2007, the island saw a complete transformation. After the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean film, Pirate’s Lair became the centerpiece of this remote Frontierland spot. Fort Wilderness closed, and Tom Sawyer Island reopened as a pirate hideaway. Today, Pirate’s Lair draws in guests of all ages, and its small winding caves and bridges are favorites among younger visitors.
- Single Rider Line – no
- Fast Pass – no
- Height Requirement – none
- Duration – N/A
Pirate’s Lair is a dark and mysterious abandoned pirate fortress. Guests arrive at the Landing, the eerie dock where rafts bring daring guests ashore. To the right of the landing is Lafitte’s Tavern, an abandoned gathering spot for the island’s pirate inhabitants. Today, the Tavern serves as the backdrop for Fantasmic!, and overlooks the Frontierland and New Orleans Square waterfront.
The largest section of the Lair is Dead Man’s Grotto, a series of mysterious caves full of treasure, spooky sound effects, and a trapped pirate prisoner. The winding caves and rock features lead guests to the back of the island, into Smuggler’s Cove. Guests can interact with wheels, pumps, and cages, and cross a series of suspended bridges.
On the right side of the island, guests can explore a number of smaller components of the Lair. First is Castle Rock, a large structure with telescopes and great views of the park. Next is the Shipwreck, a small walkthrough room where guests can explore the bottom of the abandoned ship. And finally, guests finish their trip through Pirate’s Lair at the Captain’s Treasure, a massive heap of gold and jewels fit for any pirate. During the summer or busy holiday weekends, Captain Jack Sparrow himself will stop by the treasure to take photos with visitors.
Tom Sawyer Island also has two features not connected with Pirate’s Lair. Tom And Huck’s Tree House is partially connected to the Shipwreck, but the tree house has been on the island since it’s opening in 1956. Guests can climb the different levels to view Critter Country, New Orleans Square, and the passing boats on the Rivers of America. The other non-pirate landmark on the island is Fort Wilderness, a former walkthrough attraction that is now a backstage area for cast members and Fantasmic! performers.
MY RATING: ★★★★★
I absolutely love Pirate’s Lair. There is so much to see, the Smuggler’s Cove area is really fun to explore, and the panoramic view of the park from the front of the island is absolutely incredible. If you want a break from the roller coasters or crowds, or are looking for a scenic spot to take photos, definitely stop by Tom Sawyer Island.
One of the best things about Tom Sawyer Island is how quiet it is. Even on really busy days, the crowds never get too big in this quiet wilderness retreat. The island closes on rainy days and after sunset, but other than that, you should have no trouble visiting Pirate’s Lair.
The rafts to the island are the only boats in the park that do not run on a track; cast members steer and dock the rafts each and every trip.
Some of the sections of the Lair have official descriptions, which came from a Tom Sawyer Island Explorers Map, released to commemorate a major 2007 refurbishment. They are as follows:
- The Landing – Many a pirate’s boot has trod upon this slip of land. And many’s the adventure begun here. Keep your wits about you in your travels on the island, for there’s treasure and danger here in equal measure. X marks the spot you seek. Good luck, matey!
- Dead Man’s Grotto – Tread carefully these dark and winding caves. Though none will argue there be treasure here in great abundance, ghostly apparitions do haunt these corridors of stone. And every jewel is guarded well by forces none may know.
- Smuggler’s Cove – Here be the site of many a dark deed by moonlight. And in these waters, who can tell how much plundered coin lies below in the hold of scuttled ships? And who can tell what forces guard these treasures still?
- Castle Rock – The treacherous shoals what surround the island have claimed many a fair vessel and her crew. Here lie broken beams and planks, worn and weathered to serve as memorial, shelter, and lookout perch alike. While below, ’tis said, there lies a king’s ransom, hid in some dark passageway, too narrow for most to navigate.
- Shipwreck – No fearsome storm did leave this shipwreck high upon the rocks at Pirate’s Den, they say. T’was something monstrous that stirred the sea that day and tore this mighty ship in twain.
- Captain’s Treasure – Somewhere beyond Smuggler’s Cove and Castle Rock, a fabulous treasure lies. Steady as you go, mates – for it be guarded by the fiercest of pirates. Gather your knowledge of the island well, for all who happen upon this treasure shall be asked to account for themselves. Them what pleases the guards, they say, may be allowed to join the pirate brotherhood and take the solemn oath.