On September 30, Wekiva Island is celebrating a milestone anniversary—15 years of fun right here in Central Florida. While we’ll be partying at our annual Kona Luau to celebrate, the date also makes us stop to reflect about just how far we’ve come since Sept. 30, 2008, when the Weinaug family originally purchased what was the Wekiwa Marina with a vision and some grit.
There have been ups and downs along the way, but over this decade and a half, we’ve built the Island into the place you know today—a fun hangout with great food and drinks where you might meet a neighbor or a new friend, a standard for what sustainability can be for business, a place for fun events and more.
As we reflect, we wanted to share with you a few of the lessons we’ve learned over the years and what we’re proud of looking back.
Good things can come from setbacks
When we bought the property, we had a vision for what this special place could be. That doesn’t mean it was easy. From fire to floods, we’ve seen what we’ve built destroyed several times. Even so, those tough moments have taught us that sometimes setbacks clear the way for opportunity. In the pandemic, for instance, as we searched for a way to keep the connection of the Island going, our owners founded The Great American Paint In—which became a book! We’ve tried to make the most of every opportunity in business to build back better than before. Today, we’re proud of our beautiful main building, which hosts the Tooting Otter Craft Beer & Wine Bar and Gallery CERO, our Solar Array, our new Beach Club cabana and more. And we look forward to sharing even more plans for the Island with you soon.
A beautiful place leads to beautiful things
Art has always been part of our DNA at the Island. In fact, it’s one of our three pillars. It was not long after we purchased the property that we took over the Wekiva Paint Out, which has grown into a yearly tradition with artists from all over the country. What did surprise us was watching that love of art blossom. Over the years, we’ve learned through art that this beautiful place naturally inspires beautiful things. We learned that through our pandemic art project mentioned above, as well as through Gallery CERO. We were incredibly proud to open our own art gallery in 2021, and it has been beautiful to watch it become a haven of creativity and a home for many artists through exhibitions, demonstrations and events. We’re proud of the fact that art inspired by the beauty of the Wekiva can bring people together and in turn inspire them to take action to protect it.
Our community is worth pouring into
Over our 15 years here, we’ve seen time and time again that this community cares and shows up for us. We’re so proud to be part of it. That has inspired us to give back as much as we can. Each year, we strategically map out our giving, and we’ve supported a variety of organizations, including Make-A-Wish, Kids House of Seminole, the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We have also partnered with organizations in the community, including hosting fundraisers for the Central Florida Zoo, using Paint Out to benefit the Wekiva Wilderness Trust, donating funds from our Audubon Cabana to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, and hosting cleanups for Keep Seminole Beautiful. We feel your support every day, and we’re proud to pour back into the community we love.
Nature can bring people together
We see the amazing benefits of the Wekiva’s natural beauty every day, but as we have grown and expanded our offerings, it has been amazing to see nature’s reach. Businesses of all sizes have started visiting us at the Island to offer their employees special retreats, board sessions, or bonding time. Some have even bought out the Island for a day! We’re proud of the facilities and amenities we’ve built to serve these groups and incredibly proud to be able to share this gem with them.
Simple actions can inspire big changes
Like art, sustainability and education have been part of the plan for Wekiva Island since the beginning. We want to show what sustainability can mean for a business. We live that out through the 2030 Challenge, where we aim to go carbon neutral by that year. We’re certainly proud of the steps we’ve taken to get there, including planting native plants, collecting rainwater for reuse, installing solar panels, and of course, our Classroom, which LEED Platinum certified. But, we’re even more proud of the changes those efforts have inspired in our visitors. We hope that visitors to the Island will see our composting station with O-Town Compost or take a second to recycle in one of our recycling cans around the property—and be inspired to take that message home with them. It takes all of us, and we’re proud of the lasting changes many of you have made with just one visit.
This river is worth sharing.
We’ve always believed that the Wekiva River should be shared. The beauty of the river inspired us 15 years ago to buy the property, and we aim to responsibly offer a place for residents of Central Florida and beyond to be able to get out and enjoy it. The value of sharing this place is a lesson we learn daily as we see kids excitedly point out turtles, people paddling along peacefully or neighbors sitting around the fire at night. We’re proud to have shared countless moments and memories with you all over these 15 years.
Thank you for your support. We wouldn’t be Wekiva Island without you! We look forward to learning more and building a place we’re proud of for many years to come.