If you are visiting Florida soon, the Everglades National Park is a must-do!
Often overlooked by visitors, the Everglades have so much to offer. This beautiful ecosystem is one of the most unique National Parks in the world! So if you want to learn more about it, this Everglades Travel Guide will be perfect for you!
The Everglades are a 1.5-million acres wetland preserve featuring some incredible animals and landscapes. There are many things to do in the Everglades and you shall discover them all in this article!
If you love nature and adventure, the Everglades will be your paradise! You will be spoiled for choice! So, are you ready? Let’s discover what to do in the Everglades!
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Where are the Everglades?
The Everglades National Park is located in the South-West part of Florida, between Miami and Naples.
How to get to the Everglades?
The best way to get to the Everglades is by car. As any National Park, there is a lot to do and you will need to be able to go from one place to another with ease.
The nearest city is Miami. You can fly to Miami Airport and either get a rental car or choose to go on a tour.
If you are planning to visit the Everglades for one day, I would recommend booking a day tour from Miami. They will organise everything for you and make it super easy. It’s the best way to make the best of your time in the Everglades. You can find more information and prices for day trips to the Everglades here.
If your plan is to drive around Florida, maybe hitting the keys or theme parks in Orlando, then renting a car will make sense.
There isn’t much of any other public transportation going on in the Everglades so no matter what, tour or car are your options here.
If you decide to drive there on your own, you may want to consider going on a tour in the Everglades. There are plenty of activities there and if you want to discover the most amazing landscapes, you will need to jump on a boat! Or something of the kind at least!
Here are some of the most popular Everglades tours.
Airboat tour in the Everglades
One of the most popular activities in Everglades National Park is going on an airboat ride. It’s a pretty cool thing to do and I highly recommend it.
Many places offer this kind of thing and they can get quite busy in winter. You can book yours online here.
The guide will take you through the mangroves, in the wetland and show you the beautiful vegetation and wildlife.
The Everglades is home to many species of plants, birds, alligators and crocodiles. You will get to see a bit of everything during the ride.
It goes quite fast at times which can be surprising but don’t worry, nothing to be scared of. It’s a very fun thing to do in the Everglades!
You can take plenty of amazing photos during the ride. I would recommend having a lace to your camera or phone though, we never know.
If you are wondering whether it’s safe or not, the answer is yes as long as you follow the instructions. There is nothing to be worried about, the guides know what they are doing. They will give you some safety instructions such as keep your hands in the boat, don’t lean over… this kind of things. If you follow them, then there will be no problem, you won’t even question your safety for a second.
But again, you will see alligators so don’t try to get the best photo ever by getting closer.
Park-ranger led tours in the Everglades
The best (and most authentic) way to visit the Everglades National Park is by going on ranger-led activities.
You will find some at each one of the 4 visitor centres: Shark Valley, Flamingo, Gulf Coast and Royal Palm.
You can either book it at the visitor centre or plan in advance and check out their calendar here.
They offer guided walks, bikes tours, tram tours, kayaking tours… everything you can think of really!
More importantly, it’s an amazing and ethical experience. The park ranger will give you plenty of information about the park, history and wildlife. They will keep you safe and show you how to enjoy the Everglades while respecting the environment.
It is truly one of the most amazing Everglades activities!
Please note that you will need to book it though. To be fair, you can go online or call them.
Discover the wildlife in the Everglades
The best part about visiting the Everglades is wildlife! That’s what makes it so unique. It’s home to over 750 species of animals and 1,000 species of plants.
The most uncommon thing about the Everglades is that it’s home to both alligators and crocodiles.
Alligators live in freshwater and crocodiles live in seawater. That’s why you only find crocodiles in Australia for example. The Everglades is the only place in the world where wetland and ocean come together, making it a good environment for both alligators and crocodiles.
There are several lookouts you can stop along the road where you will be able to see them. Alligators are way more common so they will be the one you will see the most. Don’t hesitate to stop at every car park along the way. They generally have an alligator watching spot with park rangers. They will be more than happy to answer all your questions.
Another popular activity is bird watching. There are over 300 species of birds in the Everglades! Perfect if you love birds and photography. The best places to see the birds would be in the southern part: Anhinga trail, Mahogany Hammock & Vicinity, Paurotis Pond and Nine Mile Pond. But you can see plenty everywhere.
Finally, you can also get to see some feline species. The Everglades is home to bobcats and Florida panther. You won’t be able to see any of those for sure (especially the panther as it’s endangered) but if you are lucky, you might be spotting one from your car!
Best walks in the Everglades
One of the best ways to experience the Everglades (or any national park for that matter) is to go walking! It’s also a great option if you are looking for free things to do in the Everglades.
As you know, there are alligators and crocodiles everywhere in the park. The Everglades are not a place where you want to start wandering around. You need to stay on one of the park’s trails.
There are 4 groups of walking trails in the Everglades: Pine Island Trails, Flamingo Trails, Shark Valley Trails and the Gulf Coast Trails.
If you love hiking, Shark Valley will be your favourite part of the Everglades National Park. There are plenty of walking trails!
Shark Valley is located along Highway 41. There is a visitor centre along the road. I highly recommend you stopping there and asking for more information. They will be able to recommend the best things to do in Shark Valley depending on the time you have available and your tastes.
That having been said, I’m still going to mention a few things you should be doing in Shark Valley.
The most popular walk is to Shark Valley observation tower. If you like walking, you may also want to consider going on the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail, Otter Cave Hammock Trail or Borrow Pit Trail.
Another option is to rent a bike and hit one of the trails.
Finally, the most popular activity in Shark Valley is to go on a tram tour. They last about 2 hours and start at the visitor centre. It’s a great way to explore the area if you are only here for the day.
If you want to see alligators and birds in the Everglades (which you should!), the Anhinga Trail will be perfect.
It’s the best way to get the best of both worlds. A short walk and amazing wildlife, all at once!
The walk is flat and easily doable with kids. You will go through the bushland, discover a few ponds and get to see so many animals!
Make sure you are wearing a hat though. It is mainly under the sun. You will find a couple of storm sheds in the shade but rather than that it can get quite hot. There are also a lot of photo opportunities on the Anhinga Trail so get your camera ready!
If you want to get a bit more walking while you are in the area, you can also try Gumbo Limbo Trail.
If you are looking for another short walk, the Pa-Hay-Okee Boardwalk will be a good option for you. This short 0.2 mile loop is perfect to see beautiful landscapes and animals!
Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve is the Everglades little sister. You can easily reach it if you are on highway 41.
It’s the perfect place to go if you love outdoor activities and want to stay away from the crowds.
You can start off at the Oasis Visitor Center. They will give you plenty of information on things to do.
I particularly recommend going on a walking tour. You can also go kayaking and bird-watching!
Road trip through the Everglades National Park
Driving through the Everglades is without a doubt one of the best road trips in the USA! There are several routes you can take but no matter which one you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
The Everglades are so unique! There is nothing alike in the world and a road trip is the best way to experience it.
Road trip from Royal Palm to Flamingo
This short road trip (about 80 miles return) is perfect to discover the southern part of the Everglades. You can stop on the Anhinga Trail on the way.
It’s a great way to discover the unspoiled beauty of the Everglades and the wildlife.
Roadtrip through the Everglades and Shark Valley on Highway 41
This one is my personal favourite! Most people tend to take Alligator Alley to go from Miami to Tampa for example. Highway 41 is a hidden gem you do not want to miss!
It will take you through the most beautiful part of the Everglades. The road itself is very nice and easy to drive. You will find plenty of signs saying to be careful with bobcats or other animals. There are few spots along the way where you can stop, including Shark Valley.
It will also give you a chance to discover Big Cypress, another underrated place in Florida.
Highway 41 then becomes the Tamiami Trail to Miami.
So put that awesome road trip playlist on and let’s roll!
Visitor centers in the Everglades
There are 4 visitors centers in the Everglades. They are located at the entrances and halfway through the park. No matter what, you will never be far away from a center.
I highly recommend stopping at at least one of them. They offer wonderful insights about the park, the eco-system and the history. They will also be able to give you plenty of information and will make your time in the Everglades better and easier. Perfect to discover the best things to do in the Florida Everglades.
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
815 Oyster Bar Lane
Everglades City, Florida 34139
Hours of Operation:
9:00 AM to 4:30 PM (Mid-April through Mid-November)
8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Mid-November through Mid-April)
Shark Valley Visitor Center
36000 SW 8th Street
Miami, Florida 33194
Hours of Operation:
Visitor Center: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Entrance Gate: 8:30AM – 6:00PM
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034
Hours of Operation:
9:00am – 5:00pm (Mid-April through Mid-December)
8:00am – 5:00pm (Mid-December through Mid-April)
Flamingo Visitor Center
1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy
Homestead, Florida 33034
Hours of Operation
8:00AM – 4:30PM (mid-November through mid-April).
Accommodation in the Everglades
The Everglades are very well preserved. Therefore, you won’t find a lot of accommodation options. However, if you want to stay in the national park for a couple of days, you should definitely consider booking something there.
If you fancy an adventure, you can book a pitch, a lodge or a bungalow in a campsite.
– In Flamingo, you can stay at Flamingo Adventures. Couples usually love it! They have eco-tent and houseboats! Quite cool, right? You can see the latest prices and availability here.
– Near Everglades City, you will find Everglades Chickee Cottage & Bungalow in Ochopee. They offer eco-friendly bungalows. Perfect if you opted for the road trip on highway 41. Prices and availability are right here.
If you only want to escape to the Everglades for a day, you will be better off booking something in:
– Miami. This is the obvious choice if you want to discover Miami as well. It can be more expensive though. If you wish to see the list of hotels in Miami and the latest prices, you can head here.
– Homestead. This is ideal if you want to discover the southern part of the Everglades (Flamingo) and head to the keys later on. You can see the full list of hotels in Homestead here.
– Naples. If you wish to enjoy the beautiful beaches in Florida, you should stay in Naples. There is plenty to do around and it’s really close to the Everglades. You can find the full list of accommodation in Naples here.
When is the best time to go to the Everglades?
The best time of the year to visit Florida is in winter, from December to march. When it comes to the Everglades, this statement is even more accurate!
Winter is the dry season which means that you will get to enjoy the heat without suffocating, no rain and most of all, barely any mosquitoes!
So now that you know the best things to do in Everglades National Park, you only need to hit the road and go explore!
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