The Everglades is an expansive 1.5 million acres of wetland, the third largest National Park in the lower 48, and it’s only 20% of the original tract. At one point there was a plan to drain the entire swamp, which would have been devastating to the environment. It’s the largest subtropical wilderness in America home to 36 threatened/protected species including the manatee, American crocodile, and Florida panther. It is a birdwatchers heaven, with 350 different species.
Not only an area of significance for wildlife, but this Wetland of International Importance purifies the majority of water for South Florida – it is essential to all of us. So when visiting this place of consequence tread with care!
Outdoor opportunities are plentiful, you can hike one of the many trails, paddle the 99 miles of wilderness waterway, bike miles of paved trails, drive and take in the view, or hop on a guided tour. No matter what you do you are bound to see alligators and amazing swamp scenery!
There are multiple entrances points into the park which are hours away from one another, so therein lies your first decision – where to start:
+Royal Palm is the south entrance is outside of Homestead, this is the main entrance to the park. Here you can find the famed Anhinga Trail along with plenty of other hikes and two visitors centers: Ernest F. Coe at the beginning and Flamingo at the end of the road – try renting a kayak out here!
+Shark Valley is the north entrance closest to Miami and is different because it offers a 15 mile paved road for wildlife observation. This is great for people who don’t want to walk who take a tram tour and extremely popular with cyclists. Right next door is Big Cypress National Preserve, which should be visited as well!
+Gulf Coast in Everglades City is for those coming from the west and looking to engage in water activities. It is the jump off point for exploring Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islands.
What to bring:
Sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, sweat wicking clothing, your own water and food
Good to know:
Unless you have the NPS pass, private vehicle entrance fee is $25, good for 7 consecutive days
Other things to do:
+Take a popular airboat ride
+Visit the Native American reservation of the Miccosukee Indian
+Stopping in Everglades City? Be sure to try some fresh seafood
+Coming from Homestead? Plenty of things to do on the way there or back.