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Spanning 1.5 million acres across South Florida, Everglades National Park is a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a unique wetland that is home to rare species such manatees, American crocodiles, a variety of birds, Florida Panthers and alligators. Visitors can explore this watery gem on several tours – many of which involve a thrilling airboat ride to view the wildlife up close. When booking a tour, keep in mind that because the Everglades is so vast there are many different departure points. Some leave from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Homestead, while others set out from Marco Island and Naples (West Coast). Plus, a handful can be booked from the park itself. To help you sort through all the options, we put together a list of the best Everglades boat tours to book on Viator.
Best Family-Friendly: Everglades VIP Tour (From Fort Lauderdale)
For a popular, family-friendly adventure from Fort Lauderdale, consider the “Everglades VIP Tour,” which includes comfortable, round-trip transportation from your hotel. Begin with a thrilling hour-long airboat ride through the Everglades for bird watching and gator spotting while learning about the area from a knowledgeable captain before taking your seat at the “Gator Pit” for an exciting performance. The Gator Boys Alligator Rescue team from Animal Planet's hit television series will show off incredible, edge-of-your-seat stunts while educating about conservation, flora and fauna. The tour is ideal for visitors of all ages – especially families – and also includes a stop at the Gator Café for local snacks (not included in the price).
Best Fishing Tour: Everglades and Flamingo Inshore Fishing Trip
The backcountry surrounding the Everglades has some fantastic fishing opportunities, even on windy days. In the 10,000 Islands, you can fish the outside barrier islands, the rivers and creeks, as well as miles of back-country water shoreline, so fishing is possible year-round. The eight-hour tour departs from Flamingo marina (located near the Flamingo Visitor’s Center inside Everglades National Park). The captain provides fishing lessons and techniques, bait and a cooler (bring snacks). Any legal catch will be cleaned for you to take back. If you don’t have a way to cook it, it is very typical of restaurants in South Florida to cook your fresh catch for you. Pricing is based per boat for up to three anglers.
Best Combo Tour: Miami Seaplane Tour and Everglades Airboat Adventure
If you’re interested in both a land and sea experience, the Miami Seaplane Tour combines a scenic flight from Miami to the Everglades with a water landing, plus a high-speed airboat trip for a closer look at the Everglades. The seaplane pilots are extremely knowledgeable about geography, the city of Miami and the Everglades and provide a narrated tour en route to the Everglades. After landing on the water, board the airboat for a 45-minute ride through a Miccosukee Indian camp while observing the wildlife. Although a pricier option, the experience is an opportunity of a lifetime to get a bird's-eye-view of the city, Everglades National Park and the stunning blue ocean waters of the Atlantic.
Best For Outdoor Adventurers: Boat-Assisted Kayak Tour
If you’re an active traveler, a fantastic way to experience the Everglades is by kayak. The 3.5-hour “Boat-Assisted Kayak Tour” departs from Chokoloskee (about 40 minutes from Naples) and begins with a boat ride to a remote area while looking for dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, bald eagles and more. Travelers will then board kayaks for a small group tour to Barrier Island Beach, followed by hiking and beachcombing in a lesser-visited part of the Everglades. Search for egrets, roseate spoonbills, horseshoe crabs and unique sea shells – all with fascinating information from the tour guide. Be sure to bring snacks or a lunch (not included) and plenty of water.
Best Budget: Florida Everglades Airboat Ride and Reptile Show (Homestead)
If you’re on a tight travel budget but still want to experience an airboat in the Everglades, the “Florida Everglades Airboat Ride and Reptile Show” is a great way to try it without breaking the bank. Visitors will have to make their way to the Everglades Alligator Farm, located in Homestead, between Miami and Key Largo. The tour includes admission into the farm where you can watch an alligator feeding, a snake show and be entertained by alligator handlers who educate visitors about the animals. The airboat portion of the tour is much shorter than some of the other options on the list (just 25 minutes), but back at the farm, you can explore on your own.
Best Cultural Tour: Full-Day Naturalist-Led Adventure (Via Ft. Lauderdale/Miami)
Culture vultures and explorers interested in a lengthier, in-depth look at the Florida Everglades should consider the “Full-Day, Naturalist-Led Adventure.” While some tours just scratch the surface of the Everglades, this nine-hour tour goes deeper, with a hiking portion through the upland Fakahatchee Strand spotting wildlife and bald cypress trees. There’s also an airboat ride to a historic and hidden Miccosukee village – only accessible by water, as well as an hour-long boat tour into the pristine 10,000 Islands (west side of the Everglades). The naturalist tour guide stops at the Everglades museum to experience stone crab and a trading post to learn about the Seminole tribe and Florida’s pioneer history. Lunch and round-trip transportation from Ft. Lauderdale or Miami are included.
Best Night Tour: Florida Everglades Night Airboat Tour
Exploring an alligator-filled habitat at night adds a different perspective for thrill-seekers and is also ideal as a post-cruise trip for those cruising from Fort Lauderdale. The one-hour airboat tour zips through the grass marshes, while a giant spotlight illuminates the alligators, frogs and other wildlife. The tour guide also provides ear protection since airboats can be loud. Admission to Sawgrass Recreation Park is also included, so during the day you can visit the reptile exhibit in the park to learn about conservation efforts, see tortoises, peacocks, iguanas and even hold a baby alligator. The Everglades are much cooler at night, but a light jacket and bug spray are recommended.
Best Eco-Tour: Ten Thousand Islands Adventure Boat Tour
The Ten Thousand Islands have a labyrinth of mangroves and shallow areas that act as a nursery for wildlife. On the three-hour, “Ten Thousand Islands Adventure Boat Tour,” travelers can explore this water world and look for Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins, Florida manatees and other sea creatures, plus birds such as pelicans, egrets, herons, kingfishers, eagles, osprey and rosette spoonbills. The skiff stops at a barrier island for swimming, beachcombing for rare shells and snorkeling. On the tour, you’ll learn about some historical features such as the Cape Romano Dome House, the fragile ecosystem and flora and fauna before returning to the dock. Water is provided, but you can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the island.