Everglades National Park is one of South Florida's natural treasures. Within the park's boundaries, you will find wildlife unique to this swampy habitat, natural formations of great beauty and recreation opportunities that exist only in Florida's southernmost tip. In this article, we look at the ten "must do" activities within Everglades National Park.
Ernest Coe Visitor Center
The Ernest Coe Visitor Center should be the first stop on your exploration of the Everglades. It is the hub of activity in the park and offers Everglades orientation movies, educational exhibits and information on ranger-led programs. If there are kids in your group, be sure to check out the Junior Ranger program.
While many see the airboat as disruptive to the peaceful environment of the Everglades, there's no denying that it's a really fun way to experience the swamp! Many vendors provide airboat tours and holders of the Go Miami Card receive a free tour as part of their purchase.
Shark Valley Tram Tours (305-221-8455) offers two-hour guided tours of the paved loop trail that runs 15 miles through the Everglades from the Shark Valley Visitors Center. This is a great way to spot some wildlife and get a high-level perspective of the River of Grass from the Observation Tower at the loop's most distant point. If you're planning on visiting during the park's busy season (December through April), be sure that you call ahead for a reservation.
Shark Valley Observation Tower
The Observation Tower at Shark Valley is one of the highlights of the Everglades. On a clear day, you can see for miles around and observe wildlife in the park's swampy habitat. The Observation Tower is located about 7 miles from the Shark Valley Visitor Center on a paved path that is not open to personal automobiles. You may access it by bicycle, on foot, or by riding the park's tram tour.
Gumbo Limbo Trail
The Gumbo Limbo Trail, accessible from the Royal Palm Visitor Center, offers a self-guided walk through a forest made up primarily of gumbo limbo trees. The trail is a short half-mile and is paved for easy access. Bicycles are not allowed on the trail but visitors in wheelchairs should have no difficulty navigating it.
The 0.8-mile Anhinga Trail is a self-guided walk through a sawgrass marsh on an easy, paved trail. Like the Gumbo Limbo trail, Anhinga is not open to bicycles but convenient for wheelchairs and strollers. It's almost guaranteed that you'll see some Everglades wildlife when you walk this trail.
The Mahoghany Hammock Trail is a 0.5 mile loop on a boardwalk through one of the Everglades' unique ecosystems—the mahogany hammock. On this trail, you'll see the largest living mahogany tree in the United States.
If you'd like to see the Everglades up close, a bicycle is one of the best ways to do so. You can either bring your own bicycle or rent one at the Shark Valley Visitors Center. Several trails in the park, including the Shark Valley Observation Tower Trail are open to bicycles. You may also choose to participate in a ranger-led bicycle tour—check at the Visitors Center for the daily schedule and more information.
Canoe the Glades
Truly experiencing the River of Grass requires taking to the water and a canoe is the least intrusive way to do that. You can rent a canoe in Flamingo and enjoy the park's many water trails.
Camping in the Everglades
The Everglades offers a variety of frontcountry and backcountry camping options. If you're interested in a site on the T-loop that provides electric hookups, you'll pay $30/night. Other frontcountry sites are $16/night while backcountry permits are available for $10 plus $2/person/night. For more information on camping options, see the National Park Service camping site.