Every time you’re in Florida, it’s almost impossible not to visit the famous Everglades. This place is one of the most unique destinations in the world and a true haven for ecology buffs. You will be stunned by the area’s landscapes and especially its flora and fauna. From spotting gators to peeping on birds, you’ll also get to explore the Everglades creeks and enjoy interesting attractions unique to the area. If you’re visiting Everglades (no matter if this is your first or tenth visit), here are a few things you might want to see and do:
If you’re looking for a nice way to get familiar with the Everglades, you can walk the Anhinga Trail. This trail starts at Royal Palm Visitor Center (just 4 miles from the entrance to the Everglades) and snakes through the marsh. This half-mile boardwalk is suitable for all tourists, and you’re almost guaranteed to see plenty of wildlife. Animals there roam freely, so you’ll not only get the best views of the marsh, mangroves and lily pads but also see an abundance of wildlife—just keep your camera ready at all times.
This is a great spot for a day trip from Miami. Just 50-minutes away from the Magic City, you will find Shark Valley. This spot is an excellent representation of the Everglades, especially if you decide to do it on foot, strolling along the Bobcat Boardwalk. This is a fun walk with plenty of sights, but make sure to come armed with a lot of water, sunscreen and bug spray (mosquitoes and humidity can really ruin the experience). If you prefer to sit back and relax, take a tram tour that will take you past all the locals—alligators, turtles and hundreds of local bird species. On your way back, climb the Shark Valley Visitor Center overlook and see the area from a bird’s perspective. You’ll be stunned to see just how vast the Everglades are.
Sawgrass Recreational Park
If you start from the very north of the Everglades, you’ll come across Sawgrass Recreational Park within the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Area. This area owes its popularity to the fact that it’s just a 25-minute drive away from Fort Lauderdale. But the fact that it’s close to the city means nothing—it feels super wild and isolated from the civilization. Once you get there, you catch an airboat tour and see what it’s like to glide across the water and grass. And keep an eye on those gators! A truly special experience is booking Everglades tours at night. When the sun goes down, many new creatures will come out to hunt, mate and play and you’ll be there to witness the liveliness of nature after dark. And whenever you get peckish, morning, day or evening, you can snack on fried gator tail bites or deep-fried frog drumsticks.
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve Park
You probably know about the elusive ghost orchid. Well, you can find this iconic flower in Fakahatchee Preserve. This rare gem grows in the Fakahatchee Strand, being joined by many other rare, endangered and almost extinct animals and plants. Between November and February, you can book a ranger-lead swamp walk and maybe see the famous ghost orchid. And if you don’t want to go stomping in the swamp, you can take the pristine boardwalk walk that’s an easy 0.8 miles long. At the entrance of the boardwalk, there’s also a small Seminole Indian village you can visit.
If you want to take a break from the swamp and do some city exploration, you can visit Everglades City and enjoy all the impressive sights. The City Hall is gorgeous, and you simply must visit the Museum of the Everglades. This museum presents the visitors with the history of Everglades, along with important artifacts and exhibits from the time of Calusa Indians to the development of the Everglades City. When you’re done with your tour, go load up on shrimp and Cuban treats at Havana Café of the Everglades (Chokoloskee Island).
Long Pine Key camping
Are you more into camping than staying at hotels and motels? Well, then, you should definitely visit Long Pine Key. This is a quiet spot to pitch your tent, much less popular than some other spots that can be a bit overcrowded. Long Pine Key allows you to take in the beauties of the area, hike your heart out and enjoy the sounds of the beautiful lake in the middle of the pine forest. The abovementioned Anhinga Trail is just next to Long Pine, but there are some other trails closer to the campground like Long Pine Key Nature Trail.
Big Cypress National Preserve
If you’re located in Fort Lauderdale, you have a little longer drive (50+ miles), but once you reach Big Cypress National Preserve, you won’t regret the visit. This is a perfect area of the Everglades for a ranger-lead mission accompanied by thorough ecological explanations of the area. When you’re done with your tour, make sure to relax with some top-notch photography. Famous Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher is a master of black-and-white photography and his works are displayed in the Big Cypress Gallery. You can see all his best works ranging from small 16×20 inches photos to giant 5×9 feet displays.
And that’s not all from Big Cypress National Preserve! This area is an internationally acclaimed and recognized Dark Sky Site, meaning you can get the best views of the night sky. From the park, on a clear night, you can see constellations, planets and stars thanks to zero light pollution.
The entire area of the Everglades is famous among anglers, so you can also try your hand at fishing. The section of the site known as The Ten Thousand Islands is a true angler’s paradise thanks to the abundance of tarpon, redfish, permit, pompano and snook. Book a guided fishing tour that will take you through the shallows and mangroves to all the best fishing sites.
Nothing similar to the Everglades can be found anywhere in the world, so when in Florida, make sure to set a few days aside and explore this world’s wonder of nature, animals and plants.