There are so many fun things to do in Everglades National Park that it can be hard to choose when planning your trip!
Visiting the Everglades is an experience unlike any other. Her exotic, diverse ecosystem is full of wildlife.
The Everglades is essentially a zoo without barriers. It is a bit scary not knowing what could be lurking next to you in the river of grass. Yet, her alluring beauty and bountiful wildlife are exhilarating.
There is so much to see and do here. Make sure to reference the complete guide to Everglades National Park for information on the different park sections.
How should you spend your time in this beautiful section of Florida? Let’s explore the top things to do in Everglades National Park.
Guest post by Scott from Miles With McConkey
Map of Things to Do in Everglades National Park
10 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Go to Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
This is a great first stop on your visit. They have fantastic educational exhibits. You will learn more about the park before you get out and explore on your own.
There is a gift shop inside the visitor center where you can pick up water and snacks.
If you did not bring insect repellent, you should grab that as well. Mosquitoes love the hot, humid environment of the Everglades. Insect repellent is your new best friend.
I highly recommend that you talk to a park ranger at the visitor center. They know the park inside out. If there is something you hope to see, a ranger can offer valuable insight.
Hike Anhinga Trail
Do you want to see wildlife? It is nearly impossible not to find it on Anhinga Trail. This is an easy 0.8 mile hike through a sawgrass marsh section.
There is a treasure trove of wildlife waiting to be discovered. Alligators, snakes, birds, fish and turtles all inhabit the area. You will want to take your time here and soak up the view.
The water is crystal clear. As you peer past the lily pads, you will observe turtles and fish peacefully gliding through the water.
Alligators bask in the sun along the water’s edge. A few may rest right next to the path. It can be startling at first. Seeing gators so close in the wild gets your pulse racing.
Various species of birds glide across the river in search of a snack. Turtles nestle in the tall grass to find a resting place. Just when you feel a sense of calm, a snake slithers across the path.
There is a lot to take in. You can be scared to death one minute and then overcome by the sheer beauty the next. This is a must-see spot!
Gliding across the river of grass in an airboat is an experience you will never forget. It may not be the best way to observe critters in the Everglades, but it is a fun and wild ride.
To say airboats are noisy is an understatement. Earplugs are provided though.
Your guide will educate you about the ecosystem. You will hover on top of the river as you zip through tall grass in search of wildlife. It is exciting to be in the water right next to gators and birds.
There are three approved vendors for airboat tours in Everglades National Park:
- Gator Park
- Everglades Safari Park
Anna’s Pick: While Tyler & I were in the Everglades, we chose to book with Gladesmen Airboat Tours at Mack’s Fish Camp. It’s more expensive when you have a small group but it was a private tour with a local.
We didn’t want to go on a tour with 30 other people that was super commercialized and I’m so glad that we chose to do this. Well worth the price.
Shark Valley Tram Tour
The park offers a 2 hour guided tram tour of Shark Valley. You will be led by a park ranger or park naturalist.
Spoiler alert, there are no sharks. However, there are lots of gators.
The road is a 15 mile loop along the river of grass. You can relax comfortably as you go to the best spots for observing wildlife.
There is an observation tower along the road. This will give you a chance for a view from above.
You can also ride a bicycle on Shark Valley Tram Road. This is a great way to explore this section of the park at your own pace.
Where the tram is a naturalist-guided tour, renting a bike is a self-guided tour. It is great exercise and you can choose where you stop to observe wildlife. The observation tower is waiting for you…
Go to Flamingo
The drive from Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to Flamingo is 38 miles. It is well worth your time.
There are many great things to see along the road. In fact, all three of our recommended hikes are on the way.
Flamingo offers a few things that you are unlikely to find elsewhere in the park:
Manatee sightings are common here. They like to congregate in the marina where freshwater and saltwater mix.
The sea cows surface for air and to say hello. Have your camera ready. You do not want to miss their greeting.
Alligators are typically seen in all sections of the park. Crocodiles are much harder to find. They are often spotted in Flamingo.
There is an osprey nest near the Flamingo Visitor Center. You may see this raptor take flight or hear him whistle like a boiling kettle being lifted from the stove.
Looking for a meal with a view? There is a food truck in Flamingo that offers tasty options. Enjoy the view of Florida Bay while you have lunch or dinner.
Hike Mahogany Hammock Trail
Many of the Everglades trails take you through sawgrass marsh areas. Mahogany Hammock showcases some of the ecosystem’s diversity.
It is an easy 0.5 mile boardwalk trail through a dense jungle-like hammock of trees. There are typically a variety of birds in the area.
As a bonus, the parking lot is a good spot for potential sightings of the International Space Station.
Kayak through Ten Thousand Islands
Looking for both a mental and physical challenge? You can kayak through a maze of mangrove islands in the Gulf Coast region of the park.
You must carefully navigate the shallow waters in order to find your way through the maze. Many species of fish and birds inhabit this region. Other wildlife sightings are possible as well.
If you’re headed down toward the keys make sure you go kayaking in Marathon, FL too!
Hike Pinelands Trail
Pinelands Trail is an easy 0.4 mile hike through pines, palmettos and wildflowers. It looks like the perfect environment for dinosaurs.
There is abundant wildlife, but you will hear more than you see. Rustling sounds near the path heighten your senses and keep you on your toes. This hike feels like a haunted trail!
Everglades National Park is a wonderful place to observe many different birds. Over 300 species inhabit the park. Whether you are a casual bird lover or a serious birder, there is plenty to see.
You may notice an anhinga dive below the surface for an eternity and suddenly burst out of the water. You may spot a purple gallinule use his beak to pull lily pads closer so he can walk across water. In Flamingo, you may find an osprey flying near the visitor center. All areas of the park offer opportunities for birdwatching.
A few other common species are: great egret, snowy egret, white ibis, great blue heron and red-shouldered hawk. Roseate spoonbills have been spotted in the park as well.
Bring your binoculars and your camera. Get ready to make memories. This is a birder’s paradise!
Tips for Visiting Everglades National Park
What to Pack for Everglades National Park
While this isn’t a complete packing list for vacation, here are a few items that you’ll want in your daypack for a visit to the Everglades.
- Wide brimmed hat
- Insect repellent
- High energy snacks
- Binoculars (for birding)
Getting Around Everglades National Park
Not all areas of the park are connected by one road.
Use the eastern park entrance (Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center) to access our recommended hiking trails and Flamingo.
Enter the park in the north (Shark Valley Visitor Center) for airboat rides, tram tours and bicycle tours.
Take the western park entrance (Gulf Coast Visitor Center) to kayak through Ten Thousand Islands.
Tips for Airboat Tours
If you plan to take an airboat tour, purchase tickets in advance. This will give you a discount and reserve your spot(s).
These also book up quickly so if this is something on your bucket list then book as soon as you know your dates.
Sunset Spots in Everglades National Park
Flamingo is a great spot to watch the sunset over Florida Bay.
Other great sunset spots in the Everglades are Sisal Pond, the Pahayokee Overlook Trail, and the main road headed to Flamingo offers tons of great spots to stop as well.
Spotting the Manatees
If your main goal is to see manatees, stop at Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center before making the 38 mile drive. A ranger can advise you on current manatee activity in Flamingo.
You can then decide if you want to make the drive. If you do, one of the best ways to see them is on the boat tour.
Best Time to Visit the Everglades
The Everglades has two seasons:
- Wet: May through November
- Dry: December through April
The dry season has bigger crowds but milder temperatures, fewer mosquitoes, and more wildlife.
Where to Stay Near Everglades National Park
Homestead and Florida City are great places to stay for easy access to all but one item on our list of top things to do in Everglades National Park. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in these areas.
During our visit, we stayed in Florida City. Homestead is a little closer, but we found better hotel rates by staying a bit further away.
Drive times from Florida City:
- Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center: 20 minutes
- Shark Valley Visitor Center: 1 hour
If kayaking through the mangroves is your focus, then you will likely want to stay somewhere on Florida’s west coast. There are a few hotels in the Everglades City area with a short drive to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center.
Wrap Up: Things to Do in Everglades National Park
For more information on visiting this slice of heaven you’ll want to check out the complete guide to Everglades National Park.
Be sure to monitor the official Everglades National Park website for current information and updates.
Prioritize your activities when deciding where to stay and consider visiting in the dry season for a more comfortable and rewarding experience.
There are plenty of things to do in Everglades National Park. If you enjoy nature and observing wildlife, this is a great place to visit. The scenery is beautiful and you are virtually guaranteed to see wildlife – especially birds.
We are Scott and Julie of Miles with McConkey. After nearly 30 years, we took a leap of faith out of the corporate world to enjoy a life of travel and adventure. We hope to inspire you to find ways to travel more and enjoy life now.
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