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Alligator in Everglades National Park, Florida

The ultimate guide to visiting Everglades National Park

This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2018. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.

The Everglades is one of the most amazing national parks in the United States.

This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to some incredible animals. It’s most famous for the alligators that dwell in this vast area of shallow river and swampland, but there also plenty of birds, pythons, turtles, and even panthers!

I’ve visited the Everglades twice – once on a day trip from Fort Lauderdale, and the second time on a road trip through Florida. Most people will choose to see the national park via an airboat tour, but if you have more time, then it would be easy to fill a few days with fun activities in this 1900 km² (734 square mile) natural area.

If you’ll be visiting Florida any time soon, here’s my ultimate guide to visiting Everglades National Park!

Airboat in Everglades National Park, Florida
Airboat tour in Everglades National Park

How to get to the Everglades:

Driving is the easiest way to get around the Everglades. If you’ll be renting a car, it’s pretty easy to explore the park in 1-2 days. Before you go, be sure to grab a national park pass which costs $25 per vehicle for 7 days.

If you don’t have a car, it’s still fairly easy to see the Everglades on a day tour from the nearest cities. From Miami or Fort Lauderdale you can do an Everglades VIP tour, or from Orlando there’s the option of a Wild Florida airboat tour.

Birdlife in Everglades National Park, Florida
Birdlife in Everglades National Park

When to go to the Everglades:

Everglades National Park is open year-round to visitors. Florida’s hurricane season is from June-November so keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable during that time.

High season is from December-April. If you are planning on traveling in high season, be sure to make your reservations as early as possible as accommodations and tours can fill up quickly.

Where to stay in the Everglades:

  • Miami – Staying in Miami is arguably the easiest way to see the Everglades as it’s the closest major city to the park. There are plenty of accommodation options – see my Miami city guide for more info.
  • Homestead/Florida City – This is a great location to use as a base near Everglades National Park. Try the Fairway Inn Florida City or the Garden Inn of Homestead.
  • Everglades City – Everglades City is another good choice for an overnight stay. Check out Everglades City Motel or try Ivey House.
  • Campgrounds – If you’re traveling outside of the wet season, then camping might be a great option for your Everglades trip. You can choose Flamingo Campground or any of the backcountry campsites.
Airboat tour in Everglades National Park, Florida
Airboat tour in Everglades National Park

Everglades Visitor Centers:

  • Shark Valley Visitor Center – There’s plenty of activities in Shark Valley, so plan to spend a few hours here if possible. Here you’ll find a paved loop and paths through the Everglades, and an observatory tower with views of the surrounding scenery. Cars are not permitted past the visitor center, so to get around you can walk the paths, rent a bicycle, or take a 2-hour tram tour.
  • Ernest Coe Visitor Center – This visitor center features a small museum with educational displays and orientation films. A great place to stop to learn about the national park.
  • Royal Palm Visitor Center – At Royal Palm, you’ll find a number of great walking trails. Try the Gumbo Limbo Trail (a half mile walk through a forest of gumbo limbo trees) or the Anhinga Trail (a 0.8 mile walk through a sawgrass marsh).
  • Flamingo Visitor Center – This is the southernmost visitor center in the national park. You can rent canoes and explore water trails, or spot manatees around the dock and marina. Be sure to stop at Pa-hay-Okee overlook on the way (a 0.2 mile boardwalk trail with grassland views located about 15 miles from the visitors center).
  • Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center – Big Cypress is one of the best places to view ‘gators in the national park. There is a boardwalk around the lagoon that you can wander along for viewing.
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center – Located in Everglades City, this visitor center is the gateway to exploring Ten Thousand Islands. You can take a boat tour out and see the maze of waterways and mangrove islands that extend along the coast.
Smallest post office in the US, Everglades National Park
The smallest post office in the US

More Everglades activities:

  • An airboat ride in the Everglades is a must! You’ll see plenty of airboat tour operators as you drive through the park. Alternatively, both the Miami Sightseeing Pass and the Miami Explorer Pass include an airboat ride as one of their attraction options.
  • The Everglades is home to the smallest operational post office in the US (pictured above – it’s totally adorable!). You’ll find it on highway 41 near Ochopee.
  • Do the loop road scenic drive instead of continuing past on highway 90. The loop is a 24 mile drive which takes you through a cypress swamp.

What to bring:

  • A full tank of gas. Gas stations can be sparse, so if you’re driving, be sure to fill up first.
  • Water and snacks. There are a numerous places where you can buy water bottles and snacks within the park, but the distances between them can be great.
  • Walking shoes or sneakers. Most of the hiking trails in the Everglades are flat and easy, but not all are paved so you’ll need some comfortable shoes fit for walking on dirt trails.
  • Sunscreen. The Florida sun can be harsh, so bring sunscreen and use it when you’re outdoors.
  • Mosquito repellant. You’ll definitely need this if you’re traveling in the summer.
  • A raincoat or umbrella. Florida often receives tropical rain showers and the weather can be unpredictable.
  • Binoculars. These will come in handy if you’re planning on doing some wildlife spotting!

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