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Florida Everglades National Park

 

The Florida Everglades National Park is a land out of time, where ravenous reptiles roam the shallows, where bright birds take flight. Wild. Free. Land of sun, water and dreams.

Welcome to the Everglades in Florida, and be enchanted.  There is literally nothing else like it in the world. Come on and explore the Florida Everglades National Park with me.

The Florida Everglades - Jurassic Florida

Florida Everglades AlligatorAlligators and crocodiles roam the waterways, large reptiles looking for all the world like some kind of dinosaur. They may look slow and sleepy, but don't let that fool you! They can move very fast when they choose. If you come to the Shark Valley entrance to the park, I can pretty much guarantee you'll see gators...lots and lots of them!.

The Florida Everglades is home to massive wood storks and great blue herons that glide through the sky, looking almost like pterodactyls. From the largest cypress tree down to the smallest orchid, the Florida Everglades is a place where time seems to stand still.

Here are some of the animals in the Everglades that you might (or might not) see on a trip here.

Mangrove islands seem to move. And in a way, they do. Sometimes referred to as "walking islands", the mangroves are continually putting down new shoots, which collect more sand, which makes the island grow, in all different directions. Cool, don't you think?

Where and What?

The Florida Everglades takes up the vast majority of South Florida, from Lake Okeechobee south to the tip of the peninsula, from almost the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a large chunk of land, and it contains all kinds of ecosystems: mangrove islands to pine sloughs, sawgrass prairie to cypress swamps and more.

The actual Florida Everglades park boundaries, however, are roughly from just west of Miami on the east, US 41 (Tamiami Trail) on the north, Florida Bay on the south and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.

The Everglades is both a National Park and a World Heritage Site. It's one of the natural wonders of the United States, and much less visited than some of the others, like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. But the Florida Everglades has a magic all its own.

The Everglades National Park has several entrances, and which one you take depends on what you want to do. The entrances and visitor's centers are located at:

  • Royal Palm: Eastern side of the park
  • Flamingo / Florida City: Southern side of the park
  • Shark Valley: Northern side of the park. Click for more information about Shark Valley and tram tours.
  • Everglades City: Western (Gulf Coast) side of the park

So What Can I Do?

Florida Everglades Heron

Glad you asked. The Florida Everglades is full of surprises and fun. I mentioned airboats, and at the park entrances, you will find all kinds of airboat tours offered. Just follow the signs.

But if you'd rather see the Everglades without the noise of the airboat (they really are loud), you can take a nature walk at one of the visitor centers. Since there are spots of deeper water, especially around the edges of the park (the oceans), canoeing, kayaking and boating are popular. And fishing! Lots and lots of fishing, especially in the 10,000 Islands area (near Everglades City)!

Don't forget Florida everglades tours!  You won't want to miss the one in the Shark Valley portion of the park.   You can hop on the tram for a narrated tour, or rent a bike and ride it.

Camping is allowed in various parts of the park, but if you decide you want to, do yourself a favor - don't go in the summer! You'll just get eaten up by the mosquitoes, while the heat and humidity will also take a toll. The dry season is best, from about the end of November (when it starts) to around the beginning of May. Backcountry camping requires a permit.

Other activities include:

  • Boat Tours: Flamingo and Everglades City entrances
  • Tram Tour: Shark Valley entrance
  • Bicycling: Shark Valley entrance
  • Ranger-led Nature Walks: Royal Palm entrance
  • Hiking: All entrances
  • Backcountry Canoeing: Everglades City and Flamingo

Anything Else I Need to Know?

Florida Everglades, Shark ValleyYes! When you visit Florida Everglades National Park, be sure to bring mosquito repellant! You're bound to run into these annoying insects, and better to have the repellant and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Also bring some drinks and snacks -- there isn't much available outside of a few vending machines at the visitor centers. If you plan on making a day of it (and you may as well, this is a big park), you'll be glad you brought something.

Restrooms are available at the visitor centers.

Time and Place

The main park entrance (Flamingo / Florida City) is open 24/7. The Shark Valley entrance is open 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM, every day.

  • Main Park Entrance and Flamingo: From Miami and points north: take the Florida Turnpike (Route 821) south until it ends, merging with U.S. 1 at Florida City. Turn right at the first traffic light onto Palm Drive (State Road 9336 / SW 344th St.) and follow the signs. From the Florida Keys: turn left on Palm Drive in Florida City and follow the signs to the park.

  • Shark Valley Entrance: From the East: take the Florida Turnpike exit for SW 8th St to U.S. 41 (a.k.a. Tamiami Trail) 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike. From the West, take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) east to Shark Valley.

  • Gulf Coast / Everglades City: From the West: 5 miles south of Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) on State Road 29, in Everglades City. From, the East: take I-75 (Alligator Alley), to exit 80 (State Road 29) south and go 20 miles to Everglades City. Once in Everglades City, follow the signs to the park.

The Visitor Centers at Florida Everglades National Park are open at the following times:

  • Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center: Located at the main park entrance west of Homestead and Florida City, it's open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
  • Royal Palm Visitor Center: Located four miles west of the main entrance station, it's open daily from 8:00 AM to 4:15 PM.
  • Flamingo Visitor Center: Located 38 miles southwest from the main entrance at the southern end of the park, and it's open November through April 16 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.,
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center: Located in Everglades City, in the northwest corner of the park, it's open daily from 8:00 AM. to 4:30 PM November to April 16, and 9:00 AM. to 4:30 PM. April 17 to November.
  • Shark Valley Visitor Center: Located along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) on the northern border of the park, it's open daily from 8:30 AM to 4:45 PM December to March, and 9:00 AM. to 5:00 PM. April to November.

Florida Pieces-Parts

The closest cities with large or medium-sized airports are Miami and Ft. Lauderdale in the east, and Ft. Myers on the Gulf Coast

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