The “River of Grass” Everglades National Park has so much to do and see, making it the perfect addition to your warm-climate Florida vacation. If you’re in the area, make time for this must-do scenic drive that takes you through the Everglades, delivering a once-in-a-lifetime experience you and your family won’t soon forget.
One Word: Gators!
Whether you choose to travel along fast-moving Alligator Alley or the scenic Tamiami Trail, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a good look at some gators in the water or along the shoreline. Keep in mind that the best way to see one of these historic creatures is from a safe distance behind the doors of your vehicle.
Amazing Everglade Wildlife
Gators might be the first thing that come to mind when you think of the Everglades, but there’s a lot more wildlife here to check out. While you’re coasting through the national park, keep an eye out for resident birds, like the great white egret and the great blue heron. To see some of the park’s other wildlife — including manatees, river otters, bobcats, and gray foxes — ask a park ranger for the best spots to pull over and get your camera ready for some action shots.
The Everglades Are a National Treasure
Did you know the Everglades is a VIP among wetlands? In fact, it’s the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., a Wetland of International Importance, and a World Heritage Site. That tells you a little bit about how important this huge park is to the wildlife, plants, and other natural wonders that call it home. It stretches across 1.5 million acres, offering amazing sights around every turn.
The Gorgeous Scenery
Some people call State Road 9336 “38 Miles of Nothing,” but savvy travelers know otherwise. The park’s main road from Homestead to Flamingo passes through every major habitat in the park, allowing you to see a little bit of everything along the way, including the country’s largest living mahogany tree. Sounds like a cool backdrop to snap a few selfies with your family!
Water Activities Galore
Airboat rides aren’t the only way to hit the water in the Everglades. Other popular activities include canoeing and kayaking, which let you get out of the car, stretch your legs, and puts you smack dab in the middle of the park’s natural beauty. Paddle your way through freshwater marshes and mangrove forests. If you love birds, canoe into Snake Bight, or head for Cape Sable if you prefer untamed beaches. Paddling trips take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the route you choose.
Do you prefer to stay on dry land? No problem! There’s plenty of spots to stretch your legs while meeting Mother Nature along the drive. Some of the best hikes in the park include Shark Valley Trails, Pine Island Trails, Gulf Coast Trails, and Flamingo Trails. Each gives you a different view of this wild destination.
Tip: for wildlife spotting, take the half-mile Anhinga Trail, or get up close to the country’s largest mahogany tree on the half-mile Mahogany Hammock Trail.
If you love taking selfies and snapping photos for your Instagram and other social media, there’s nothing quite like the view from the 65-foot observation tower located off the 15-mile road near the Shark Valley Visitors Center. The tower offers some of the best opportunities to spot local wildlife. The backdrops in this park are something that your followers will be raving about for sure.
You don’t have to go on a hike or canoe through the mangroves to experience the beauty of the Everglades. If this is your first drive through the park, you owe it to yourself to book a tour on an airboat — seriously, you’ll thank us later! These rides allow you to explore the mangroves and see local wildlife while enjoying a thrilling, fast-paced ride.
Interesting Stops Along the Way
It’s not all about the outdoor recreation here. Driving along roads like the Tamiami Trail takes you past hidden gems that are worth a visit. For example, stop at Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery to view dramatic black-and-white photos of the Everglades. Send off a postcard from the smallest post office in the U.S. in Ochopee, and grab some gut-busting grub at one of the various eateries along the way.
Three Convenient Entrances
To get the most bang for your buck, it makes sense to drive in one of the three entrances and exit through one of the others, so you can cover the most ground. Everglades National Park’s three entrances include Homestead (east), Miami (northeast), and Everglades City (northwest). There’s no public transportation here, so the only way you can see the sights is to slide behind the wheel and drive.
With so many photo ops, it’d be a shame if you didn’t share your best shots. Share them with us on Instagram to inspire other road trippers with your experiences.