Visiting Everglades National Park: How to Plan the Ultimate Visit

The 1.5 million Everglades National Park has three entrances in three separate cities. It’s important for visitors to know what they want to do when visiting Everglades National Park. Use this guide to choose your favorite activities and plan your ultimate visit. Between the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, Flamingo Visitor Center, Shark Valley Visitor Center, and Gulf Coast Visitor Center, there’s nearly endless opportunities in this part of the Everglades.

Things to do Near Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

The Ernest Coe Visitor Center is closest to the Homestead entrance of Everglades National Park. When visiting Everglades National Park, you will likely spend some time here as it is the most visited visitor center in the park. In this area of the park, you will find yourself closest to 3 of the Everglades’ most popular hiking trails, and in the perfect place to enjoy a slough slog. 

Camp at Long Pine Key Campground

Long Pine Key is open seasonally, during the dry season, or November through May. There are over 100 campsites for RVs and tents available. The campground has no electric or water hookups, but there are modern restrooms with flush toilets, a dishwashing station, and solar-powered hot-water showers. Each campsite is equipped with a grill and a picnic table! 

Hike the Anhinga Trail

Wind your way through a sawgrass marsh on one of the most popular trails in the Everglades. The trail is only .8 miles round trip, completely accessible, and is home to an abundance of wildlife. 

The reason so many people hike the Anhinga trail when visiting Everglades National Park is that they’re likely to see alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, egrets, softshell turtles, and more! You’re likely to experience more wildlife if you hike the trail in the winter months; dusk and dawn also provide great animal viewing opportunities.

Hiking the Anhinga Trail

Miami Brewing Company

Stop into Miami Brewing Company for a beer brewed in the Miami Countryside!  Located just 15 minutes from the park entrance, this might provide a great opportunity to try a few cold ones and enjoy some American fare. 

Paurotis Pond

Pit stop just off the main road to experience many species of birds during nesting season. Wading birds love Paurotis Pond, so watch them from one of the many picnic tables available to visitors at this location. 

Slough Slog

Slough slogging is a wet walk through the Everglades with a park ranger. Book your free tour at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center or by calling (305) 242-7700 no earlier than one week before the date you’re hoping to slog. 

You must wear closed-toe, lace-up shoes, and long pants. The wet walk through the slough departs from the Royal Palm Visitor Center every day between December and March. The Royal Palm Visitor Center is located at the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trailhead. 

Enjoy the View on the Pa-hay-okee Trail

This incredibly short, mostly accessible trail includes a boardwalk that will lead you to a shaded overlook. The view of the Everglades wilderness is well worth the .15 mile stroll. 

The boardwalk follows a gentle incline to the viewing platform with stairs that lead down to make a full loop. A loop is an option, but it is not necessary if stairs do not work for you! 

Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail Views

Take a Short Walk on the Gumbo Limbo Trail

The Gumbo Limbo Trail can be found right next to the Anhinga Trail. This paved trail through a shaded hammock of Gumbo Trees is only a half-mile long and great for viewing the local flora.

Visit the Visitor Center

Visit the Ernest F. Coe visitor center for educational displays, orientation films, and informational brochures. Interesting collections of local artwork are often displayed in the visitor center as well. I love spending time in the Visitor’s Center to learn about the history, science, and culture of a space! 

Best Things to Do Near the Flamingo Visitor Center

Flamingo is located at the end of the Florida peninsula on the shores of Florida Bay. Once a remote fishing village, Flamingo is now home to the southernmost Visitor Center in the continental U.S. and is full of wonderful Florida wildlife. Birds, crocodiles, manatees, sharks, fish, dolphins, and dozens of uninhabited mangrove islands can all be found along Florida Bay. 

Boat Tours

Daily boat tours are available at the Flamingo marina. You can purchase tickets for the Backcountry or Bayside tour at the Marina Activities Booth or online through Flamingo Adventures. 

Explore the backcountry of the Everglades on a boat tour that ventures up the Buttonwood Canal. You’ll travel through Coot Bay and Tarpon Creek into Whitewater Bay while a naturalist shares information regarding the unique plant and animal life around you. Your other tour option is to explore the beautiful Florida Bay. This coastal adventure will also highlight the surrounding plant and wildlife as well as the rich history of Flamingo and Everglades National Park. 

Camp at the Flamingo Campground

You can camp at the Flamingo campground in a tent or RV. You can also stay in an “eco-tent” adjacent to the campground. This canvas cabin on a platform boasts comfortable beds, electricity, and a fan for $95 a night. Stay in an unfurnished tent and bring your gear for as little as $50 a night. 

Flamingo Marina

Stay on a houseboat in the Flamingo Marina! Stay on the dock for #350 a night or in White Water Bay for $400 a night. This might seem expensive for an evening, but what a unique experience! 

Hike the Snake Bight Trail

If you’re looking for a longer hike when visiting Everglades National Park, the Snake Bight Trail is a great option. Following a 1.6 mile trail through dozens of tropical tree species is a great way to spend your morning or afternoon! You’ll be rewarded at the end of the hike with a boardwalk where you can see many beautiful birds in Snake Bight (bay within a larger bay) during high tide. 

Paddle the Florida Bay

One of the most popular ways to explore Flamingo is to paddle, canoe or kayak, up the Buttonwood Canal. In the Buttonwood Canal, you are likely to see crocodiles and various bird species along the mangrove shoreline. 

If it isn’t too windy, I suggest you paddle Florida Bay. Explore the shoreline, both East and West of the marina. Honestly, the best way to see the Everglades is to paddle it! 

The Beautiful Florida Bay

 Inland Paddle

Take an inland paddle to truly experience the Everglades. Nine Mile pond is a popular marked trail through the mangroves and shallow lagoons near Flamingo. If you’re visiting Everglades National Park without a vessel, you can arrange to rent kayaks or canoes at the Flamingo Marina and they will transport them to Nine Mile Pond for you! 

Noble Hammock is another great paddle in the Flamino area. A 1.9-mile loop will bring you through a maze of mangrove tunnels and small ponds. Follow the 120 numbered PVC pipes that mark the trail; spotting the next PVC pipe is all part of the fun! 

Honestly, I think the best way to experience the Everglades is to paddle the river of grass. 

Visitor Center 

The Flamingo Visitor center is currently being rebuilt and reinforced. It’s set to open later this year (2022) and will have several exhibits including educational displays, artwork, informational brochures, and backcountry permits.

The visitor center is located right next to the marina which has a public boat ramp and a marina store.

Walk the Guy Bradley Trail

The Guy Bradley Trail connects the campground to the Visitor Center and Marina. Keep your eyes on the coast for gorgeous birds, old dock remains, and great pockets of beach to leave the trail and explore. Take a 1.2 mile, paved hike from the visitor center parking lot to the amphitheater and campground before heading back the same way you came. 

Views Along the Guy Bradley Trail when Visiting Everglades National Park

What To Do Near the Shark Valley Visitor Center

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is on the most popular entrances when visiting Everglades National Park. Because the tram ride and short hikes a great day trip from Miami, this is often a visitors first choice when exploring the Florida Everglades.

Airboat Tour Along the Tamiami Trail

Airboat rides are a popular way for visitors to explore the Everglades. Luckily, there are several companies located along the Tamiami Trail right alongside the Shark Valley entrance. Everglades Safari Park is one of the only airboat tours that travels inside of Everglades National Park.

Bobcat Boardwalk

Bobcat Boardwalk Trail is a .5 mile-long boardwalk located just behind the visitor center. This fully accessible trail meanders through a sawgrass slough lined with tropical hardwoods. It is likely that you’ll see wildlife on this trail, including, but not limited to, alligators and birds. 

Everglades Safari Park

Airboat tours, nature walks, and wildlife shows await at Everglades Safari Park. 

Otter Cave Hammock Trail

The Otter Cave Hammock Trailhead begins .5 miles behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center off the tram road. You can ride a bike to the trailhead as there are bike racks for storage. Travel a limestone path through a tropical hardwood forest with small footbridges that bring you over a stream. 

Shark Valley Tram Tour

The Everglades Shark Valley Tram Tour is one of the most popular attractions when visiting Everglades National Park. Learn about the ecology and history of the Everglades in a relaxed setting where, at the halfway point, you’ll be able to enjoy the view from the observation tower. The Shark Valley Observation Tower is the highest accessible point in Everglades National Park. 

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Things to Do Near the Gulf Coast Visitor Center

The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is the gateway to exploring the Ten Thousand Islands. The Ten Thousand Islands are a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that extends into Flamingo and Florida Bay. The current Gulf Coast Visitor Center is temporary as the original was destroyed in 2017 by hurricane Irma.  

Airboat Tours

Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours receives 4.8 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews. With Wooten’s you can glide across 259 private acres, watch a live Alligator show, or experience lions, tigers, otters, and gators in their animal sanctuary. 

Luckily, there’s a full list of airboat tours available to those visiting Everglades National Park. Find the perfect tour company for you and your family with this list. 

Fishing Charters

There are a number of fishing charters that leave from Everglades City, just north of the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. The Everglades City Fishing Charters is family wonder and operated and received 4.8 stars on Google. Fishhunt Charters and Captain Wayne receive 5 star, raving reviews across the board.

If you’re looking to catch some fish in Chokoloskee Bay, hiring a fishing charter during your Everglades stay is a great way to do it! 

Paddle the Islands 

It may take a few hours to paddle to and explore the popular Sandfly island, but it’s so worth it! There are a few different ways to experience the Ten Thousand Islands. There are a number of tour companies in Everglades City that you can book and/or rent boats through if you don’t have access to you own. Popular spots to explore include Turner River, Halfway Creek, and the East River.

If you are an experienced paddler, you can paddle to and camp on many of the islands. Three different styles of camping await! Chickee Sites, or platforms over water, are quite popular in this region. Ground and beach sites are also available throughout the islands. 

You can experience so much wildlife when visiting Everglades National Park

Fun Facts About Visiting Everglades National Park

  • The Everglades experiences over one million annual visitors each year.
  • Everglades National Park’s subtropical Wilderness is the largest in the United States.
  • Cape Sable, in the Florida Everglades, is the southernmost point of the United States mainland. 
  • The best time to visit Everglades National Park is in the Winter Season. 
  • Everglades is the third-largest national park in the contiguous United States after Death Valley and Yellowstone.
  • Within the four National Park areas of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Fort Jefferson National Monument there are 16 endangered species. 
  • The Cyprus-Everglades regions of South Florida is where you are most likely to see a Florida Panther.

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