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The ultimate guide to visiting Everglades National Park

Alligator in Everglades National Park, Florida

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!

The ultimate guide to visiting Everglades National Park

How to get to the Everglades

Driving is the easiest way to get around the Everglades. If you rent a car, you can 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. Here are a few Everglades day tour options for seeing the park without a car:

Miami – If you get a Miami hop-on hop-off bus pass, you’ll find that it includes an airboat ride in the Everglades. For something more in-depth, you can do a half-day airboat adventure tour.

Orlando – While Orlando is not as close to the national park as Miami, you can still see the Everglades by doing a half-day Everglades package.

The ultimate guide to visiting 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

The ultimate guide to visiting 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.

The ultimate guide to visiting Everglades National Park

Other places to go:

  • 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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8 Responses to “The ultimate guide to visiting Everglades National Park”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Charmaine! It really is a lovely spot – you would never think that a swamp could be so pretty! 😀

  1. H

    I stumbled across your blog and love your style! This area is where I live, and I visit frequently. I think it’s important for visitors to know that airboats are allowed in the western part of the park as well as outside of the park proper in an area generally known as “the Everglades.” (Airboats aren’t allowed just anywhere inside the park.) Also, the Loop Road you mentioned is actually part of a neighboring public land called Big Cypress National Preserve, whose boundaries are near the cute little post office. Both Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve have camping, and as you said, the dry season is best — I’ve camped in both and recommend late November through April at the latest to avoid mosquitoes and heat.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks a bunch for the tips! It’s always good to get the perspective of a local 🙂

  2. Kaili

    I live in Florida, and yet I’ve never really spent any time here! I must plan a visit once it cools down again 😉

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You definitely should plan a visit in the cooler months, Kaili! The Everglades are such an amazing part of Florida 😀

  3. Rob - Parkcation

    On our trip to the Everglades, we did the Shark Valley tram tour and it was great. I wasn’t sure it would be worth the money, but we had a great time and enjoyed learning all about the Everglades from the park ranger.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s great to know! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Rob!


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