Visiting Everglades National Park

If you have a visit upcoming to the Florida Everglades, you are truly about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. You will see things you can’t see anywhere else in the world. You will enter a world that marries education with beauty and fun. As far as the outdoors go, you can’t beat Everglades National Park.

The national park is so large, that you end up doing a lot of driving to get from one station to the next. You also end up fighting a lot of crows. That is why we are so excited to offer an Everglades airboat experience right near Ft. Lauderdale, and close to shopping and restaurants.

Everglades – the Ecosystem That Rules South Florida

The Everglades are encompassed by a massive, 1.5 million acre piece of land that extends between Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the most extensive tropical wetlands in the world.

>>See the Gator Boys At Our Park! 

You will often see the Everglades compared to a grassy, slow-moving river. In fact, you may have heard reference to the River of Grass in conjunction with the Everglades. While the Everglades does boast some beautiful marsh scenes, it also has coastal mangroves, pine flatwoods, sandy beaches and wildlife that you can find anywhere else in the world. The diverse landscape is home to an abundance of creatures, many of whom are endangered, such as the leatherback turtle, Florida panther, and the West Indian manatee.

Miami Or Everglades City? Accessing the Everglades

Everglades City is easy access from Tampa and it includes its own visitors centers, which is a plus. From Miami, you will have access to several visitors centers as well as better, privately owned exploration options.

It’s a personal preference on which one you choose. Some of it will likely have to do with where you’re coming from.

Ways to Connect with Nature in the Everglades EcoSystem

The Everglades is an expanse of diversity. In fact there’s so much to see and do that your only problem when visiting might be, “Where do I start?”

Luckily for all the first time (and returning) visitors out there, you have some incredible options.

Airboat tours are a fun and engaging way to see a portion of the Everglades that you might otherwise miss. At Everglades Holiday Park, the Everglades tours have experienced captains who will tell you all about the ecosystem, animals, and their history. You will see wildlife on the tours, such as stunning wading birds and, the all-time favorite, the American alligator. These tours are family-friendly and family-engaging. It doesn’t matter your age, you will have so much fun speeding across the water and learning about all the beautiful things you get to see!

For close interactions with local wildlife, we offer our incredible Animal Encounters.  Our encounters take place in a private section of the park so that guests and animals can relax in the setting. Our animal handlers are always there to ensure complete safety and to answer any questions visitors may have.

The encounter will include a variation of tortoises, snakes, bearded dragons, scorpions, baby alligators, and more, some of which you will have the opportunity of interacting with! Animal Encounters are available to individuals or groups as an add-on to your airboat tour or as a standalone experience.

The People Groups That Historically Lived In the Everglades

We know the Everglades for the vast natural landscapes, but the Everglades have been home and hunting ground for many people over the years. Native Americans (and later, Anglo-American settlers known as “Gladesmen”) traversed the wild land and learned how to rely on the natural resources.

Developers, however, made a different kind of mark on the land. Their goals were to alter the wetland landscape by draining the lands to make way for roads and canals. The negative impact these alterations had on the Everglades prompted conservation groups such as the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs to raise their voices on the Everglades behalf.

With the dispersal and demise of the indigenous peoples in the South Florida region and white settlement occurring in the north, the migrations of Creek people increased as they were forced further southward. The Miccosukee and Seminole tribes lived in the area as early as the eighteenth century.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the south Florida coast was one of the last coastal regions east of the Mississippi to be settled. There were three small communities that existed along the coast of what we now know as Everglades National Park. These communities were Chokoloskee. Cape Sable, and Flamingo, and they were drawn to the isolated locations far from large, developed areas. The only way to arrive at Flamingo, for example, was by boat. Supplies that weren’t from the land were shipped from Key West, Tampa, or Fort Myers and traded for in return. The communities were never meant to nor desired to become metropolises, but their trade did well, with some vegetables from Chokoloskee reaching NYC!

National Park Visitor Centers

The park’s visitors centers are the way to visit Everglades National Park. The centers serve as the gateways to the Everglades’ wonders, providing valuable information about the park’s history, ecology, and recreational opportunities. There are interactive exhibits on endangered species such as the elusive Florida Panther, informative displays about topics such as how the Everglades became a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, and knowledgeable staff to answer questions and guide visitors to a deeper understanding of the delicate ecosystem of the Everglades.

Gulf Coast Visitor Center

This visitor center is located at the furthest northwest end of Everglades National Park towards Big Cypress National Preserve.

Gulf Coast Visitor Center has brochures, educational films, displays, and permits that are necessary for entering the backcountry. There are restrooms on the premises, as well as boat tours and kayak rentals available nearby. The area also has campgrounds, lodging, restaurants, and stores.

Shark Valley Visitor Center

Shark Valley Visitor Center is north of the main entrance. It’s usually open from 9:15 am to 5:15 pm, but those hours are subject to change.

There are educational displays, brochures, and films to keep the whole family entertained and books, postcards, and other items that you can purchase from the Gift Shop to take a portion of your trip home with you.

Shark Valley Tram Tours are guided and very interesting, while bicycle rentals are a little more self-directed. There are always two walking trails off the main trail that are accessible and comfortably short.

Ernest F Coe Visitor Center

This is the main visitor center within Everglades National Park. It’s open 365 days a year from nine to five, though the hours can change based on circumstance. There are many educational displays, brochures, and films available, and then the Gift Shop has everything you could want or need, including mosquito spray.

When you’re not in the building, you can explore any of the many interesting walking trails. Some are longer, some are shorter, and there’s a variety of difficulty.

Guy Bradley in Flamingo Visitor Center

Flamingo Visitor Center is open 365 days a year, typically from 9 am to 4:30 pm, but the lobby is open 24/7 with self-registration for backcountry camping.

Flamingo lies at the end of the Park’s 39 mile road and is accessed through the Park’s main entrance. Along your drive, there are many stops and pull outs along the way where you can take an hour or more to sightsee. In fact, there are so many interesting places to stop at that if you plan to see them all, you will need 4 to 6 hours just to get to Flamingo! (If you drive straight through, you likely won’t need more than an hour.)

If you drive four miles further, you will see the Royal Palm Visitor Center which will grant you access to that portion of the park.

Florida Bay and Safe Boating

Boating in the Florida Bay is not for the amateur boater. There are treacherous passes that cut through long banks of seagrass and mud. These passes may make up the shallow basins that are Florida Bay, but they are not easy to navigate.

In order to safely boat in Florida Bay, you will need the ability to “read the water” as easily as you can read a chart. Shallow areas aren’t always marked, so keeping a sharp eye out is a must (polarized sunglasses are also a huge help). You will need a weatherproof copy of NOAA chart #11451, a full understanding of the limits of your boat, and knowledge of the depth of your boat.

For a safer boating experience, check out our inland jon boat rentals. 

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