How to Spend a Perfect Day at Everglades National Park
When in Florida, you’re spoiled for choice due to the endlessly appealing weather that envelops the state year-round. But with so much to do and see, one of the top sights is The Everglades – a source of pride for many Floridians with its unique beauty and unrivalled biodiversity.
And yet, before you embark on your tour amidst this natural splendor, there are certain things you should be aware of to prepare yourself and make it an unforgettable experience.
Best things to do in Everglades National Park
The Everglades may bring to mind myths of gators feasting on swamp cats and mosquitos the size of small airplanes, but the truth is that this beautiful park has a lot more to offer than just hot, humid weather and mythical creatures. At Everglades National Park you can be sure to have a wild and wonderful time — literally. Whether it’s exploring the area on foot, by boat, or even an airboat, there are plenty of ways to get out there and experience nature first-hand.
Everglades National Park is a treasure trove of wildlife
Everglades National Park is a treasure trove of wildlife! The park is an impressive melange of habitats, consisting of ocean and estuarine ecosystems, freshwater sloughs, mangrove forests, pinelands, marl prairies, tropical hammocks and coastal lowlands. What does that mean for us? An unparalleled diversity of creatures to behold!
Everglades is home to alligators and crocodiles, dolphins and manatees; snakes and turtles; not to mention over 350 species of birds. To experience such immense biodiversity in a single park? Quite remarkable!
What to expect from Everglades Airboat Tours
Everglades National Park is huge – so big that unless you’ve got a boat, you won’t be able to take it all in. But in one day you can drive around a bit, go for short hikes, seek out some ‘gators and manatees, and even go kayaking or airboating. Now if only you could find an air conditioned gondola ride too – then your swampy trip would be complete!
Everglades Airboat Tours are not just about the thrilling ride – it’s also about learning! Most tours last for 30-40 minutes, meaning you get just enough time to stay entertained without losing interest. What’s more, your tour guide will be able to paint a picture of the Everglades with fun and informative facts.
And if that isn’t incentive enough, this entertaining adventure is backed by a guarantee – you’re almost sure to spot one of Florida’s most famous inhabitants, an alligator!
What species will you find at Everglades?
The Everglades National Park is an important sanctuary for a diversity of species. You’ll find the elusive Florida panther here, alongside manatees, crocodiles and a whole host of birds. As if that wasn’t majestic enough, this fragile ecosystem is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site registry and is an International Biosphere Reserve.
Get ready to cozy up with a few centuries of history in the Everglades. Mahogany Hammock offers an epic transformation from typical wetland landscape, thanks to a centuries-old cluster of mahogany trees. These were spared the axe during the mass logging of the 1800s, so some of them are the oldest and largest in all of America! A 0.5 mile boardwalk trail loops around this enchanting rainforesty setting, giving you a much-needed reprieve from the muggy Florida heat. But don’t forget your bug spray – mosquitoes thrive here too!
if you really want to spot the alligators, you may have better luck visiting in the early morning or late afternoon when their natural rhythms are driving them out for snacking and sunbathing.
Pay-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower
At 13 miles from the Anhinga Trail, you can catch a bird’s eye view of the park with one stop at Pay-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower. Unveiling the Shark River Slough is not only an impressive feat of nature, but it also reveals the vastness of Everglades National Park. The slough is an extended shallow river funneled from its northern reaches to flow through the park. It may not be much to look at, but its beauty lies deep beneath its murky surface – quite literally!
if you are looking for some animal viewing action, this is one place you definitely don’t want to pass up! Not only will you see turtles, birds and gators galore, but you also have the option of traveling along a 7.5 mile road and bike trail from the Visitor Center to an elevated observation deck (which, by the way, is only accessible by foot or on two wheels!). If you haven’t brought your own bike with you, that’s no problem – just swing by the Visitor Center and rent one for $20!
Do you get drenched on an airboat tour?
So, prepare yourself, because you may get a little damp during your experience. But no need to pack your swimming trunks, because it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be completely drenched! For those of us who fall under the ‘better safe than sorry’ category, try sitting middle and center and you might just escape with dry clothes.
Is the tour safe?
Ff you’re wondering if the airboat ride is even safe in the first place…you can rest assured that airboat tours are generally safe and there are only some reports of potential danger. So go ahead and enjoy the Everglades – but keep one eye out for rogue waves!
How to close the right Everglades Airboat Tours
Everglades Airboat Tours take visitors to explore the vast Everglades – and you’d be surprised how many there are to choose from! But what makes one tour better than another? The main differences lie not in the policies surrounding the environment and animals (which are relatively consistent due to National Park guidelines), but instead in the reviews being received.
Taking a look at these reviews gives you a sense of both how ethical a company is, as well as what others’ experiences have been like- so read up before booking that Everglades airboat tour!
How much is the airboat tour?
Exploring the charming sights of the Everglades with an airboat ride is a bucket list experience for most. But how much would that cost you? It’s surprisingly affordable – about 40 bucks per person, plus a few extra fees here and there. $10 if you want your photo with a rescue alligator at the end of the ride.
National Park pass if you’re planning on doing some self-exploring – set you back another 30 bucks.
And remember all those wild west dudes – don’t skimp on tipping your trusty tour guides as they make their income mainly from gratuities.
Unfortunately, this vast area of wetland fed by Lake Okeechobee has been under pressure from human encroachment for centuries – literally ever since canals were built in the 1900s to divert water away from the park and into cities and residential areas. This kind of human interference has had a dramatic effect on wildlife populations in the Everglades, leaving many species teetering on the brink of extinction.
From Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to Flamingo Visitor Center, the southernmost section of Everglades National Park is a treat! Not only are there short walks and views galore, but kayaking opportunities abound too. If you’re looking for an action-packed excursion, head 12 miles over to Shark Valley for airboat rides and wildlife tours-by-tram or bike!
Lastly, don’t miss out on your chance to explore by kayak in the western part of the park at Everglades City’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Just be mindful of hurricane season – otherwise you could be washed away from this fun field trip!
Tips for visiting Everglades National Park
•Bring sunscreen and insect repellent.
• There are no gas stations between the Ernest F. Coe and Flamingo Visitor Centers, so make sure you have enough gas in your car before entering this part of the park.