The Florida Everglades are known for having lots of unique wildlife, especially alligators, turtles, and manatees, but it also has lots of fun things to do. Everglades National Park is a large area of wetlands that takes up 1.5 million acres of Florida. So, if you love exploring nature, there’s lots of plant and animal life to see.
This massive park can be overwhelming, so here are 10 fun things to do in the Everglades to help you begin planning your Florida trip.
#1 – Shark Valley
Shark Valley is just under an hour from Miami, and it’s packed with fun things to do in the Everglades. Despite being called Shark Valley, you’re more likely to see alligators, turtles, and birds. The two-hour tram tours are one of the most popular attractions because they’re a great way to see lots of Florida wildlife. After your tour, you can also check out Observation Tower and Visitors Center. The observation tower can be accessed by foot, bike, or tour tram, so you can’t drive right up to it. If you’re hoping to hop on one of these tours, you might want to call ahead since tours fill up fast, especially during December through April. Be sure to pack plenty of water for this outdoor adventure.
#2 – Sawgrass Recreation Park
Sawgrass Recreation Park is a convenient place to visit if you’re near Fort Lauderdale. Yet, it feels like it’s millions of miles from the city. It’s one of the most popular places to go on an airboat tour. Airboats are large, flat-bottom boats that move across the water using a giant fan on the back. They’re often narrated by a tour guide, and they’re one of the best ways to explore the Everglades. So, this park is an excellent place to visit for all ages. You’ll likely see lots of alligators during your visit.
#3 – Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is a good first stop during any Everglades trip. It has lots of educational exhibits to teach you about the park before you see the real deal. There are also plenty of experts and guides that will be happy to answer questions, give advice, and help you plan your trip. This center offers lots of exciting programs, even options specifically for kids. There are also plenty of nearby trails for guests to explore.
#4 – Gumbo Limbo Trail
If you’re looking to explore the Everglades on your own, the Gumbo Limbo Trail is a great way to do it. It offers a self-guided boardwalk trail that passes through the unique ecosystem of the Everglades. Bikes aren’t allowed on the trails, but it’s only a half-mile trail that’s wheelchair accessible. Despite being a shorter path, it’s well worth the trip. Just make sure you keep an eye out for gators.
#5 – Anhinga Trail
The Anhinga Trail is another self-guided walk that’s about 0.8 miles. It’s a lot like the Gumbo Limbo Trail, so bikes aren’t allowed on the path, but it’s convenient for both wheelchairs and strollers. The path is a peaceful boardwalk that passes across a man-made canal. You’re certain to see some wildlife while exploring this path, including alligators and turtles. You’ll also come across some unique bird species, which might include anhingas, cormorants, egrets, and herons. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for beautiful native plants.
#6 – Chokoloskee Bay
Chokoloskee Bay is the perfect place for visitors to enjoy water sports. It has a wide variety of saltwater fish, making it a fisherman’s dream. Plus, it’s also a great destination for kayaking and canoeing. You can even paddle out to the Ten Thousand Islands for more areas to explore. Chokoloskee Island is the heart of this bay, which was settled by Native Americans about 2,000 years ago. Now, a historic general store has been turned into an island, where tourists can learn more about the area. While this location’s name might sound like a beach, you shouldn’t swim in any areas of the Everglades due to the high alligator population.
#7 – Mahogany Hammock Trail
The Mahogany Hammock Trail is another gorgeous boardwalk trail that you’re free to explore on your own. It’s home to the largest living Mahogany tree in the country. It’s a fairly short trail that’s only a half-mile long, so even casual hikers can enjoy it. Along the trail, you’ll find plenty of dense, jungle-like ecosystems. Of course, you might see some wildlife during your walk too, including owls, egrets, and alligators.
#8 – Flamingo
Flamingo is a popular area toward the southern part of the Everglades. It has plenty of outdoor activities, including camping sites, kayak routes, and hiking trails. Manatees are often seen along the shores there, which is why many people come to visit. It’s a little less secluded from civilization than the other Everglades destinations. In fact, there are even plenty of dining and shopping places in the area. Nearby, you can also find the Flamingo Visitor Center, which offers more information about the park and wildlife.
#9 – Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve is one of the best things to do in the Everglades because it offers some of the most incredible tours. During tours, rangers will give you ecological explanations of what you’re seeing. Plus, it’s way less crowded than some of the other tourist areas. You can take airboat rides through the swamp, go off-roading, or even hunt in certain areas. It’s listed as one of the best places to go stargazing, due to its very clear skies.
#10 – Royal Palm Visitor Center
The Royal Palm Visitor Center was originally the center of the Everglades National Park. Now, Royal Park is its own state park that takes up about 4,000 acres within the Everglades. It has access to many of the popular trails, including the Gumbo Limbo Trail and the Anhinga Trail. In the visitor center, you’ll find lots of maps and exhibits about the nearby area, so it’s a great place to stop before you start exploring. You are welcome to explore the Royal Palm State Park on your own, but it’s recommended that you get advice from a ranger first. Like many of the other areas, airboat tours are also offered there.
The Everglades might not seem like the most popular vacation spot in Florida, but it has so many fun things to do for nature lovers. If you enjoy spending time outside and exploring the outdoors, then you could make an entire vacation trip just at the Everglades National Park. Even just choosing one or two of these activities to add to your Florida itinerary will be sure to make your vacation more exciting.