Just shy of the bright lights of Miami, the beaches of Fort Lauderdale and the iconic murals in Hollywood, the Everglades is a stunner of a place to visit in South Florida. That being said, it can be hard to pinpoint just a few of the best things to do in Everglades National Park if you’re heading across for a short trip.
It’s funny, every time we’ve visited Southern Florida, we’ve always made the effort to visit the Everglades. It’s one of those places that’s so unique and without sounding like an ecology-buff, it’s landscape and ecosystem is so unique to visit.
From alligators, incredible birdlife and vast swaths of unspoilt creeks to explore; you can spend weeks in Everglades National Park and still not see it all.
This is why I wanted to share some of our top spots we’ve loved visiting whilst in Florida.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in the Everglades. Have a totally fun trip!
1.) Sawgrass Recreation Park
Not only that, it’s one of the easiest places to visit if you’re based in Fort Lauderdale (around 25-minutes from the city centre). Yeah, it might be close to the city but it actually feels like a million miles away – you’re in total wilderness when you’re here.
Once you arrive, head out on the Sawgrass Airboat Tour that’s so much fun! We loved it, especially as we got to see a heap of alligators! Not only that, the team is so knowledgeable and passionate about The Everglades – they really made our experience!
Getting peckish? Try some of the freshly-fried gator tail bites, too! They were delicious.
2.) Shark Valley
Around 50-minutes from Miami, Shark Valley is one of the best places in the Everglades that’s within easy reach of Miami.
Once here, you can explore the trails and the iconic Bobcat Boardwalk that’s totally stunning on a gorgeous sunny day. Though, take lots of water and sunblock with you – that humidity and mosquitos can be tough.
If you fancy chilling, take the tram tour where you’ll spot a heap of the locals, like; the turtles, regional birds which is great to explore. Of course, there’s a shed load of alligators, too!
Finally, take the in the views from the Shark Valley Visitor Center that overlooks the whole region and really lets you see how much area the Everglades covers. Just stunning.
3.) Chokoloskee Bay
Chokoloskee Bay is about ten miles (16 km) long and is a favourite spot for anglers and water sporters!
This place is full of wildlife, natural beauty, and beautiful waters that are too good to miss. Of course, once you’re here, make sure to try your hand at kayaking or canoeing, too.
If you fancy less of an upper-body workout, hop on one of the boat tours that depart from Chokoloskee most days. Oh, and if its views you’re after, head to the Ernest Hamilton Observation Tower that’s right on the bay within Everglades City.
On the topic of Everglades City, if you do plan a little jaunt around the streets itself, be sure to take in some of the gorgeous spots along the way. We loved seeing the City Hall and popping into the Museum of the Everglades.
Afterwards, stop by the cute Havana Café of the Everglades that’s right on Chokoloskee Island. Their shrimp is so good and the Cuban treats are just too good to miss.
4.) Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
Just off Ingraham Highway, heading to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is one of the best things to do in the Everglades for the nearby trails.
Located at the Homestead entrance of Everglades National Park, the visitor centre has a heap of exhibitions, expert guides and rangers that’ll point you in the right direction for trails in the area.
Not only that, but they can also point you in the right direction for houseboat rentals whilst in the Everglades. This is perfect if you want to extend your stay in this stunning part of Florida.
5.) Long Pine Key
If camping is your thing, then you’ll easily find Long Pine Key the place for you. It’s one of the best things to do in the Everglades if you’re a camper but want quieter spots to set up your tent. You see, it’s a little less-known than some of the bigger camping spots (making it a great place to relax and see beautiful views in the area).
Also, there’s a shed load of hiking trails and a beautiful lake surrounded by pine Rockland forest that’s totally pristine to visit. One of our favourites is the nearby Anhinga Trail that’s just shy of Long Pine.
That being said, there are some stunning trails just off the camp area itself – the Long Pine Key Nature Trail is a must.
6.) Gumbo Limbo Trail
The Gumbo Limbo Trail gives you a beautiful glimpse of the distinct ecosystem of the Everglades and well worth following if you’re into your hikes.
A self-guided trail, it showcases a hardwood hammock ecosystem that’s totally unique and unspoilt. Take in the views through the gumbo limbo trees and keep watch for the gators!
7.) Mahogany Hammock Trail
Another gorgeous and self-guided trail, the Mahogany Hammock boardwalk is where you can find the largest living Mahogany tree in all the United States.
Great for the whole family, this trail is relatively short (0.5-miles long) and totally easy and great for those that require a more accessible trail to follow.
Just shy of Bear Lake, Flamingo and the Flamingo Visitor Center is one of the first ports-of-call you’ll make whilst exploring the coastline around Rabbit Key Basin.
With campground facilities, hiking trails (the Coastal-Prairie Trail is epic), and kayaking routes, you’ll be in for a treat when exploring the south coast around the visitor centre itself.
Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the majestic manatee that frequent the shores here.
9.) Royal Palm State Park
Royal Palm State Park was established in 1916 and is totally stunning to visit when in the Everglades.
Also, just outside the remit of the park, you’ve got Everglades Alligator Farm for their epic airboat rides and tours through the glades.
Afterwards, head on over to Schnebly Redland’s Winery for their delicious varieties and tasting sessions they offer. Yum!
10.) Big Cypress National Preserve
Approximately 50+ miles from the centre of Fort Lauderdale, Big Cypress National Preserve is stunning to visit!
Best of all, this area of the Everglades is amazing to visit for ranger-led tours that take in the best of the preserve. These are one of the best things to do in the Everglades if you want more of an ecological explanation of the preserve itself. They’re totally fascinating.
Not only that, Big Cypress National Preserve is an internationally recognised Dark Sky Site.
This means it’s totally incredible to see constellations, planets and more right within the unpolluted skies of the park.