Tips for Visiting Florida’s Everglades National Park

Tips for Visiting Florida’s Everglades National Park

When I think of National Parks I think of granite mountains, bison, bears and salmon-filled streams. Well, Everglades National Park in Florida has none of these things! This park is completely different… swamps, alligators, Florida Panthers and snakes… eek! But, wow, it’s still an amazing National Park and one you should definitely visit.

Everglades National Park

America’s Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the entire United States. It protects the landscape and the rare, endangered species that call the Park their home.

The Everglades spans over 1.5 million acres throughout the southern part of Florida. Not only can you find amazing wildlife, you can also explore a vast diversity of mangroves, tropical hammocks, freshwater sloughs, and estuaries.

Lilly pads and marshes in a canal

America the Beautiful Pass

If you’re planning to visit other National Parks throughout the United States, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass to save you time and tons of money. It gets you into any national park in the US for $80 a year! And, if you’re a senior, the pass is $80 for an entire lifetime!

Things to See and Do in Everglades National Park

There is a lot of land to cover in the Everglades… so let’s go!

Park Entrances & Visitor Centers

There are 4 entrances and 4 Visitor Centers for the Everglades, and they are all open from 9am to 5pm:

    is the most northwest entrance to the Park. This Visitor Center is the best entrance for exploring Ten Thousand Islands, which is a labyrinth of mangroves and waterways extending to Florida Bay. Get directions to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center here.
  1. The next visitor center to the south is Shark Valley Visitor Center. This is one of the busier visitor centers in the Everglades. It has educational displays, brochures and a video, as well as a small gift store. From here you can also take a guided tram tour and rent bikes. There are 2 short walking trails just off the main road, and restrooms are available. Parking can become difficult here as it is extremely limited. Get directions to Shark Valley Visitor Center here. is the next entrance to the south. This Center is one of the larger ones in the Park. It has a bookstore that is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm, educational displays, a film and a collection of art from local artists. You can also find a few great walking trails that begin just a short drive from the Visitor Center. Restrooms are available here. Get directions to Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center here.
  2. The furthest entrance to the south is the Flamingo Visitor Center. This is one of the main Visitor Center’s in the Park. Canoeing, hiking, boat ramps, a marina store and campground facilities are near Flamingo. This is also where you can pick up your backcountry permits or take a boat tour, and rent canoes, houseboats, or bicycles. Get directions to Flamingo Visitor Center here.

Take a Hike

Put on your HIGH hiking boots, your sunscreen and insect repellent, long sleeves shirts with long pants, a large hat, and plenty of water. It’s time to head out on one of the numerous hiking trails in the Everglades. Yep, you’re going to need all of these things to protect you from the bugs, hot Florida sun, and… eek… snakes! Most of the trails are open and passable, but there are a few trails that you only do at your own risk because they are not maintained. Leave your pet at home as they are not permitted on any of the Everglades’ trails. Check here for a full list of trails in Everglades National Park.

Boardwalk through preserve

Canoe & Kayak Trips

Canoe or kayak through freshwater marshes, mangroves, the 10,000 Islands, or the clear waters of Florida Bay. This is the best way to see Florida’s cool birds, our precious manatees, and maybe a dolphin or two. Bring your own vessel or rent one in the park, or hire a ranger-led guide to lead you through the Everglades. Find out more about kayaking and canoeing the Everglades here.

red canoes under a tiki hut

Join a Group of Slough Sloggers

If you don’t mind getting your feet wet, join a group of slough sloggers. You’ll get to see parts of the Everglades most people never see, and find out about the hidden world of a cypress dome. Reservations are required for this ranger-led program. Be sure to wear long pants and sturdy, closed-toed hiking boots or other type of lace up shoes. Find out more about Slough Slogs here.

Swamp in the Everglades

Bicycle Tour

Bring your bike or rent one at one of the visitor centers. Biking is permitted on main park roads, as well as a few of the trails. A few of the most popular trails for biking are:

  • Shark Valley: a 15-mile paved scenic loop with plenty of wildlife viewing
  • Snake Bight: Although this trail is currently not being maintained due to potential damage to critical habitat, this is a great trail for bird watching.
  • Lone Pine Key Bike Trail: This trail runs 7 miles through the Pinelands along the main park road.
  • Rowdy Bend Bike Trail: Another trail for great bird watching and for exploring shady buttonwoods and open prairies.

Airboat under a hut


Whether it’s just to cruise or it’s to catch dinner, Floridians love getting out on the beautiful waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Boating is just a little bit different in the Everglades, but it still makes for a fabulous day! However, the water is shallow and tides are extra important in the Everglades, causing the waters to be difficult to navigate unless you know the area. If you’re boating in the Everglades on your own you must take and pass a 1-hour Boater Safety Course, or you WILL be fined. You can take the course online free of charge. Find out more about boating in the Everglades here.

Boat Tour

I recommend taking a ranger-led boat tour. This is the best way to learn about the Park, and make your day more enjoyable. Flamingo Everglades provides several 90-minute boat tours through the Everglades with a naturalist to highlight things along the way. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Flamingo Visitor Center Marina Store.

Airboat Tour

If you really want to get out and see some gators and crocodiles in a super fun way, take an airboat tour. Everglades National Park has 3 authorized airboat tour companies:

    is located at 22700 SW 8th Street in Miami. Their tours operate 7 days a week from 9am to 5:50pm. is at 26700 SW 8th Street, Miami. Their tours are available 7 days a week from 9am to 6pm. is located in Miami at 24050 SW 8th Street. Tours run 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm.


The Everglades is very popular for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Catch snapper, sea trout, bass or bluegill in the Florida Bay or Ten Thousand Islands. You will, however, need a fishing license to fish and process your fish before throwing out your line. Obtain your freshwater license here, or your saltwater license here. See the MANY rules and regulations for fishing in the Everglades.

For the best experience, I recommend hiring a fishing charter. They will provide the license, the bait, rods & reels, and the boat… no worries!

Wildlife Viewing

The best place in Everglades National Park to see wildlife is Shark Valley. In the Shark Valley area you’ll see pretty much any type of bird in the park, as well as gators, turtles and snakes.

As for the best way to see wildlife in the Everglades, this is either on foot or by boat. If you choose boating, I recommend taking either an airboat ride or power boat ride rather than a canoe or kayak. This way, your hands are free to take photographs, and you don’t have to worry about getting tipped over by a gator… yeah, it happens!

If you choose to see wildlife on foot, you can take the 15-mile loop road. Its western side runs along a canal where you’ll be so close to the wildlife that you may wish you were in a boat. Around the eastern side the terrain is more wide open so there is more space between you and the animals.

Another option is to take the Shark Valley Tram. This will take you around the whole 15-mile loop road to see all of the wildlife.

With any of the options available to you, please be respectful to wildlife and follow the Park’s rules.

Canal and boardwalk with Do not feed alligators sign

Bird Watching

The shallow plains of sawgrass makes for the perfect environment for bird watching. In fact, the Everglades is home to as many as 300 species of birds, including osprey, bald eagles, anhinga, roseate spoonbills, and many more. It’s one of the top bird watching areas in the entire world. Don’t forget your binoculars and a good camera with a long zoom lens. If you stop in at the Visitor Centers, they’ll be happy to let you know about recent sightings and where to find them. Find more information on bird species and where to find them in the Everglades here.

White Egret in tall grass

Ranger-Led Programs

The best way to learn about Everglades National Park’s sub-tropical wilderness is with a Park Ranger. There are several programs available throughout the park all year around. You can attend a 45-minute campground talk at the amphitheaters, go on a ranger-led walk along some of the trails, take a canoe trip, or bike ride. Find out more about Ranger-led programs here.

Tram Tour

Everglades National Park has a 2-hour naturalist-narrated Tram Tour that takes you along the 15-mile loop trail into the River of Grass. This is the best way to get close to alligators… without actually getting close to them! Halfway through your tour you get a chance to see some amazing views from the 45-foot high observation deck. The tours leave from the Visitor Center at Shark Valley. See current tour dates and times here. Reservations are recommended.

Canal in the Everglades and Tiki lookout point


If you’ve never been Geocaching, or never even heard of it, Geocaching is a fun activity on your own or with friends and family. It’s an app that works with GPS on your cell phone. People hide little things from just a minuscule note to a large toy or trinket, and then you go on a sort of real-world outdoor scavenger hunt. These caches are hidden all over the world, so you can do it pretty much anywhere… even in the Everglades.

In Everglades National Park you can be a park employee for the day on the geocache trail. It is made up of five caches that follow the path of the Main Park Road towards Flamingo. At each cache, you’ll be offered a real-world case study. Read the information and consider how you would deal with the issue at hand, then share your thoughts on the log.

Geocaching road trip


Whether you have a camper, or you’re a backcountry sleeping bag type of camper, there are a few opportunities for camping in the Everglades. The Flamingo Campground, with 274 sites, has solar-heated showers, dump stations, picnic tables, grills and an amphitheater for ranger-led programs. Reservations can be made for Flamingo Campground here.

The Long Pine Key Campground has 108 sites for RV’s and tents on a first come, first served basis.

Backcountry camping is available throughout the park. There are ground sites, beach sites, and elevated platforms for camping, and most are available by canoe, kayak, boat, or on foot. Wilderness camping permits are required for all backcountry camping.

HM69 Nike Missile Base

Visit the HM69 Nike Missile Base, a relic of the Cold War. The site was built in 1965, after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Official use of the site ended in 1979, and it’s still in the same condition. It includes 3 missile barns, a missile assembly building, a dog kennel, 2 Nike Hercules missiles and barracks. About 140 soldiers were on staff here to protect against air attacks from nearby Cuba. In 2004, the Nike Hercules missile site was listed on the Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior. A ranger-led tour of the site does not enter into the base, but you do get to walk around the property and see the missile barns.

door in the side of a grassy hill

Additional Important Tips

  1. Keep Wildlife Wild: Do not feed any of the wildlife in the park.
  2. Download the National Park Service app: Download the NPS app to make your trip to the Everglades, or any of the other National Parks a breeze. The app is free and provides maps, tours, and other great tips for visiting the Parks in America.
  3. Protect Yourself: Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, high lace up shoes, long pants and long sleeve shirts, a fully charged phone, and plenty of water.
  4. Get your America the Beautiful Pass. Save money with the America the Beautiful pass. It gets you into any national park in the US for $80 a year! And, if you’re a senior, the pass is $80 for an entire lifetime!
  5. Leave your pet home: Pets are not allowed on any of the trails in Everglades National Park, so please leave them at home.
  6. Respect Wildlife: Please stay at least 10 feet away from all wildlife at all times. If you’re lucky enough to see a Florida Panther, stay at least 100 yards away.
  7. Ranger-Led Programs: Take advantage of ranger-led programs to get the most out of your visit.
  8. Accessibility: Visitor centers and bathrooms are wheelchair accessible, as well as most of the most popular trails in the park.
  9. Photographs: Don’t forget a good camera with a zoom lens and a good pair of binoculars.
  10. Tours: For the best experience, I recommend taking a guided tour. You’ll learn about the park, see more than you will on your own, and have the best opportunity for spotting wildlife.

Top Tours for Everglades National Park

See all Viator tours for Everglades National Park.

Annual Events & Festivals

See the Schedule of Events for special events and festivals at Everglades National Park.

Best Time to Visit Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park has a dry season, and a wet season, and it also gets extremely hot! The dry season is from about December through April. This is going to be the coolest time to visit, but also the busiest. You don’t want to visit in the hot, wet mosquito season, which is the summer.

Woman admiring the views over the Everglades

How to Get Here

The closest airports to Everglades National Park are Miami International Airport (MIA), which is 43 miles away, and Ft. Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), which is 72 miles. Flights may be less expensive into Fort Lauderdale than Miami. See my tips on finding cheap flights. Once you arrive, you’ll need to rent a car to get you to the Park.


If you have a fear of flying or you just would rather not fly, there is an Amtrak station in both Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Go to to find the schedule and routes for Amtrak, as well as other train options.

Where to Stay

There is no lodging in Everglades National Park, unless you’ve got an RV or you’re roughing it in a tent. You can stay in one of the few cities and small towns that border the park, such as Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Everglades City, Homestead, or Marco Island. Check out these options on

Lodging is one of the most important aspects of planning a trip. You want to find the right place for the best price. Our favorite resource when we want to rent a home or apartment is VRBO. The search engines we use for making all other reservations for lodging are and Agoda. Booking and Agoda really seem to have the best deals on hotels, B&B’s and rental properties, and they will price match! Read more about finding and booking accommodations.

Share Your Travel Tips & Comments

As always, if you have any of your own travel tips to add to this post, any remarks on the article, or if my information needs an edit or addition, please leave your comments below. I value all of your input.

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