Best Things to Do in the Everglades: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Saad Backup
Best Things to Do in the Everglades
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Are you thinking about visiting the Everglades this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in the Everglades. These majestic sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

The Everglades, a sprawling subtropical wilderness that stretches as far as the eye can see, is an iconic national park in South Florida. A haven for adventurers and nature enthusiasts, it’s an escape from city life. With its unique ecosystem and diverse flora and fauna, things to do in the Everglades provide an unparalleled, distinct experience found nowhere else in the United States.

From airboat tours that whisk you through the mangrove tunnels to tranquil kayaking trips amidst the sawgrass prairies, the Everglades is a playground for outdoor activities. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher hoping to spot the elusive Roseate Spoonbill or a thrill-seeker eager to come face-to-face with an American alligator, there’s something for everyone here.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the best things to do in the Everglades, ensuring you make the most out of your trip to this natural wonderland. So, grab your binoculars, put on your hiking boots, and let’s embark on an unforgettable journey through one of America’s most cherished national parks. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Europe.

The best things to do in the Everglades right now
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Best Places to Visit in the Everglades

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Everglades? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this unforgettable vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Everglades places to visit.

Are you looking to embark on thrilling airboat rides through lush marshes and catch glimpses of rare wildlife? Or would you prefer hiking nature trails and kayaking waterways as you connect with nature’s wonders? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Everglades can accommodate your needs. Fly into nearby Miami or Fort Lauderdale, and you’ll be amazed by what you see. Here are all the best attractions in the Everglades that you should know about.

1. Everglades Airboat Tours

If you’re wondering about the best things to do in the Everglades, look no further than an exhilarating airboat tour. This is the quintessential Everglades experience, offering a unique vantage point of the park’s diverse ecosystems. Feel the wind in your hair as you glide over the glassy waters, weaving through mangrove tunnels and sawgrass prairies. It’s an adrenaline-pumping adventure that combines the thrill of speed with the serenity of nature.

Airboat tours are led by experienced guides who are well-versed in the area’s ecology and history. They’ll point out various species of birds, fish, and, of course, the American alligator, which calls these wetlands home. It’s a fantastic way to get up close and personal with the Everglades’ most iconic residents, all while learning about the vital role this unique ecosystem plays in Florida’s environment.

What sets airboat tours apart as one of the coolest activities in the Everglades is the opportunity for wildlife photography. From the vibrant plumage of the Purple Gallinule to the stealthy movements of the alligator, each tour offers its own set of visual delights.

So, strap in and hold on tight; an airboat tour is a must-see in the Everglades and an adventure you won’t soon forget.

Image of an airboat speeding through the Everglades, surrounded by lush vegetation and water
Image of an airboat speeding through the Everglades, surrounded by lush vegetation and water

2. Anhinga Trail

When it comes to unique places in the Everglades, the Anhinga Trail stands out as a birdwatcher’s dream come true. This easily accessible trail offers a front-row seat to some of the most diverse bird species in the park. As you stroll along the boardwalk, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the vibrant colors and melodic calls of birds like the Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, and of course, the trail’s namesake—the Anhinga.

The trail is a smooth, paved pathway that meanders through a lush landscape of sawgrass marsh and hardwood hammocks. It’s not just for bird enthusiasts; it’s also a fantastic spot for anyone interested in the Everglades’ unique flora. Keep an eye out for the “walking trees,” or red mangroves, whose roots seem to rise out of the water as if taking a leisurely stroll.

The Anhinga Trail stands out among the best places to go in the Everglades due to its easy accessibility. Catering to both experienced hikers and families with children, this trail offers inclusivity. Notably, the chance to observe alligators shouldn’t be underestimated; many can be seen basking by the water’s edge. This experience provides an exciting and secure opportunity to witness these awe-inspiring creatures in their native environment.

In summary, the Anhinga Trail offers a rich tapestry about how captivating Everglades is, making it one of the best places in the Everglades for any visitor.

A captivating shot of a crocodile in the twilight at the Anhinga Trail
A captivating shot of a crocodile in the twilight at the Anhinga Trail

3. Shark Valley

What are the coolest things to do in the Everglades that combine both adventure and natural beauty? Look no further than Shark Valley. This 15-mile loop trail offers one of the coolest activities in the Everglades: cycling alongside alligators! Yes, you read that right. The trail is a haven for alligators, and it’s not uncommon to see them lounging by the water or even crossing the path.

The loop is flat and well-maintained, making it suitable for cyclists of all levels. Halfway through, you’ll reach a 65-foot observation tower that provides panoramic views of the surrounding wetlands. From this vantage point, you’ll truly grasp the sheer size and beauty of the Everglades. It’s a sight that will leave you speechless and deepen your appreciation for this unique ecosystem.

Aside from the alligators you’ll encounter, the trail is also teeming with diverse bird species, from herons to ospreys. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a manatee in the deeper water channels.

Shark Valley offers a blend of thrill and serenity, making it one of the Everglades attractions you won’t want to miss.

Immerse Yourself in the Untamed Beauty of Shark Valley: A Haven for Nature Enthusiasts
Immerse Yourself in the Untamed Beauty of Shark Valley: A Haven for Nature Enthusiasts

4. Ten Thousand Islands

In the realm of unique places in the Everglades, Ten Thousand Islands emerges as an exceptional gem. A maze of mangrove islets beckons, inviting boundless exploration. Here, the boundaries between water and land meld, conjuring a captivating tapestry of channels, lagoons, and petite islands. For avid kayakers, it’s an unrivaled haven, providing a prime opportunity to navigate through nature’s intricate masterpiece.

The area is a haven for wildlife. From dolphins playfully swimming alongside your kayak to the occasional manatee making a slow, graceful appearance, you’ll feel like you’re part of a National Geographic documentary. Birdwatchers will also be thrilled; the islands are home to a variety of bird species, including pelicans, ospreys, and even bald eagles.

What makes the Ten Thousand Islands apart as one of the coolest things to do in the Everglades is the sense of solitude and connection with nature. As you navigate through narrow passages surrounded by towering mangroves, you’ll find moments of serenity that are hard to come by in our fast-paced world.

Guided tours are available to help you make the most of this extraordinary experience. It’s an Everglades attraction that captures the essence of this unique ecosystem in a way few other activities can.

Vibrant sunset over the tranquil waters of the Ten Thousand Islands, with silhouettes of trees
Vibrant sunset over the tranquil waters of the Ten Thousand Islands, with silhouettes of trees

5. Gumbo Limbo Trail

Wondering what to do in the Everglades that doesn’t involve water? The Gumbo Limbo Trail offers a delightful change of pace. This short, 0.4-mile loop takes you through a tropical hardwood hammock, a dense forest that stands in stark contrast to the surrounding wetlands.

The trail is named after the Gumbo Limbo tree, often referred to as the “tourist tree” because its peeling bark resembles sunburned skin. As you walk, you’ll also encounter a variety of other native plants, including royal palms, ferns, and orchids. The dense canopy provides a cool respite from the Florida sun, making it one of the best places to go in the Everglades for a leisurely stroll.

Other than the flora, the trail is also a great place for birdwatching. Keep an eye out for woodpeckers, warblers, and the elusive Florida panther if you’re exceptionally lucky. Interpretive signs along the way provide insights into the ecosystem, enhancing your walk through this unique slice of nature.

A wooden path winding through dense trees and foliage on the Gumbo Limbo Trail

6. Flamingo Visitor Center

The Flamingo Visitor Center should be on your radar when listing where to go in the Everglades. Situated at the southernmost tip of the mainland, this visitor center serves as a hub for some of the coolest activities in the Everglades. From here, you can embark on boat tours, rent kayaks or canoes, and even go fishing in the nearby marina.

The visitor center itself is a treasure trove of information. Interactive exhibits and knowledgeable rangers offer insights into the unique ecosystems of the Everglades.

But the real magic happens outside. The area surrounding the visitor center is a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for manatees, crocodiles, and a plethora of bird species, from ospreys to roseate spoonbills. It’s one of the unique places in the Everglades for a close encounter with the park’s diverse fauna.

Kicking off your Everglades adventure or winding down? A visit to the Flamingo Visitor Center is one of the Everglades things to do that offers a comprehensive and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Step into the Flamingo Visitor Center, where nature's graceful ambassadors await to welcome you with their vibrant plumage and serene presence
Step into the Flamingo Visitor Center, where nature’s graceful ambassadors await to welcome you with their vibrant plumage and serene presence

7. Royal Palm Visitor Center

If you’re looking for an authentic, hands-on experience in the Everglades, then you must head to the Royal Palm Visitor Center for their renowned Slough Slog. This isn’t your typical nature walk; it’s an adventure that takes you knee-deep into the freshwater marshes of the “River of Grass.”

Best places in the Everglades don’t get more immersive than this. Guided by knowledgeable park rangers, you’ll wade through the water, surrounded by a symphony of croaking frogs and chirping insects. The flora here is equally captivating, with sawgrass prairies and bladderwort fields stretching as far as the eye can see. And let’s not forget the occasional alligator, observing you as much as you’re observing it—always at a safe distance, of course.

The uniqueness of the Slough Slog at Royal Palm lies in its educational dimension. Participants delve into the complex ecosystems that render the Everglades a worldwide gem, acquiring valuable knowledge about the continuous endeavors to conserve this exceptional habitat.

Before embarking on this wet and wild journey, make sure to wear closed-toe shoes and long pants. The park provides walking sticks for balance and navigation through the marsh. It’s an unforgettable, muddy, and absolutely thrilling way to get up close and personal with the Everglades.

Step into the tranquility of the Royal Palm Visitor Center, where nature's beauty and serenity come together
Step into the tranquility of the Royal Palm Visitor Center, where nature’s beauty and serenity come together

8. Pa-hay-okee Overlook

Among the cool destinations in the Everglades, the Pa-hay-okee Overlook shines. Providing an elevated platform, it presents a breathtaking panorama of the iconic “River of Grass.” Accessible through a brief, undemanding trail, this viewpoint is ideal for visitors of any age, offering an awe-inspiring experience that’s sure to captivate.

As you ascend the wooden platform, you’ll be greeted by a sweeping vista of sawgrass prairies stretching as far as the eye can see. The horizon seems to blend with the sky, creating an ethereal landscape that’s a photographer’s dream. This is one of those Everglades places to visit where you can truly grasp the sheer scale and beauty of this unique ecosystem.

Sunrise and sunset are particularly magical times to visit. The sky erupts in shades of orange, pink, and purple, casting a surreal glow over the wetlands. It’s a moment that captures the essence of the Everglades, a natural spectacle that you won’t soon forget.

Birdwatchers will also find this spot rewarding. From the platform, you can spot various species of wading birds, raptors, and even the occasional alligator lurking in the water below.

What to do in the Everglades that offers a perspective that’s both humbling and awe-inspiring? Pa-hay-okee Overlook is a must-visit.It’s a reminder of the grandeur that nature holds, waiting for us to discover.

A wooden walkway leading to Pa-hay-okee Overlook, surrounded by lush greenery and water
A wooden walkway leading to Pa-hay-okee Overlook, surrounded by lush greenery and water

9. Mahogany Hammock

Mahogany Hammock, an elevated boardwalk, takes you through a dense forest of mahogany trees, a stark contrast to the expansive sawgrass prairies that dominate the landscape. It’s a unique place in the Everglades that offers a different kind of beauty and serenity.

As you stroll along the boardwalk, you’ll be enveloped by the lush canopy overhead. The towering mahogany trees are the stars of the show, some of which are the largest of their kind in the United States. The dense foliage provides a habitat for various wildlife, including tree snails and the elusive Barred Owl. Keep your eyes peeled; you never know what you might encounter!

This forested oasis is a testament to the Everglades’ ecological diversity. It’s not just about wetlands and waterways; the area is a complex tapestry of ecosystems that coexist in harmony. Mahogany Hammock is one of the unique things to do in the Evergladesf that remind you of the park’s multifaceted nature.

The boardwalk is wheelchair-accessible, making it a great outing for visitors of all ages and abilities.

A hidden paradise featuring a mahogany hammock, a serene escape from the bustle of life
A hidden paradise featuring a mahogany hammock, a serene escape from the bustle of life

10. Eco Pond

If you’re compiling a list of the coolest things to do in the Everglades, make sure Eco Pond is on it. This serene pond is a haven for birdwatchers and photographers alike. Located near the Flamingo area, it’s a bit off the beaten path but worth every step.

As you approach the pond, you’ll notice the stillness of the water, reflecting the sky and surrounding vegetation like a mirror. It’s a tranquil setting that invites you to pause and take it all in. But don’t let the calm fool you; this pond is teeming with life.

From wading birds like herons and egrets to the occasional alligator lurking in the shallows, Eco Pond offers a snapshot of the Everglades’ rich biodiversity. Early mornings are particularly magical, with the golden light of dawn casting a warm glow over the landscape. It’s a sight that will make even the most amateur photographer feel like a pro.

Where to visit in the Everglades that offers both relaxation and excitement? The Eco Pond is the place to be. The pond is easily accessible, with a nearby parking lot and a short walking trail leading to the viewing area.

Dive into a world of eco-friendly wonder with our breathtaking Eco Pond
Dive into a world of eco-friendly wonder with our breathtaking Eco Pond

11. The Nike Missile Site

When you think of the Everglades, Cold War history probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Nike Missile Site, one of the best places in the Everglades that offers a blend of natural beauty and historical significance.

Located within the Everglades National Park, this site was once part of a missile defense system designed to protect the United States during the Cold War. Today, it serves as a fascinating museum, offering guided tours that take you through the bunkers and launch areas. You’ll get to see the actual missiles and learn about the technology and strategies that were in place to defend against potential threats.

But it’s not all about the past. The area surrounding the Nike Missile Site is a haven for wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for a variety of bird species, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a deer or two.

A rusted missile launcher at The Nike Missile Site, reminding us of its defensive role during the Cold War
A rusted missile launcher at The Nike Missile Site, reminding us of its defensive role during the Cold War

12. The Loop Road Scenic Drive

If you’re a fan of scenic drives, then the Loop Road Scenic Drive is one of the best things to do in the Everglades. This 24-mile stretch of unpaved road takes you through some of the most untouched areas of the Everglades National Park. It’s a journey that offers a different perspective of this vast wilderness, away from the more popular tourist spots.

As you drive along, you’ll be surrounded by a variety of ecosystems, from hardwood hammocks to freshwater marshes. Keep your camera ready, as you’re likely to encounter alligators sunning themselves, herons wading in the shallows, and maybe even a Florida panther if you’re incredibly lucky.

This is one of the coolest activities in the Everglades due to its sense of solitude and connection with nature it provides. There are several pull-off areas where you can park and take short hikes into the wilderness, offering a more intimate experience with the landscape.

Experience nature's masterpiece on The Loop Road Scenic Drive
Experience nature’s masterpiece on The Loop Road Scenic Drive

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Everglades

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Everglades? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Everglades:

What’s the best time to visit the Everglades?

The best time to visit the Everglades is during the dry season, which typically spans from December to April. This period offers pleasant weather, fewer mosquitoes, and improved wildlife viewing as animals concentrate around water sources. Avoid the wet season (May to November) due to heavy rainfall and high humidity. For optimal experiences, plan your trip between late fall and early spring.

What kind of activities can you do in the Everglades?

The Everglades National Park in Florida is a vast, unique ecosystem that offers a wide range of activities for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and wildlife lovers. Here are some of the activities you can enjoy in the Everglades:

Wildlife Viewing

  • Birdwatching: The Everglades is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 350 species of birds.
  • Alligator and Crocodile Spotting: The park is one of the few places where both alligators and crocodiles coexist.

Water Activities

  • Airboat Tours: One of the most popular ways to explore the Everglades, airboat tours offer a fast-paced ride through the marshes.
  • Canoeing and Kayaking: Paddle through the mangrove forests and freshwater marshes for a serene experience.
  • Fishing: The Everglades offer both freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities, including angling for bass and snook.

Hiking and Biking

  • Boardwalk Trails: Places like the Anhinga Trail and the Mahogany Hammock Trail offer boardwalks for easy walks through different ecosystems.
  • Backcountry Hiking: For the more adventurous, there are backcountry trails that take you deeper into the wilderness.
  • Biking: Shark Valley has a 15-mile loop that offers a unique biking experience with opportunities to see a variety of wildlife.

Camping

  • Frontcountry Camping: There are drive-in campgrounds like Long Pine Key and Flamingo that offer basic amenities.
  • Backcountry Camping: For those looking for a more rugged experience, permits are available for backcountry camping in more remote areas.

Is it safe to visit the Everglades?

Yes, visiting the Everglades is generally safe, but it’s important to be aware of the environment. Stay on marked trails, be cautious around water bodies, and follow park rules. Wildlife encounters are possible, so maintain a safe distance and never feed animals. Stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun and insects, and adhere to all safety guidelines. It’s wise to check weather forecasts and any alerts before your trip for a smooth and secure visit.

Do I need a special permit to explore the Everglades?

No special permit is typically required to explore the Everglades National Park. However, some activities like camping, boating, or fishing might require separate permits. It’s advisable to check the official park website or contact the park authorities before your visit to ensure you have the necessary information regarding permits, regulations, and any fees associated with specific activities you plan to engage in.

Immerse yourself in a world of diverse ecosystems as you wander through the captivating Everglades
Immerse yourself in a world of diverse ecosystems as you wander through the captivating Everglades

How do you spend 2 days in the Everglades National Park?

Spending two days in Everglades National Park gives you a good amount of time to explore its unique ecosystems, spot wildlife, and engage in outdoor activities. Here’s a suggested itinerary to make the most of your 48 hours:

Day 1: Explore the Eastern Side

Morning: Anhinga Trail & Royal Palm Visitor Center
  • Start your day early at the Royal Palm Visitor Center to get oriented.
  • Walk the Anhinga Trail, a short boardwalk loop that offers excellent opportunities for bird-watching and spotting alligators.
Late Morning: Long Pine Key
  • Head to Long Pine Key for a hike through the pine forests.
  • If you’re into fishing, Long Pine Key also has a pond where you can cast a line.
Afternoon: Pa-hay-okee Overlook & Mahogany Hammock
  • Drive to Pa-hay-okee Overlook for panoramic views of the “River of Grass.”
  • Visit Mahogany Hammock, a boardwalk trail that takes you through a dense hardwood hammock.
Evening: Flamingo Visitor Center & Sunset Kayaking
  • Head to the Flamingo Visitor Center, where you can learn more about the park’s ecosystems.
  • Rent a kayak for a sunset paddle in Florida Bay, keeping an eye out for manatees and dolphins.

Day 2: Explore the Western Side

Morning: Shark Valley Visitor Center & Tram Tour
  • Start your day at Shark Valley, located on the northern side of the park.
  • Take a tram tour or rent a bike to explore the 15-mile loop, which offers great wildlife viewing opportunities.
Afternoon: Canoe or Kayak in the Ten Thousand Islands
  • Drive to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City.
  • Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islets. Guided tours are also available.
Late Afternoon: Birdwatching at Chokoloskee Island
  • If you’re a bird enthusiast, spend some time at Chokoloskee Island, known for its rich bird life.
Evening: Stargazing
  • End your day by stargazing. The Everglades is one of the best places in Florida for a clear view of the night sky.

What should I bring for a day in the Everglades?

For a day in the Everglades, pack essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, and comfortable walking shoes. Binoculars and a camera are great for wildlife viewing. Consider bringing a map, a fully charged phone, and a first aid kit. Be mindful of the weather and dress in lightweight, breathable layers. Remember, respect the environment by carrying out all trash and leaving no trace.

Can I bring my pet in the Everglades?

Yes, you can bring your pet to the Everglades. However, pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet at all times. It’s important to follow this rule to ensure the safety of both your pet and the wildlife in the area.

Is it worth going to Everglades?

Absolutely, a visit to the Everglades National Park is well worth it for a multitude of reasons. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance, underscoring its ecological significance. Here are some compelling reasons why a trip to the Everglades is worthwhile:

  • Unique Ecosystem: The Everglades is the largest tropical wilderness of its kind in the U.S., offering a unique blend of ecosystems from mangroves and marshes to pineland and prairies.
  • Biodiversity: The park is home to a rich array of wildlife, including endangered species like the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee.
  • Outdoor Activities: Whether you’re into hiking, kayaking, fishing, or bird-watching, the Everglades offers a wide range of outdoor activities that cater to all levels of adventure.
  • Educational Value: The park offers numerous educational programs, ranger-led tours, and visitor centers that provide valuable insights into the importance of wetland conservation and the area’s natural history.
  • Photography Opportunities: The unique landscapes and abundant wildlife make the Everglades a photographer’s paradise.
  • Cultural History: The area has a rich cultural history, including Native American heritage, that adds another layer of interest to your visit.

What is the Everglades best known for?

The Everglades is best known for its unique and diverse ecosystem, often described as a “River of Grass.” It’s a haven for a wide array of wildlife, including alligators, manatees, and exotic bird species. The park is also famous for its mangrove forests, freshwater marshes, and intricate waterways, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities like kayaking, bird-watching, and hiking.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Everglades

The Everglades is not just a swamp or a stretch of wetlands; it’s a complex, vibrant ecosystem teeming with life and opportunities for adventure. From the thrill of spotting an alligator in the wild to the serenity of a sunset over the marshes, the Everglades offers a range of experiences that are as diverse as the landscape itself. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or a history aficionado, there are Everglades attractions that will speak to your soul.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to discover the best places to go in the Everglades. Trust us, this is one journey you won’t want to miss.

The best things to do in the Everglades for all types of travelers
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