How to Spend 1 Day in Everglades National Park
No trip to southern Florida is complete without a visit to Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and an International Biosphere Reserve boasting nine distinct ecosystems. Whether you’re traveling from Miami, Fort Myers, or Naples, here’s how to make the most of one day in the UNESCO-listed wetlands.
Morning: Hit the Tamiami Trail
If staying in Miami, leave the glitz of South Beach behind and enter the everglades the historical way, along the Tamiami Trail. Stop for a Florida-style breakfast at one of the vintage roadside cafés along the way, then get oriented to the park at the Shark Valley Visitor Center. Look for gators and herons while strolling along part of a 15-mile (24-kilometer) paved trail, or connect with a tram tour here to reach an observation tower with panoramic views of the “River of Grass.” Shark Valley can also be reached if entering the park from Fort Myers or Naples in the west.
Afternoon: Wetlands Safari
The vast, snaking estuaries of the Everglades are best explored by boat. Join a fan-powered-airboat tour to cover lots of acreage, with speeds of up to 40 mph (65 kph). Alternatively, go at a slower pace and paddle your way past bird habitats and tangled mangrove islands on a kayak or canoe tour. If exploring on foot is more your style, many sections of the park—such as Big Cypress Reserve—boast hiking trails. Whatever form your safari takes, naturalist guides can offer eco insights and point out native Florida species such as egrets, turtles, and even dolphins and manatees.
Night: Gators After Dusk
Most visitors leave Everglades National Park once the sun goes down, but for a different perspective on the wetlands, join a night airboat tour at Sawgrass Recreation Park. Browse the park’s reptile and large-cat exhibits before taking to the water for a high-speed ride. Listen to the swamp come live with nocturnal frogs and insects, and keep an eye out for alligators and crocodiles gliding just below the inky water’s surface.