Everglades National Park is unlike any other national park– filled with unique animals, plants, and more!
As the largest designated subtropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent, the Everglades contains a mixture of complex habitats that are able to support an extremely high diversity of fora and fauna.
This is due to the combination of fresh and brackish water as well as the shallow bays and deep coastal waters located within the park.
If you do not have an unlimited National Park pass, the entrance fee to the Everglades National Park is $30 and that is good for 7 consecutive days starting from the day of purchase.
Everglades Flora and Fauna
Everglades National Park is the third largest park in the lower 48 states (behind Death Valley National Park and Yellowstone National Park), covering 1.5 million acres of wetland.
The park contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie, and is the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America.
Manatees, American crocodiles, a huge number of birds, turtles, otters, and even panthers all call the Everglades home.
Wet Season vs. Dry Season in the Everglades
A large thing to note when planning your trip is that there are two distinct seasons for the Everglades, the “Wet Season” and the “Dry Season”.
Traveling during the wet season which lasts from May – November makes for a much more uncomfortable trip.
Temperatures are around 90°F (32°C), with humidity over 90% and afternoon thunderstorms are common. Additionally, as water levels rise, the animals disperse from common areas making wildlife viewing more challenging.
The dry season lasts from November – April and weather conditions are much more pleasant.
Temperatures range from 50-75°F (10-24°C), annoying insects like mosquitoes and biting flies, become virtually non-existent in most areas of the park. And as water levels drop, large numbers of animals congregate around the water holes, making wildlife viewing easy!
Things to Do at Everglades National Park
We traveled to the Everglades from Fort Lauderdale on our trip. So, we're mainly going to focus on things to do at the southern and eastern ends of the Everglades.
Shark Valley is one of the best spots in the Everglades for wildlife viewing.
This is because there is an amazing 15-mile paved loop trail that you can explore via walking, biking, or taking a guided 2-hour tram tour.
You’ll ride right past numerous gators up close just snoozing in the sun as well as countless birds and other wildlife. It is really up close and personal.
At the end of the loop trail is a 65-foot observation tower where you can get a bird's eye view of the glades.
You can rent bikes at the Visitor Center for $9 per hour.
If you want to take the tram, book your tickets in advance. They sell tickets for specific time slots and these do sell out.
Tickets cost $27 for adults and the last tour of the day is offered at 4 pm. You can book tickets here: https://www.sharkvalleytramtours.com/
Miccosukee Indian Village
Right next to Shark Valley, you can also experience the Miccosukee Indian Village. Here you’ll see a museum on the history and culture of the Miccosukee Indians and they have live alligator demonstrations daily.
Bobcat Boardwalk & Otter Cave Hammock Trail
For a quick hike, you can also explore the nearby Bobcat Boardwalk, a 1-mile round trip self-guided boardwalk trail or the Otter Cave Hammock Trail (1⁄2-mile round trip) both located behind the visitor center.
While you’re in the Shark Valley area of the glades one of the best things to do is take an airboat ride.
Because there are so many waterways scattered throughout the area and only one road, taking an airboat ride is the best way to get off the beaten path, see wildlife in their natural habitat, and explore the vastness of this area.
Make sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray with you! They should supply hearing protection and you’ll need it, those fans can get LOUD.
There is nothing quite like an airboat ride, they can move fast and turn on a dime. And because they are fat-bottomed with the engine and propeller mounted up higher on the boat, they can maneuver extremely well in shallow water only a few inches deep!
Airboat rides can vary in duration between 30-90 minutes and there are many options to choose from, between private and group tours. For a ticket on a group tour you’re looking at ~$23-28/person and more expensive for private tours.
“Robert Is Here” Fruit Stand
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Along the way to this area of the park, there is one stop you HAVE to make. It’s a famous Florida fruit and produce stand a few miles west of Homestead called “Robert Is Here.” You can also check out their website right here.
As the story goes, in 1959 a father set up his 7-year-old son on the side of the road with some fruit and a sign saying “Robert Is Here.” Well, as of writing this, it is 2021 and Robert is still here!
The place is famous for its fresh supply of produce and veggies, but it's the fresh tropical fruits and milkshakes he makes from them that keep people coming back!
You can get everything from dragon fruit, lychee, sapodilla guavas, eggfruit, passionfruit, and more that you’ve never heard of! Plus, he grows most of what he sells. We’d definitely recommend that you stop in here and get a snack or stock up before you head back into the park.
The Long Pine Key Trail runs for 7 miles from the campground to Pine Glades Lake and is great for a bike ride. Many of the pines in this area were logged before the establishment of the park in 1947 and the roads created by logging have created a large network of trails running through this area.
One of the most popular is the Anhinga Trail, a 0.8 mile paved and boardwalk trail that begins at the Royal Palm Visitor Center and takes you through a small section of wetlands. When you’re here look for the trail’s namesake, the anhinga. They are large, slender black waterbirds with silvery streaks on their back and wings.
Nearby is also the Gumbo Limbo Trail, a 0.4-mile paved trail that meanders through a shaded hammock of gumbo limbo trees.
Cold War History
Surprisingly, there is a little piece of Cold War history located here too. Travel down Research Rd, just before the Royal Palm Visitor Center and you’ll find the historic Nike Hercules missile site called “Alpha Battery” or “HM69”.
Everglades National Park houses one of the best-preserved relics of the Cold War in Florida, a historic Nike Hercules missile site called “Alpha Battery” or “HM69”.
This site was completed in 1965, just after the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. At the time, the nation's air defenses were positioned to protect against a possible Soviet air attack over the North Pole and thus, this and other anti-aircraft missile sites were established to protect against a possible air attack from the south.
The area includes 3 missile barns, a missile assembly building, barracks, 2 Nike Hercules missiles, and various support elements.
Tours are available most days between early December and late March but can change due to staffing capabilities so ask or call ahead at the visitor center.
One place we think everyone should experience is the Flamingo Campground deep in the Everglades National Park. Here's a look at the campground and the places and things you can do and see there. We've written a few other things about the Everglades – see them here.
7-Day Florida Atlantic Coast RV Adventure Guide
The Everglades National Park is just one stop in our 7-day adventure guide. We have provided even more fun things to do in the Everglades and several other amazing destinations. The guide is packed full of helpful information, from itineraries, things to do, and campgrounds.