As one of the most popular destinations of Florida’s Paradise Coast, the Everglades should be on your wish-list for outdoor adventure and discovery. From bird watching to kayaking, and camping to boating, there’s plenty to see and do in this wetland paradise. On my recent exploration of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, I saw alligators just a few feet from my viewing perch and admired the diverse landscape with a slow-paced road trip on the Tamiami Trail. Based on my experiences, here are some of my top recommendations for exploring this diverse natural landscape.
An Alligator Welcome
If you love the idea of seeing alligators up close and personal, but prefer to stay land-locked, pay a visit to the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center. In addition to on-site National Park staff and educational exhibits, there’s an elevated boardwalk where guests can follow a trail to see alligators right on site. There are more than two hundred thousand alligators in the Everglades, but this is a safe, free way to spot these magnificent creatures just a few feet away.
Big Cypress National Preserve
If you prefer a hands-on learning adventure, consider a Big Cypress Swamp Tour. The National Preserve is home to Florida panthers and deer, a host of hawks and herons, snakes, and more. Take a tour on a swamp buggy and prepare to wade through mud and water. With designation as a protected night sky, take in a spectacular starry view by camping at Big Cypress.
Everglades Adventure Tours
If you’re planning on a self-guided adventure of the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands, be sure to check in at The Gulf Coast Visitor Center. You’ll find useful maps and guides, and the stop is a must if you plan on camping in the backcountry. For kayak, boat, and cycle rentals, visit Everglades Adventures. To see alligators in their natural habitat, join a boat tour with Airboats & Alligators. Visit the Everglades National Park site for trail maps and more visitor tips.
Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer.
Photography courtesy of Paradise Coast.