Top 10 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Protecting over one million acres of sub-tropical wetlands in the south of Florida, the Everglades National Park is one of America’s largest preserved wilderness areas and of huge global significance when it comes to studying ecosystems and sustainability.
As you’d expect from such a vast stretch of untouched natural environment, this is the breeding ground for a massive range of wildlife with: alligators, manatees and more than 350 different types of birds calling the Everglades home.
Aside from the awesome ecosystems, the Everglades also presents a perfect playground for lovers of outdoor pursuits and if you’re into pine forest or shoreline walks with a cheeky bit of canoeing or kayaking thrown in for good measure then welcome to Florida without a theme park in sight – as we explore the top 10 things to do in the Everglades.
10. A unique triathlon
This being the Everglades means that instead of the swimming section that’s normally featured within triathlons you get to canoe or kayak which all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience amongst an absolutely unique and beautiful setting. Anyone can get involved in the Everglades Triathlon all-year-round and if you’re feeling fit then the 15 mile cycle, 3 mile hike and just over 3 mile paddle will help you to discover plenty of the park that casual visitors often miss.
9. Fabulous fishing
Although the Everglades are well-respected for protecting the animals which inhabit the million acre boundaries there’s still lots of room for licenced fishing within both coastal and freshwater habitats. Snapper, trout and bass, in particular, can all be caught and released either from the land or by boat and although there are a fair range of rule and regs to adhere to you’re bound to find a good day’s reflection without too much bother.
8. Calusa heritage
The Calusa were the indigenous people who occupied the Everglades long before anyone else and if you want to find out more then guided walks around the Ten Thousand Island area and Pineland, in particular, will certainly get you started. March, especially, is the best month to learn about the Calusa as there’s a series of free events and activities taking place although the Calusa Heritage Trail in Pineland is open all-year-round and a thoroughly worthwhile option.
7. Geocaching in the Everglades
If you’ve haven’t discovered the delights of a day spent geocaching then, basically: it’s like a treasure hunt and a great excuse to get out and about with the Everglades National Park trail proving to be absolutely no exception. Registration is free and all you’ll need is a smart phone or GPS and before you know it you’ll be traipsing all over southern Florida in search of hidden goodies as well as learning all about the environment and local wildlife along the way. Family fun: the chance to undertake a geocache whilst becoming a temporary Everglades NP ranger for a day is pretty much as good as it gets for the younger members of your crew.
6. Paddles up!
This is just a brilliant excuse to see the Everglades from an exciting natural perspective and will often take you much further amongst the mangroves than your average trekking tour would ever dream of. Even if you’ve never donned a spray-deck or gripped a paddle before, canoeing in the Everglades National Park is a really easy activity to try and water trails, such as: Nine Mile Pond, Noble Hammock and Hells Bay, are all ideal for getting started.
5. Educational ranger tours
Going on a ranger-led tour will give you the chance to ask questions or just discover areas that you most definitely would have missed if exploring under your own steam. Shark Valley, Flamingo and Royal Palm all have excellent visitor centres from where to find out more about guided treks and canoe trails so if you’re looking to learn as you explore then check out the schedule and sign-up for the next tour.
4. Slogging it out
If you’re partial to a bit of a squelch or you just want to put a pair of new waders through their paces then slough slogging in the Everglades is definitely the way forward. This is a great means of really getting up close to the wetlands of southern Florida and if you’re passing the Ernest Coe visitor centre then be sure to pop your head round the door and find out when the next slog through the River of Grass takes place. This is an awesome activity and definitely needs to be tried if you don’t mind standing up to your knees in water while the sun shines.
3. Biscayne National Park
Anyone who is wishing to get underwater and swim amongst the coral reefs just offshore from the Everglades just has to check out Biscayne Bay as this ranks as one of the top dive and snorkel spots in the whole of the USA. Although not falling within the realms of Everglades National Park, Biscayne NP is still well-worth a visit if you’re in the south of Florida and from shipwrecks to tropical fish, diving offshore is a sublime way to spend the day.
2. Wonderful wildlife watching
Without a doubt the wildlife that you’ll find within Everglades National Park is amongst the most exciting and abundant in America with everything from turtles and manatees to storks and spoonbills to be found amongst the waterways. Trekking, kayaking and boat trips will all take you closer to a wide range of habitats that provide protection to all manner of species and areas, such as: Shark Valley, Flamingo and Chokoloskee Bay are all well-known for their viewing potential and natural beauty.
1. Boat tours
Thanks to the Everglades National Park’s water levels, getting around by boat is one of the best means of transport and from the Gulf Coast to White Water Bay, you’ll find an excellent chance to observe the wildlife and the wetlands pretty much as nature intended. Most tours include a ranger or knowledgeable captain on-board and as such you’ll get to learn all there is to know about the area as well as making the most of the sunshine as you cruise along the coast and through the inland waterways of southern Florida.
Further reading: Blessed with a tropical climate that’s closer to the Caribbean than the rest of the state, the Florida Keys really are a little piece of paradise just waiting to be explored with: coral reefs, rum cocktails and Ernest Hemingway around every corner. Read our top 10 things to do in the Florida Keys.
Article written by Chris Owen.