Everglades National Park Florida, one of the largest National Parks in the US needs no introduction. Located in Southern Florida, Everglades is an ecosystem of wetlands and mangrove trees. Home to diverse wildlife and plants, it is a unique experience.
But to unravel its beauty requires proper planning. We had spent one eventful day exploring the park and have written the Everglades National Park guide that will help to plan.
Spanning across 1.5 million acres, it is also the third-largest National park in the continental US. Located in South Florida, the park has a unique ecosystem consisting mainly of forests and wetlands. It is also listed as a World Heritage Site.
There are 3 entrances to enter this massive park- Homestead Entrance, Shark Valley entrance, and Everglades City entrance, each having its own charm. These areas are not connected to each other so it is good to plan well.
To enjoy and experience well, plan to do one area in 1 day.
USD 30 for Private vehicles ; USD 15 for pedestrians while USD 55 for an Annual Pass.
The ticket is valid for 7 consecutive days. It is preferred to but the tickets online in advance during Covid times.
The Homestead entrance and the Everglades entrance are open 24 hours a day. While the Shark Valley entrance is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
With the massive size of Everglades National Park, there are three entrances in 3 different cities. And the worst part is that these entrances are not interconnected. So to visit the other region, you need to exit all the way out and travel to the next entrance.
It is not justice doing all the regions in one day. So you need to set your priorities while deciding.
If you have one day in hand it would be great to stick to one entrance area and explore it including the trails and activities.
Winter is the best time to visit the Everglades National Park when the temperatures are low. December to March is a good time for visiting the Everglades National Park. We visited during the Christmas week and enjoyed the warm weather as compared to the chilling temperatures of Philly.
The Everglades National Park map gives a glimpse into the main attractions of Everglades that you can explore in one day.
Wondering what to do in Everglades National Park in one day?
We visited the Everglades National Park en route a road trip from Miami to Key West.
We reached early in the morning to the Homestead Entrance. Spent half day there and visited the Shark Valley Entrance.
Refer to the map of the Everglades National Park at the NPS website for the route and attractions.
It is best to begin from the Ernest Cove Visitor Center if you are entering from the Homestead entrance. Grab a map of the National Park and get the schedule of the various ranger tours of the day. It helps to decide and plan.
Note: Restrooms are available here.
Drive the Main Park Road from the Visitor Center all the way to Flamingo.
Located 4 miles from the park entrance, Anhinga Trail is an easy 0.8-mile trail. The path is a boardwalk that traverses through a freshwater marsh where you can spot alligators and anhinga (a bird on which the trail is named). The black alligators are lying still on the rocks seeming unreal and sometimes difficult to spot. If you are lucky you might spot them basking in the sun or even crossing the boardwalk. We were lucky to spot an alligator basking by the edge.
Other creatures that you might spot are turtles, egrets, and herons.
The trail begins from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. There are many other ranger-led tours that begin from the Anhinga trail, mainly from the Parking area. Do check the schedule from the visitor center and reach 5 minutes prior to the scheduled time. We missed our tour in just a matter of a few minutes.
This trail also begins from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. Gumbo Limbo is a 0.4 mile long round trip paved trail traversing through the jungle of gumbo limbo trees, palms, and other plants.
Located 19 miles away from Ernest Cove Visitor center, Pahayokee Overlook point comes along the road to Flamingo. This is a 0.16-mile roundtrip trail and is a boardwalk that passes through the woods to an elevated lookout point. All you see from the lookout point is a vast expanse of marshy grass.
As the name suggests the trail gives you a glimpse into the Mahogany trees in the park including the largest one in the US. The 0.5 mile round trip trail is a boardwalk trail traversing through a hammock of trees.
Further ahead of Mahogany Trail is the Paurotis Pond, 24 miles from the Ernest Visitor center. This pond is the largest bird nesting site at the park and often gets closed around January to protect the birds and providing them a safe environment.
If you are interested in canoeing through the mangroves through the water tunnels, then taking a ranger-led tour at Nine Mile Pond is great. Get your own canoes or rent them from the Flamingo Visitor Center.
It is a great opportunity to look at the wildlife including alligators, turtles, a variety of birds in the area.
Since we had small kids with us, we skipped this pond and headed forward towards Flamingo.
This is an elevated boardwalk, 0.5 mile long taking through the mangroves and to the edge of the West Lake.
But this was closed due to the damage done by Hurricane Irma. It was devastating to see the loss caused. There was debris along the route to the National Park as well.
Overlooking the Florida Bay is the Flamingo Visitor Centre. This is a place to spot manatees and American crocodiles at the Flamingo marina.
There are many ranger-led tours available from the visitor center. Some of the boat tours are run from the marina including the Florida Bay Tour and Backcountry boat tour.
Florida Bay Tour: This is a 90-minute tour where the naturalist will take you along and highlight the flora and fauna Everglades has to offer while outlining the rich history of Flamingo and Everglades National Park.
If Kayak eco-tour through the mangrove tunnels excites you, then do book this tour.
In the Western part of the Everglades National Park, lies the Shark Valley Visitor Center. The area is rich in wildlife – alligators, herons, egrets, Key deer, turtles and snail kites. There are three trails from the Visitor Center.
The two-hour tram tour is the best way to tour through the area. A naturalist is aboard the tram who educates about the ecosystem of the wetland, the animals found in the region and the diverse plants present. The tram takes along the Tram Road Trail.
It is the paved road that loops 15 miles from the visitor Center and leads to the Observation Tower. Climb up the Observation tower for panoramic views of the marshy area and the vast expanse of the park.
This trail can be accessed by the Tram, bikes or by walking.
Pro Tip: Get your own bikes or rent them from the Visitor Center.
This is 0.4 mil trail winding through sawgrass sloughs and tropical environment.
It is a rough limestone path that goes over small streams and through a tropical hardwood forest. It is a 0.25 mile long trail with small bridges over the streams.
Adventures lovers can’t miss the airboat tours. Airboats are flat-bottomed boats opened from all sides and powered by powerful engines. They can easily run on swamps.
The airboat tours are conducted inside the national park by three authorized service providers – Coppertown, Gator Park and Everglades Safari Park.
There are two campgrounds in the National Park from the Homestead Entrance –Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground. The Campgrounds can be booked from here.
There are no hotels in the National Park and the nearest best places to stay near Everglades National Park is at Homestead if you want to enter from the Homestead entrance. Ernest F Coe Visitor Center is 1 hour away from the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
These hotels near Everglades National Park are great for families. These are comfortable and conveniently located from the National Park.
Since we visited Everglades as a trip enroute from Key Largo to Miami, we stayed in a hotel in Key Largo.