One day in Everglades National Park Florida

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One day in Everglades National Park Florida

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.

About Everglades National Park

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.

Everglades National Park Tickets

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.

Everglades National Park Hours

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

How to reach Everglades?

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.

Homestead Entrance

  • To visit from Miami: Take Ronald Regan Turnpike towards Florida City followed by State Highway 9336 to reach Ernest Coe Visitor Center.
  • To visit from Florida Keys: Drive US Highway 1 followed by State highway 9336 to reach the entrance.

Shark Valley Entrance

  • To visit from Miami: Take FL-836 W and US-41 W to reach the visitor center.
  • To visit from Florida Keys : Take US-1 N to Florida City to take a left turn to FL -997. After around 22 miles turn left to US-41W to reach Shark Valley Entrance
  • To visit from Naples: Drive around 70 miles on US-41 S to reach the Shark Valley entrance

Everglades City Entrance

  • To visit from Naples: Take US-41 W towards Miami turning towards State highway 29 to reach the Gulf Coast Visitor Center.
  • To visit from Shark Valley entrance: Drive on US-41 W to turn on State Highway 29

How to Explore Everglades National Park?

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.

  • Homestead Entrance – This is one of the most popular regions as you can drive through in your own vehicle and explore at your own pace. Begin by visiting the Ernest Coe Visitor Center followed by the Anhinga Trail. After sighting the alligators in their habitat, head off to Pa-hay-okee lookout point and Mahogany trail. End it at the Flamingo Bay and spot manatees at the marina.
  • Shark Valley Entrance – Shark valley is a 15-mile loop with an Observation Tower at halfway. Shark Valley is best explored on a bike or taking a Tram tour From the Visitor Center. You won’t find Sharks here as the name goes. But it is named after the Shark river estuaries that flow through the National Park.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Best time to Visit Everglades

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.

Map of Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park map gives a glimpse into the main attractions of Everglades that you can explore in one day.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Things to do in Everglades

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.

Ernest F. Cove Visitor Center

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.

Anhinga Trail

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Gumbo Limbo Trail

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Point

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.

Mahogany Hammock Trail

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Paurotis Pond

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Nine Mile Pond

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

West Lake

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Flamingo Visitor center

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.

One day in Everglades National Park Florida

Shark Valley Visitor Center

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.

Shark Valley Tram Tour

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.

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.

Bobcat Boardwalk Trail

This is 0.4 mil trail winding through sawgrass sloughs and tropical environment.

Otter Cave Hammock Trail

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.

Shark Valley Airboat tours

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.

Tips:

  1. Do carry insect repellant, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  2. Do pack your lunch / snacks and carry water along as there are not many concession stands.
  3. While you enter or exit the Homestead entrance, don’t forget to try the milkshakes at the fruit stand ‘Robert is Here’. We loved our Coconut shake and mango shake. You can even try some local tropical fruits here.

Where to stay in Everglades National Park?

Everglades National Park Camping

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.

Hotels in Everglades National Park

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.

 


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Last Updated : Apr 27,2021
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