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Visiting the Everglades, Florida’s most famous park, is a dream come true for many travelers. A UNESCO-listed national park, it is home to numerous animal species, some of which are endangered. Its landscapes are equally impressive and varied, making it a feast for the eyes.
However, such a visit cannot be organized without prior information, and information found on the Internet can be contradictory.
Here are 5 tips I can give you for organizing your visit to the Everglades and making the most of it.
Where are the everglades ?
The Everglades are situated in the southern part of Florida, USA. If you’re in Miami and head south, you’ll be getting close. The Everglades National Park, which covers a significant portion of the Everglades ecosystem, starts just a bit south of Miami. It spans across Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, creating a vast and unique landscape of wetlands, marshes, and swamps.
So, if you’re ever in South Florida and looking for a wild adventure, the Everglades are the place to be!
1. The best time to visit the Everglades
As the national park is located in southern Florida, the climate is tropical. This means that during the summer months, temperatures are very high, and rain is not uncommon. Mosquitoes have a field day, so not only are you likely to have a hard time coping with the climate, but you’re also likely to find yourself repeatedly bitten by these flying insects.
So, if you want to make the most of your visit to the Everglades, my advice is to avoid the hot period, which runs from May to October, and instead visit between November and early June (dry period) or even between December and March.
Temperatures will be milder and more pleasant, mosquitoes less prevalent and, icing on the cake, you may catch a glimpse of alligators, which prefer cooler weather.
2. Transportation: how do I get there?
Everglades Park is not far from the city of Miami. So you can get there on your own, for example by renting a car. However, if you’re not keen on driving on American roads, you can also book an excursion with transport included. My advice is to plan well in advance.
Whether you go by car or on an all-inclusive tour, Everglades Park is a popular tourist destination. So, even though it’s open year-round and every day, you may not be able to get in on the day you want.
Attendance remains controlled, and if it gets too crowded (with reservations), you’ll have no way of buying entry tickets. So as soon as you book your stay in Miami, reserve your Everglades Park tickets too.
3. Eating and sleeping in Everglades Park
You can stay in campsites around the Everglades, or find small hotels nearby, but as the park is protected, no housing is allowed inside. So make sure you book a hotel in advance, or bring a tent with you to enjoy the campsites.
When it comes to eating out, there aren’t many options in the park, and they’re still relatively expensive. So be sure to pack a picnic or packed lunch, as you may run out of food and water depending on the itinerary and duration you choose. Be careful not to leave anything lying around after your meal, and take your garbage with you.
4. Plan your activities
There are many ways to visit the park. As already mentioned, you can drive to the park in your own rental car and explore the roads.
However, this is not the most environmentally friendly way. That’s why I recommend that you take a look at the hiking and biking trails, which are both environmentally friendly and enjoyable ways to explore the Everglades. In fact, you can rent a bike on site, for 9 dollars an hour.
There are a number of different routes through the park, and some magnificent paths allow you to admire the park’s lush flora and encounter animals up close.
- The 24 km-long Tram Trail, to the north of the park, at the end of which is a 14-metre-high observation tower offering a superb view of the park.
- The Janes Memorial Scenic Drive is 17 km long and offers the chance to see many species of wildlife. Although it ends at a dead end, it’s still a very pleasant drive.
- The Shark Valley Tram Tour is a two-hour tour by tourist train, during which a park ranger will tell you all about the park and its flora and fauna.
Numerous itineraries are also available by boat or canoe. These are the only way to see many parts of the park, such as the Ten Thousand Islands (a group of around 100 pristine islands of mangroves and canals), where you’ll be lucky enough to spot dolphins and manatees.
Waterways also include the Turner River, 25 km long. And the Wilderness Waterway, 160 km long, offers breathtaking scenery and the chance to spot alligators and lynx.
Guided itineraries are also available, if you don’t want to go adventuring on your own, but would rather have expert guidance.
Finally, around the park, you can take an airboat excursion. This means of locomotion is prohibited within the park, so as not to disturb the ecosystem. A popular activity with tourists, you’ll come out soaking wet, but delighted by the sensations you’ll experience and the landscapes you’ll admire.
Here are the activities I’ve tested for you, which you can book online:
- Airboat in the Everglades
- Airboat in the Everglades with bus transfer
- Kayak Eco-Tour in the Everglades
5. Respect the ecosystem
This tip may seem ridiculous, even pointless, but I think it’s essential. Everglades Park is home to many protected and even endangered species, as well as exceptional flora. It is therefore the responsibility of all visitors to take care of it.
Don’t throw anything away in the park, and don’t pick any flowers or plants thinking you’ll have a souvenir to put in your herbarium. Don’t move stones or carve initials on trees.
The same goes for animals: to avoid endangering them and yourself, always keep a safe distance of at least 3 meters between you and any animal. Don’t try to feed them either, as their diet is already sufficient.
With all this advice, you should be well prepared for your next visit to the Everglades. Remember to book your stay in advance, as well as all the activities you want to do once you’re there. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy your visit with peace of mind!
Bonus: How to dress for the everglades?
When preparing for a visit to the Everglades in Miami, it’s important to choose clothing that protects you from the elements while ensuring you’re comfortable in Florida’s tropical climate. Here are a few recommendations on how to dress for a visit to the Everglades:
- Lightweight, breathable clothing: Because of the tropical climate, opt for lightweight, breathable, short-sleeved clothing. Light fabrics like cotton or moisture-wicking technical materials can be particularly useful.
- Lightweight long pants: For protection against mosquitoes and the elements, choose lightweight long pants. This can also offer some protection from the sun.
- Wide-brimmed hat: Protect your face and neck from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. This can help keep you cool and protect you from the sun’s rays – in summer it gets really hot!
- Sunglasses and sunscreen: Protect your eyes with sunglasses and apply sunscreen to exposed skin to avoid sunburn.
- Comfortable footwear: Choose comfortable footwear, ideally lightweight hiking boots or sneakers. You may be walking on trails or in wet areas, so appropriate footwear is important.
- Light jacket or raincoat: Depending on the season, a light jacket or raincoat may be useful to protect you against possible showers.
- Mosquito repellent: Apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin to avoid being bitten. You may also consider wearing mosquito repellent clothing. I was once bitten 200 times during a 4-day stay – it was horrible!
- Adapt to the weather: Check the weather forecast before your visit and adapt your clothing accordingly. The Everglades can be hot and humid, so prepare accordingly.
Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary, so be sure to check the updated forecast before you go. In general, the goal is to stay cool, protected from the sun and comfortable while exploring the unique nature of the Everglades.