Things to Do in the Everglades

One of Florida’s most undervalued attractions is the Everglades National Park, known as the River of Grass. It is an unspoiled area for recreation, offering things to do in the Everglades that you simply can’t find anywhere else in Florida.

Starting from Lake Okeechobee, this UNESCO World Heritage Site of slow-moving water is 60 miles wide and 100 miles long. Mostly covered by a prairie of razor-sharp sawgrass, the broad flow is broken by occasional hardwood hammocks once inhabited by Seminole Indians.

Alligator basks in the sun. Photo by Mary Carol Fitzgerald. Must Do Visitor Guides Southwest Florida vacation information and tips, MustDo.com

Photo credit Mary Carol Fitzgerald

When it comes to wildlife, the Everglades is unsurpassed. It is home to Florida panthers, crocodiles, manatees, amphibians, fish, and an estimated 200,000 alligators. Wading birds such as herons, wood storks, and spoonbills make their home in the Everglades along with belted kingfishers and impressive raptors such as ospreys and bald eagles. However you choose to explore this natural Florida attraction, you are sure to encounter plenty of native wildlife!

Things to Do in the Everglades at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center

The best place to start your Everglades adventure in at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Homestead. It offers exhibits, displays, brochures, books, and films to enhance your Everglades experience. Sign up for guided ranger tours or pick up a map of walking trails in the Everglades.

Airboat Tours in The Everglades

Few activities can beat an Everglades airboat tour. These flat-bottomed boats powered by a giant propeller zip through the sawgrass at speeds of up to 25mph. Although noisy (protective ear headsets are provided to riders), they skim over the surface of the Everglades, minimizing disruption to the native wildlife. They can spin through 180 degrees and stop suddenly, allowing tourists to get a closer look at a nest or photograph a gator basking in the sun.

Few activities can beat an Everglades airboat tour. These flat-bottomed boats powered by a giant propeller zip through the sawgrass at speeds of up to 25mph. Although noisy (protective ear headsets are provided to riders), they skim over the surface of the Everglades, minimizing disruption to the native wildlife. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.

Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Head out along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) and you’ll find plenty of advertising for airboat tours and the authentic Miccosukee Indian village. Experienced local guides are often of Native American descent with an excellent local knowledge of the area. Buy handmade beads and crafts and learn more about life in the Everglades.

Everglades City is the launching post for many airboat rides, swamp buggy tours, daring alligator shows, and Everglades Animal Sanctuaries. You can even hold a baby gator at Everglades attractions such as Wooten’s in Ochopee, Florida!

Wooten's Everglades Animal Sanctuary and airboat rides. Visitors have an opportunity to hold or hug an alligator – now that’s a souvenir! Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. MustDo.com

Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Boat and Kayak Activities on the Everglades

For a quieter Everglades experience, rent a canoe or kayak on the Everglades and paddle the peaceful waterways, listening to the sound of birds and wildlife. The best birdwatching can be found off Snake Bight and Frank Cay. Flamingo Marina offers access into Coot Bay or nearby Bear Lake Canoe Trail.

Everglades City provides easy access to the mangrove-covered cays and waterways known as Ten Thousand Islands. Alternatively, explore the 100-mile long Wilderness Waterway from Flamingo by kayak, canoe, or motor-powered boat. As well as wildlife spotting, the area offers excellent fishing.

Hiking and Bicycling in the Everglades

Things to do in the Everglades do not all involve water. The Oasis Visitor Center on Tamiami Trail is the start of more than 40 miles of hiking trails throughout the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Naples guided Bicycle Tours through the Everglades. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.

Photo courtesy Naples Bicycle Tours

Shark Valley Visitor Center on U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) is located 70 miles east of Naples and near Miami and offers a 15-mile loop road leading to a 65-foot observation tower above the Everglades. Rent bicycles or guided Everglades bicycle tour to enjoy an early morning hike to see wild deer, otters, turtles, and gators in their native environment. There is also a Shark Valley Tram Tour for those who don’t like hiking or biking in the heat. Reservations are recommended for this top Everglades activity.

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Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

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