Tall sawgrass, buggy marshes, and incredible animals abound in the Everglades. Everglades National Park covers more than 1.5 million acres of wetlands in the Southern tip of Florida. Within this park there are various unique ecosystems including marshlands and forests. People come from all over to see the crazy natural landscapes and the thriving wildlife here. Try your luck at spotting an endangered saddleback turtle, an elusive panther, or a massive crocodile!
Despite the Everglades being a popular park, we had a hard time finding advice on how to spend a weekend there. I have visited over 30 national parks and I’ve never had such a hard time finding a good weekend itinerary. After a lot of research and reading information from different sites, we came up with a plan of attack. I have put together an awesome two day itinerary for visiting this amazing park, so that you see all the highlights and hopefully it makes your trip more manageable. You can also watch more of our time on my Youtube!
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Table of Contents
Important Everglades Info
Quick Everglades Travel Tips
Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle or use an America the Beautiful Pass to get in for free
Entrances: There are three entrances to get into the everglades: Florida City on the Northwest Entrance (Gulf Side), Shark Valley in the North, and Homestead on the Southeast side.
Where to Stay: This depends on what areas of the park you want to see. Most people visiting the park will stay in Homestead, which is the central area of the park. You can also stay in Miami and drive about an hour away to see the park. If you are also visiting in a campervan, then you can stay in the Cracker Barrel in Homestead. Finally, you can stay in Naples or Marco Island to access the Gulf side of the park, which is one of the least visited areas.
When to Go: Peak season in the Everglades is the winter from December all the way until April. This season is known as the dry season, so there are less bugs, less rain, and the temperatures are more temperate. At other times of year, you’ll need plenty of bug spray and umbrellas to stay dry.
Day 1 in the Everglades:
On this day, you’ll spend your time on the North end of the park. Exploring the unique river grass environment and the wildlife that thrives there.
Every time someone mentioned the Everglades a picture of airboat rides immediately popped into my head. Airboats are boats that have flat-bottoms and huge motors on the back to help them glide over the shallow waters of the Everglades. These huge motors are often designed for aircrafts.
In order to help sustain the Everglades environment there are only three companies permitted to ride Airboats in the park itself: Coopertown, Everglades Safari Park, and Gator Park. All of them are located near the Shark Valley Visitor Center. You can show up to these outfitters any day and purchase tickets when you get there, so no need to plan ahead! We took a Coopertown boat and the experience was unforgettable. We flew over the river grass, taking in the unique landscape and occasionally stopping to observe alligators. This is one of the very best ways to start your trip in the Everglades!
Since you will already be up North, then the best thing to do after your boat ride is go to Shark Valley Visitor Center. This visitor center has some great information about the park and is the starting point for a 15 mile tram trail. On this trail, you’ll see the river grass landscape, view wildlife, and get to go to the watchtower at the end.
You can choose to either take the tram for about two hours or bike the entire 15 miles. There are bikes for rent at the Visitor Center, which makes it easy. The tram does get full during peak season, so you book tickets in advance. We didn’t have time to take the tram, so we will have to do it again.
Day 2 in the Everglades
On Day 2 you can head further South into the heart of the Everglades to see the other wonderful places in the park. Start by entering the park at the Homestead entrance and get your bearings at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. From there, you can continue down the one main road that leads through this area of the park.
If you only have time for one trail on your two days in Everglades NP, then I recommend you just do this one. Driving into the parking lot, we noticed cars were covered in tarps and groups of vultures were sitting on top of them. It was then we read the warnings that these vultures like to eat the rubber off of cars, so the park provides tarps to protect your cars. We got two tarps to cover the most precious parts of Vinny. Despite having to cover our car with tarps to avoid vulture attacks, it was one of our favorite places we went.
You’ll follow a boardwalk trail over the marshes of the Everglades. It’s a quick .8 miles, but the purpose is to slow down and observe the wildlife. We were able to see multiple bird species, turtles, snakes, and alligators enjoying the marshland. It was very serene and a wonderful way to get up close to the environment.
Continue down the main road to get to the Pahayokee Overlook. This spot is located almost in the middle of the park and is a great place to observe the unique land. To get to the overlook, you walk over a very short boardwalk trail. There, you’ll see the sawgrass rise up amongst the shallow marsh land. It’s a wonderful spot to stop and take in the view.
Follow the road for about 10 more miles to get to Mahogany Hammock. This area is called a “hardwood hammock” and is one of the other type of distinct ecosystems in the park. As you walk through the short half mile boardwalk trail, you’ll feel as if you were transported to a jungle.
Make your way slowly through the trees, to observe these massive trees and see if you can spot any wildlife along the way. Dylan was able to find a small snake hanging on one of the massive tree leafs. He was disgusted by it, but I found it fascinating. You’ll never know what you will find on a walk in the Everglades.
End your day by going all the way to the Southernmost area of the park. This area is located on the Florida Bay, so it is a completely different ecosystem from other areas. Here, you’ll find saltwater and animals that thrive in these environments. One important note before you go: WEAR BUG SPRAY!!! Dylan and I were attacked by mosquitos on this end of the park, which made it a little less enjoyable.
Despite being named Flamingo, you won’t find any flamingos on this end of the park. They have been gone from there for many years. However, you will be able to find manatees and crocodiles. We saw 2 huge crocodiles while walking around the marina, which was so cool! We were geeking out. When you’re in this area, you can go to Eco Pond to see bird life, take a boat around the bay, or stay in gorgeous campgrounds on the water. We chose to see the wildlife, watch the sunset, and slowly leave the park after a full two days.
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