Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the US and a unique Florida destination. Among Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Everglades is the most accessible in Florida.
There is something else distinctive about the Everglades: it is the only National Park suffering from a man-made python invasion. While your chances to meet a giant snake are minimal, the same cannot be said for deer, bobcats, rabbits, opossums, panthers, and foxes. Many of them almost completely gone, due to pythons.
Burmese python removal at Florida National Parks and Reserves:
Why we love Everglades so much
Laying 30 miles from Miami, the Everglades is an enormous National Park you can enjoy without tons of effort. If you are a lazy traveler, limited in time/mobility, or are with small children – it is a real catch!
Another reason – Everglades is excellent for wildlife watching. We saw softshell turtles, dozens of American alligators, and many birds. Alligators were the most fascinating: fat, slow, and seemingly indifferent,
but don’t let them fool you.
Everglades: Unique Florida Destination. How we explored it
We took a guided tram tour at Shark Valley and explored the Anhinga self-guiding trail, the most popular trail in the Everglades due to the abundance of wildlife. Highly impressed by both and recommend them to visit.
Shark Valley tour
The Shark Valley tour starts at Shark Valley visitor center and lasts around two hours. It costs $27 per adult, plus a $30 National Park entrance fee (per car). The narration is very informative, and the guides really care about the park.
In the picture below: at the beginning of the tour, the first but not last alligator who didn’t mind to yield:
If you’ll pay attention, you’ll spot several alligator trails: animals cut through the grass. Trails are pretty wide, and a lucky one may spot a beast on it:
Trams have no windows, don’t forget a lightweight raincoat or you can end up soaking wet!
In the picture below: a huge softshell turtle along the trail. They aren’t pets, can be aggressive and bite hard, despite their soft look:
A couple of baby alligators, possibly 6 months old. Please don’t touch them.
Who knows, maybe those cuties are baby alligators parents:
This cutie can be very fast, be careful:
Everglades: Unique Florida Destination where a bird watcher can be born
My passion for bird watching was born in the Everglades: no matter who you are, you can’t help but love that Roseate Spoonbill (pictured below)!
We didn’t have birding binoculars back then but still saw a lot of birds up close at the Shark Valley tram tour:
Limpkins, in the picture below. We saw a lot of them, this is a close-up shot:
Anhinga, or “great spear-fisher”. Check out how they dive for fish on Youtube, it’s very entertaining!
Cute, wet from the rain red-shouldered hawk:
Other birds we saw were purple gallinules, the most beautiful, (in the featured picture of this post), ibises, herons, and black vultures – “car vandals”.
Where all the Everglades’ Florida Panthers?!
Pythons are eating Florida, it’s no joke but is the sad reality. Animals keep disappearing, some – forever. Only 120-130 Florida panthers are left in the wild. And the signs:
Be careful and watch your kids at the Everglades
Alligators’ jaws are extremely strong and powerful.
Prey caught in their jaws rarely gets away. We were told a story when a boy got close to an animal and nobody could open the jaws to get him out. After awhile the desperate mother finally found the only vulnerable spot to save a child – alligator’s eyes.
Views from Shark Valley Observation Tower
We had a short stop at Shark Valley Observation Tower. Although it might seem shabby, the views are amazing. Being so close to Miami, Everglades is really wild place:
My most favorite sight from the entire tour: unlike being on the ground, alligators move effortlessly and graciously in the water:
Where we stayed while visiting Everglades, a unique Florida destination
Most people stay in Miami while exploring the Everglades. We choose the more unusual and further place since our next adventure was Florida’s Keys.
KLK – private campground with a pool on the Key Largo island was our temporary home, in the picture below:
Everglades National Park: 9 essentials for your visit
- Good camera (you’ll want to use zoom) and binoculars are great to have while visiting the Everglades. I’d recommend Celestron 8*42 (waterproof binoculars), I use them almost every day.
- If you already have an Annual National Parks Pass, take it with you.
- Lightweight raincoat, water bottle, snacks, hats, comfortable shoes.
- A safe distance, respect, and patience for the wildlife, and please, only use mineral sunscreen, chemicals in some sunscreen is killing the reefs in Florida!
P.S. The movies and book about Florida for kids and families
“Dolphin Tale” is a heartwarming and inspiring movie about friendship and rescuing a dolphin; based on a true story. Don’t be surprised if your kids will ask to be homeschooled and live on a boat in Florida! 😀
A great choice for elementary/middle school kids is Kate DiCamillo’s book (and the movie as well) “Because of Winn-Dixie“. A great introduction to living in Florida through the eyes of 10 y/o, her challenges, and joy.
Anhinga Trail, the #1 Wildlife Trail in Florida
Only Locals Know These Amazing Places: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Swimming With Manatee, Florida’s Shy and Gentle Giant
Thanks for reading guys! I hope you’ll enjoy Florida as much as we do 🙂