Located in the South West region of Florida, Everglades National Park is a tropical ecosystem that covers 1.5 million acres! This is a popular destination among nature lovers because it is home to a large diverse range of wildlife and fauna.
Wildlife that live here include, the Florida Panther (endangered), black bear, alligators, manatees (endangered), dolphins, fish, amphibians, insects, bald eagles, pelicans, and many other bird species. There are even several invasive species that have thrived in this ecosystem, including the python snake. Learn more about that here.
**This is an ethical wildlife travel destination**
When most people mention National Parks, they usually picture flowing rivers, snow-capped mountains, clear lakes, and forests. The western part of the United states, which contains the popular parks of Yosemite NP and Yellowstone NP, are painted with those landscapes. Great Smoky National Park on the east coast is also filled with mountainous wilderness.
The Everglades is a different ecosystem, a beautiful tropical national park. In one year, we visited all the US National Parks on the US east coast except for one (Acadia). Everglades National Park was definitely one of our favorites but requires multiple days to see the different parts!
The Everglades One Day Itinerary
Everglades NP is such a large park that it has 3 different entrances that are hours apart. So, if you are short on time, plan ahead! We only had one day and chose the Gulf Coast Entrance so we could explore the Ten Thousand Islands…which didn’t disappoint!
Drive down Alligator Alley
When driving to the the Golf Coast Entrance, you will be arriving on a road that is known as “Alligator Alley”. This is 80 miles of Interstate 75 that runs from Ft. Lauderdale into the Everglades National Park. This drive is a wildlife viewing experience in itself. As you look out the windows of your car, you will be amazed at the amount of alligators basking in the sun along the waterways on both sides of the road.
Do not get out of your car and keep in mind that it is illegal to feed wild alligators. Here are some tips on driving safely through “Alligator Alley”.
Explore the Visitor Center
There are 4 visitor centers located within this national park! This is a good place to start to get information about the park, tours, and wildlife. There is a short walking trail outside where visitors can see alligators basking in the sun. If you have kids, they may enjoy becoming a Jr. Ranger. Our kids took part in the Jr.Ranger program at all of the National Parks that we visited as part of their homeschool curriculum.
I bought each of my kids a National Park Passport book at the beginning of the year. Every national park and registered historic site has ink stamps available in the office. Every time they visit, they put a stamp with the date in their book on the corresponding page. This is a good souvenir that they can continue to use throughout their lives as they visit more parks.
Adults like to keep record of their National Park visits too. This is a resource to plan and record park adventures.
Boat Tour of the Ten Thousand Islands
A visit to Everglades National Park would not be complete without a tour of the Ten Thousand Islands. This boat tour is the highlight of visiting The Gulf Coast of The Everglades NP.
On this 1.5 hour leisurely journey thought the Ten Thousand Islands, the naturalist guide will educate all visitors about the tropical ecosystem and the animals that live there. They know where to find the dolphins, manatees, white pelicans, and any other wildlife that may be present during your visit.
We were fortunate enough to have dolphins jumping in our wake. This is a more responsible and ethical wildlife experience than a kayaking tour with manatees or paying to swim with captive dolphins.
Our guide helped us experience wild animals in their natural habitat without encroaching on their personal space and making them uncomfortable. The cost of this tour is $40/adult and $20/child.
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