Everglades National Park is nicknamed the River of Grass for good reason: with so much of the park being remote and accessible by water only, you’ll need a boat of some sort to really be able to explore it! There are ample opportunities to rent stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and even motorboats in the park, just make sure you pack your dry bag!
November through April is definitely the best time to visit the Everglades if you’re trying to avoid Florida humidity and storms. In January 2021, we packed up our camper and drove down to Homestead, Florida, the gateway to the Everglades. With Everglades being the 3rd largest National Park in the lower 48, we had a lot to try to fit in in just one long-weekend trip!
If you’re looking to experience the lush Everglades via water, then putting in at the boat ramp near the Flamingo Boat Ramp is an absolute must! During our visit in January and the marina was loaded with manatees and it had an outlet right into the ocean. We were lucky enough to see a couple of massive crocodiles and an endless supply of unique Everglades birds. The West Lake and 9 Mile Pond areas are also great options for exploring the grassy waters via kayak or boat. They were easy to access and we basically had them to ourselves when we visited.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Everglades without an airboat ride. If you prefer to take one into the official National Park area, there are only a couple of companies that are allowed to operate in the park: Coopertown Airboats, Everglades Safari Park, and Gator Park. There are tons of other companies outside the park limits that can give you a similar experience but with fewer tourists. Depending on which company you go with, you may get up close and personal with wildlife and see tons of alligators along the way. We were lucky enough to have an airboat tour to ourselves and the guide brought us to a rehabilitation area where we got to hold baby alligators and healing turtles.
If you really want to get up close and personal with remote areas of Everglades National Park, you can apply for a backcountry camping permit and head out into the wilderness! The park has 17 chickees available, which are raised platforms above the water that you can set up camp on. In the offseason, these permits are free but during the busy winter months, it costs $10 to secure a permit. The chickees are only accessible via water, so it’s quite an adventure to get to your campsite.
If water adventures aren’t your thing, there are ample hiking, biking, and wildlife trails throughout the park so that you can still experience a lot of what the Everglades have to offer. There’s nothing cooler than casually riding your bicycle down a trail past a bunch of sunbathing alligators. One thing is for certain though, don’t miss out on this totally unique corner of the United States!
Make sure to check out my other posts about the Everglades, Biscayne and Big Cypress parks in Florida: A Long Weekend in Everglades National Park, One Day in Biscayne National Park & Is Big Cypress National Preserve Worth the Visit?