The Amazing Everglades National ParkPosted on Feb 8, 2013 | 8 comments
We didn't enter Everglades National Park with big expectations, but within 30 minutes we were sold on the place. We arrived at night, bumped into a group of people heading out for a night hike, and decided to join the crowd.
A few minutes later we were watching alligators feed on fish and snakes with our flashlights. We were terrified and amazed. It was wonderful!
The wildlife here is amazing! Don't be mistaken by thinking you can capture experiences like this at a zoo. You can't! You won't see an alligator swim up and devour a bird at the zoo, and you won't be checking for wild panthers in the zoo parking lot. This is not a zoo. This is nature.
In just 3 days, we saw alligators, crocodiles, manatee, turtles, lizards on the bathroom walls, birds as big as us, and all of nature in its right place. Everywhere we looked, something was happening. Our campsite was generally calm and free of big animals, but even here there were swarms of swallows and other birds dancing about throughout the day. Here, there are literally hundreds of experiences not to be missed. Here, nature is protected, respected, and everything works.
If you're in South Florida, make sure to pay the Everglades National Park a visit. It is easily the best place we've visited so far, and it has left a mark that won't soon fade away.
Tips On Visiting Everglades National Park
Go in the winter. This is the dry season which makes it about 70 degrees and mostly mosquito free. Water is scarce, so the wildlife collect in certain areas. It is a feeding frenzy!
The Anhinga Trail. The must-see spot! It's just after the park entrance and you can walk it in only a 1/2 hour, but it's amazing! Even if you can only go to the park for the afternoon - see this!
Sign up in advance for certain Ranger led tours. Canoe tours, bike tours, driving tours. All are offered free of charge, but space is limited on some tours.
Be ready, but don't be scared. Everything here is on the loose. Gators and crocs are everywhere. Panthers and rattlesnakes roam the park at will. But in the campgrounds you won't see much, and on the trails you'll most likely have people with you. These animals don't want anything to do with you, unless of course you step on them or jump in the swamp. Don't jump in the swamp.
Try Route 997. Driving in from the north, you have a few options, but we really enjoyed Route 997. Lots of farm stands with petting zoos and guava milkshakes.
Don't Miss Shark Valley! The drive along route 41 to Big Cypress is loaded with gators. On this highway you'll find the entrance to Shark Valley which also hosts a tons of wildlife.
Flamingo vs. Long Pine Key Campgrounds. Flamingo is further, but has showers and Florida Bay.. Long Pine Key is shady and has the Anhinga Trail. Flamingo is probably better if you can make the drive. Either way, it's $16 a night.
Have a full tank of gas. If you're visiting the Flamingo campground or visitors center, it's about 40 miles into the park. And there is no gas.
Get your kids to do the Junior Ranger Program. Stop at the center and pick up a packet. The kids will work on it all day and then earn a Junior Ranger badge. If you're ambitious, you can visit Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve and pick up the patch as well!
Next stop is REALLY Key West! Everglades surprised us!
Last Stop: The Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA
You can follow our complete North American Journey here.
And see all the gear we're taking with us here.
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