Article Overview: Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Having hyped this park up in my mind for years I was anxious upon my first visit whether or not Everglades National Park would live up to the swampy wildlife wonderland of my dreams.
I am glad to report it did, so much so that I’ve returned many times since to explore more and more of the park. There’s really a huge amount of amazing things to do in Everglades National Park, enough to fill many trips full of activities and adventures.
Everglades National Park is a true gem of the American national park system. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is renowned for its vast array of ecosystems, which include freshwater marshes, mangrove swamps, and sawgrass prairies.
The park covers over 1.5 million acres and is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states. It also boasts over 350 species of birds, as well as manatees, alligators, and crocodiles, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.
In this article, I’ll detail the 20 best things to do in Everglades National Park based on my time here to ensure you make the most of your visit.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Table of Contents: Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Table of Contents: Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- Why Trust Us About the Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park?
- Things to Know Before You Visit Everglades National Park
- Where to Stay in Everglades National Park
- To 20 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- Top 15 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- 10 Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- 5 Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- Everglades National Park Itinerary
- Map of Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- Summary of the Top 20 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Why Trust Us About the Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park?
We’re Will Pattiz and Jim Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
If you’d like to follow along our journey we’d be delighted to have you!
Things to Know Before You Visit Everglades National Park
Entrance fees are $30 per vehicle at Everglades National Park but if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our dear friend, earth 🙂
Cell Service is fairly reliable in the park.
The Best Guide Book for Everglades National Park is this one which we’ve marked up and highlighted quite a bit.
The Best Map: I like this map best for Everglades National Park.
Drink it. Lots of it. Don’t forget it in the car.
Best Time to Visit Everglades National Park
The Best Time to Visit Everglades National Park is during the cooler winter months (after the hurricane season) and early spring before the mosquitoes are out in full force!
Maps of the National Parks
National Parks Checklist Map: This beautiful National Parks Checklist Map can be ordered to your house.
Framed National Parks Map: We’re a sucker for maps, this framed national parks map is the best.
Where to Stay in Everglades National Park
Visiting Everglades National Park? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) here’s out our favorite hotel in the area.
To 20 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
20. Start with a Visit to the Royal Palm Visitor Center
You have to visit the Royal Palm Visitor Center if you’re looking for a convenient way to explore this park. Located near the park’s entrance, this center offers facilities like restrooms and parking.
This visitor center itself is a great spot to pop onto a trail. Not up for a hike? No problem. The visitor center is a beautiful spot to spot birds or relax at the picnic area.
Inside the visitor center, you’ll also find lots of information maps and a small shop to buy snacks. And if you need any help planning your visit, the friendly staff are always on hand to offer assistance.
19. Learn about the Cold War Era at the HM69 Nike Missile Base
Operated from 1965 to 1979, the HM69 Nike Missile Base is now a fascinating historic site and museum within Everglades National Park, offering you a chance to time travel back to the Cold War era.
This decommissioned military base was once on high alert and ready to defend the United States against Soviet attacks. Now, it’s a window into the past, where you can explore the missile bunkers, mess hall, and barracks, among other buildings that served as critical components in national security.
Though abandoned for years, recent efforts have helped preserve the site. You can now visit the barracks, missile bunkers, and mess hall, among others.
The site offers a unique opportunity to experience a piece of Cold War history and learn about the efforts made to defend the country during that time. A trip here is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Everglades National Park for history buffs!
18. Tour the Everglades Alligator Farm
This is another one that falls into the best things to do near Everglades National Park.
Everglades Alligator Farm is one of the top attractions near Everglades National Park, and for a good reason. This unique farm gives you the opportunity to get up close with alligators, an experience that’s hard to come by in the wild.
But that’s not all! The farm also offers exciting alligator shows, boat rides down the alligator-filled river, and even the chance to sit on an alligator! It’s truly an unforgettable experience that shouldn’t be missed during your visit to the park.
So, if air boat rides and alligator shows sounds like of your cup of tea, then consider adding this to your list of things to do in Everglades National Park.
17. Visit the Big Cypress National Preserve
While this one is technically just outside the park, we had to include it on our list of things to do in Everglades National Park. Big Cypress National Preserve is a breathtaking sight and one of the top places to visit near Everglades National Park.
It’s a whopping 729,000 acres of vast swamp and sits north of Everglades National Park on the western side of the peninsula.
The conservation area has been administered along with Everglades National Park by the National Park Service since 1974. Today, the preserve is considered one of the most important refuges for the endangered Florida panther. There are also a few alligators and black bears there.
There are two visitor centers in Big Cypress National Preserve. One is the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center, and the other is the Oasis Visitor Center. Both have wooden boardwalks, from which some alligators can be observed again and again.
But if you really want to get up close with these reptilian creatures, head to the Big Cypress Visitor Center. Here, a boardwalk by a large canal provides the perfect spot to observe gators as they congregate for sunbathing.
Just be sure to keep your arms and legs on the boardwalk at all times – you don’t want to become their next meal! And please, resist the urge to feed them your sandwich.
16. Paddle the Ten Thousand Islands
Looking for some more adventurous things to do near Everglades National Park? Why not paddle your way to the Ten Thousand Islands?
This less visited region, located in the Southwest Everglades (technically just outside the park), is a natural paradise that is home to a wide variety of wildlife including sea turtles, river otters, and the beloved manatees native to Florida.
The area is also a birders paradise with a host of impressive birds including ospreys, herons, cormorants, and so many more.
But the real highlight of this region is at Cape Romano, where you’ll find a bizarre concrete structure built by eccentric oil tycoon Bob Lee.
Although originally intended as vacation rentals, these igloo-like buildings have been damaged by hurricanes and salt water, becoming one of the region’s most famous “Lost Places”. So why not make a day of it and explore the Ten Thousand Islands for yourself?
Top 15 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
15. Enjoy a Hike/Bike on the Shark Valley Trail
Do you love cycling and want to experience the thrill of seeing alligators in their natural habitat? Then biking through Shark Valley is one of the fun things in Everglades National Park.
This 15-mile-long paved road winds through the heart of the Everglades, offering stunning views of the park’s freshwater marshes and abundant wildlife.
As you cycle along, keep an eye out for the park’s most famous resident, the alligator, basking in the sun or lurking in the waterways.
14. Stop by Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
Another point of interest in Everglades National Park is the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, which also serves as an excellent starting point. This bustling hub provides a wealth of practical amenities, making it the perfect place to gather information and supplies before embarking on a hike or other exciting activity within the park.
With educational displays, orientation films, and helpful staff, the visitor center is the ideal resource to help you get the most out of your trip.
Plus, if you’re in the mood for a good read, the small bookstore is a great place to find something to keep you entertained during your downtime.
13. Go Saltwater or Freshwater Fishing
I assumed that Everglades was basically all saltwater before my first visit. Turns out, it’s not! Fully one third of the park is covered by saltwater but the rest consists of freshwater wetlands.
This is good news for anglers looking to add fishing to their list of things to do in Everglades National Park. While you should know that there’s no fishing allowed at the visitor centers and a few other areas, most of the park is open to fishing.
Florida state fishing licenses are required to fish in the Everglades. Check out the NPS site for more detailed Everglades fishing information.
12. Ride the Shark Valley Tram
If you’re looking for one of the more leisurely things to do in Everglades National Park then consider adding the Shark Valley Tram to your itinerary!
The tram is an excellent way to cover more ground and learn about the park through the guided audio tour. Tours last about 2 hours and cover fifteen mile Shark Valley loop trail. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you’ll certainly encounter many a creature along the way!
The tram stops at the Shark Valley Observation Tower for those interested in getting a higher vantage of the surrounding area.
Check out the Shark Valley Tram website for reservations.
11. Visit the Flamingo Visitor Center
One place that I always recommend visiting whenever you’re exploring a national park is the visitor’s center, and the Flamingo Visitor Center in Everglades National Park is no exception! It’s one of the top places to visit in the park and a great place to plan your adventure.
The center is staffed with knowledgeable rangers who can help answer your questions and provide assistance in planning your adventure in the area. It’s also conveniently located near campgrounds, a public boat ramp, a marina store, and several hiking and canoeing trails, making it an ideal spot to begin your exploration of the mangroves and wilderness.
If you’re looking for a more guided experience, this visitor center also offers ranger-led tours. These tours provide you with a fantastic way to learn about the park’s unique landscape and enjoy extreme adventures.
10 Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park
10. Paddle the Nine Mile Pond Trail
A great way to add some adventure to your trip is by paddling the Nine Mile Pond Trail. With its scenic views of lakes, marshy mangroves, and sightings of alligators in the water, this trail is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Everglades National Park.
It’s a 5.5-mile loop that takes around 5 hours to complete, and while there are guided tours available, experienced paddlers can enjoy paddling on their own. Be prepared for some challenges, like navigating through mangrove tunnels, but the well-marked trail ensures a safe journey.
If you’re mainly here to sight-see, I’d recommend taking the shortcut back after enjoying the prettier first half of the trail. Keep in mind that the trail is closed during early spring and can be teeming with mosquitos during summer, so plan your trip accordingly.
9. Camp Out in the Swamp
Camping is one of my favorite things to Do in Everglades National Park (in the cooler seasons). The park offers various camping options, including both front-country and backcountry camping, as well as group camp sites.
Flamingo Campground is a great entry-level spot that I highly recommend. With amenities such as picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and hot showers, camping here is definitely a comfortable experience (so long as it’s not too hot!).
But if you’re seeking more adventure, wilderness camping is also available. With designated campgrounds, beach sites, and ground sites, you’re sure to find a spot that suits your taste.
And, being one of the top places in Everglades National Park for camping, I suggest booking your spot in advance as campgrounds fill quickly.
8. Take a stroll along Pa-hay-okee Trail
Pa-hay-okee means “sea of grass,” and that’s exactly what you’ll experience when you stroll along this trail. The short, accessible 0.2-mile walk takes you along a raised wooden pathway that offers breathtaking views of the vast grassy landscape below, which stretches for miles into the distance.
The wooden lookout area is the perfect spot to take in the scenery and appreciates the delicate flora without causing any damage. And with its easy terrain, a hike along the Pa-hay-okee Trail is one of the cool things to do in Everglades National Park for all.
7. Hike the Gumbo Limbo Trail
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do in Everglades National Park, hiking the Gumbo Limbo Trail should definitely be on your list. This short trail, starting at the Royal Palm Visitor Center, will take you on a journey through a dense, subtropical forest filled with enchanting sights such as moss-covered trees, tangled lianas, and giant ferns.
It’s a shady alternative to the open swamplands of the Anhinga Trail and provides a welcome respite from the hot weather.
While you may encounter mosquitoes and leeches along the way, the magical fairytale-like atmosphere of the Gumbo Limbo Trail makes it all worth it.
6. See the Manatees
If spotting some exotic wildlife is on your list of things to do in Everglades National Park then add seeing the park’s second most famous creature to your list, the manatee. Everglades National Park is home to many fascinating creatures, but one of the most exciting things to see in the park is the West Indian manatee.
These gentle giants migrate to the park in the winter months, and spotting them in the wild is a bucket-list-worthy experience.
Following years of hunting, the manatee was on the brink of extinction in the 1970s. But with improved environmental regulations and the establishment of protected areas, manatee populations have increased, making it easier to see them in their natural habitat.
One of the best places to spot a manatee is near the Flamingo visitor center and in the park’s shallow waterways that lead out from it. For those interested in increasing their odds, add a manatee tour to your list of things to do in the Everglades.
5 Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park
5. Take an Airboat Tour
Arguably the most famous and popular way to explore the Everglades swamps is by airboat ride. You’ve probably seen these metal boats with their huge fans gliding over the water in tv shows and movies.
For me, an airboat ride is less about the experience of nature and more about the, admittedly, wild ride through the swamps, with a nice adrenaline rush. So you have to decide for yourself whether this Everglades excursion suits your taste.
Airboats are not for everyone though. The deafening noise of the aircraft turbines can be too loud for some.
There are certainly more sustainable ways to explore the Everglades while getting closer to nature and wildlife. For example, on a guided kayak or canoe tour through the waterways of the mangrove forests.
4. Bike the Snake Bight Trail
The Snake Bight Trail is a 1.6 mile (each way) trail that is popular for biking in the park. Bikes are allowed on the entire trail except for the boardwalk at the very end.
Biking the Snake Bight Trail is a great, family friendly activity to add to your list of things to do in Everglades if you’re looking to get a bit of exercise in while visiting the park.
Riding the trail takes about 20-30 minutes at a very leisurely pace with stops. Keep a lookout for birds along the way!
3. Go Slough Slogging
For those extra adventurous souls who are not afraid of getting up close and personal in the swamp, add slough slogging to your list of things to do in Everglades National Park.
This is a truly unique and unforgettable experience for those up for braving the swamps. Slough slogging is a ranger guided walk through the River of Grass part of the Everglades where you’ll be in the water roughly up to your knees at times.
Along the way you’ll get to see the park like few (people) ever do listening to the sounds of the water, wind, and animals.
For those interested, head to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to learn more and sign up for the tour!
2. Ranger Guided Kayak Tour
If you’re looking to get a next-level experience in Everglades National Park then add the ranger guided kayak tour to your list of things to do! This is an incredible immersive experience and one of the best things to do in Everglades National Park.
Kayakers will be using sit-on-top kayaks to paddle through the mangroves and shallow coastal waters to explore the Everglades close up while a ranger guides you through the sites, sounds, and ecology of the park.
Reservations are required for this activity and must be made in person at the Flamingo Visitor Center on the day of from 8:15am to 10:15am. Check in starts at 1:15pm for the tour. For more information on this unique experience check out the official tour page.
1. Spot Alligators on the Anhinga Trail
A hike on the Anhinga Trail is my personal favorite on this list of the best things to do in Everglades National Park. This is one of the best places to go if you want to see as many animals as possible. Few (accessible) places in the Everglades have something akin to an “alligator guarantee” like the Anhinga Trail.
The largely paved trail from the Royal Palm Visitor Center takes you through open swampland and mangrove forest, ending at a small wooden platform that offers a great view of a spot where alligators seem to congregate.
The Anhinga Trail is an approximately 0.75-mile loop trail from/to the Royal Palm Visitor Center. It’s flat and easy to walk on. There are benches in many places and some shelters sheltered from the sun for quiet viewing of the scenery and wildlife.
And although it’s a short trail, it’s sure to leave you with lasting memories of the unique ecosystem of the Everglades.
Everglades National Park Itinerary
Morning: Start your day early and head to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. This is the main visitor center of the park and it has a wealth of information about the park’s natural and cultural history. Take some time to explore the exhibits and talk to the park rangers to learn more about the park’s ecosystems and wildlife.
Afternoon: After lunch, head to the Anhinga Trail, which is a popular trail that takes you through a sawgrass marsh and offers the chance to spot alligators, turtles, and a variety of birds. The trail is an easy walk and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Evening: As the sun starts to set, take a ranger-guided tour on the Shark Valley Tram Road. This 2-hour tour takes you through a freshwater slough and offers the chance to spot wildlife such as alligators, wading birds, and turtles.
Morning: Start your day with a sunrise hike on the Mahogany Hammock Trail. This trail takes you through a dense forest of mahogany trees and offers the chance to spot wildlife such as woodpeckers and warblers. The trail is about 0.4 miles long and takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Afternoon: After lunch, head to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and take a boat tour to the Ten Thousand Islands. This 3-hour tour takes you through a maze of mangrove islands and offers the chance to spot dolphins, manatees, and a variety of birds.
Evening: Finish your day by taking a ranger-led night walk on the Pine Island Trail. This trail takes you through a pine forest and offers the chance to spot owls, bats, and other nocturnal wildlife. The walk is about 0.4 miles long and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Map of Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Summary of the Top 20 Things to Do in Everglades National Park
- Anhinga Trail
- Ranger Guided Kayak Tour
- Slough Slogging
- Snake Bight Trail
- Airboat Ride
- See Manatees
- Gumbo Limbo Trail
- Pa-Hay-Okee Trail
- Paddle the Nine Mile Pond Trail
- Flamingo Visitor Center
- Shark Valley Tram
- Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
- Hike/Bike Shark Valley
- Ten Thousand Islands
- Big Cypress
- HM-69 Nike Missile
- Everglades Alligator Farm
- Royal Palm Visitor Center
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