My name is Emma Bartram and I’m a Los Angeles native who has called Florida my home for the past four years. Although growing up in a big city didn’t grant very many opportunities to ‘get in touch’ with nature, I’ve always been passionate about conservation of the environment.
A deep appreciation for the natural world mixed with my love for the outdoors is what sparked my interest in travel, specifically my interest in visiting Everglades National Park – the largest subtropical wilderness area in the US. I want to share my experiences at the park to cultivate interest, appreciation and hopefully inspire others to visit for themselves!
Why you Should Visit Everglades National Park
There are no words to fully encapsulate the beauty and mystery of Everglades National Park. One minute you are driving through a cypress swamp, the next you are looking at a vast prairie, until you finally make it all the way down to the bottom of the park where you’re surrounded by mangroves and the smell of the ocean.
Most people refer to it as a swamp, but it’s actually a slow moving river! There is truly no other ecosystem like it and because of this there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether it’s a family outing, a solo adventure, or a multi-day excursion, I believe everyone should put this park on their bucket list.
The only way to truly appreciate what the national park has to offer and to harbor an understanding of why we need to protect this ecosystem is by experiencing it first hand. The unfortunate truth is with a rising sea level and a changing climate the Everglades will begin to change more and more rapidly every year.
So where should you start, you ask? Look no further than the Anhinga Trail. I was shown the trail for the first time by someone extremely special to me during the most beautiful sunset and was far from disappointed. The trail is short and accessible, but it encapsulates the richness of life in the Glades.
You are bound to see alligators, birds, insects and fish without having to stray from the boardwalk. Since the boardwalk extends over the water, you might even get to see an alligator swim underneath you. This trail is a must and will help you see a glimpse of how much beauty the park has to offer.
Rich Flora and Fauna of the Everglades
The park certainly does not lack an abundance of unique wildlife. If you look closely during your time there, you will see all different types of birds, fish, insects, snakes, turtles and alligators. Down at the Flamingo side of the park you might even see a crocodile!
Although most people associate alligators with Florida, very few realize that you can see alligators and crocodiles on the same day here, a usually uncommon occurrence. A favorite animal of mine is the softshell turtle, so be sure to keep an eye out for these funky looking creatures! Other animals unique to this ecosystem are manatees and the Florida panther.
Keep in mind that the plants in the area are equally as fascinating! Orchid diversity in the Glades is impressive and the ‘ghost orchid’ is a rare plant that people spend copious amounts of time searching for in the Everglades. Life in the swamp is not to be underestimated.
Top 5 Things To Do at Everglades National Park
- Rent or bring your own bike to Shark Valley. The trail is a 15-mile loop with a great observation tower located about halfway through.
- Kayak or canoe around the Ten Thousand Islands. If you are feeling adventurous look into camping on a chickee (a raised wooden platform right over the water)!
- Hop on an airboat tour of Everglades.
- Hike on one of the park’s many trails, such as the Anhinga Trail.
- Go wildlife watching! You never know what animal might surprise you.
Where to Stay at Everglades National Park
Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park are the most popular places to stay if you’re looking for the complete camping experience. Campsites are scattered along the road that connect the two.
If you are looking for a unique camping experience, rent a kayak and camp on a sheltered floating platform called a chickee in the Ten Thousand Islands. These sites are raised right off the water and give you the chance to be completely submerged in the intricate ecosystem (a permit is required).
If you’re looking for a hotel where the park is still easily accessible, Everglades City is your best bet! If you are looking for a less rustic experience, Miami is only an hour away from the entrance of the park and the hotel, hostel, and airbnb options there are endless!
Need to Know Before you Go
Although I recommend visiting during all seasons, summer is unfortunately not for the faint of heart. Between the heat and the mosquitos most people steer clear during this time. However, if you can brave the conditions, this is one of the most rewarding times to go because it’s during the wet season. This means the swamp is crawling with life!
However, winter temperatures are more manageable and the ecosystem is equally as beautiful if you decide to visit then. Because the park is so large, a car is necessary unless you book with a company that can provide transportation from a nearby city like Miami (where most travelers fly in).
Lastly, visit the park with an open mind. Florida sometimes has a bad reputation, but you can’t have an opinion about it until you visit it for yourself. The Everglades are truly like no other place in the world, so come ready to be amazed!