An hour’s drive from busy and bustling Miami, the Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the US. Spanning a huge 1.5 million acres, it has one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems making it the perfect destination for outdoor activities including hiking, canoeing, biking, bird-watching and camping.
Being so close to Miami, the Florida Everglades is great for those wanting a day trip that gets them out of the city and into nature. Here’s my pick of the best day-tripping activities that’ll have you exploring its incredible array of habitats and wildlife.
Close to the park entrance, the Anhinga Trail boardwalk allows you to get up close to wildlife in its natural habitat. In spring keep an eye out for egrets, herons and roseate spoonbills – flushed a beautiful pinky-red colour – in the trees and alligators sunning themselves on the protruding islands. Organised tours run from mid-December until April (peak tourist season) – take the free Anhinga Amble tour with park rangers so you don’t miss seeing a thing.
Grab a hire bike from Shark Valley Tram Tours and ride this leisurely 24 km loop track that takes you to a 22-m observation tower, which has some of the best views of the Everglades. Look for alligators, turtles and migrating birds. I find this track best early in the morning when you can spot deers grazing in the marsh and otters and turtles in the water. If you’re visiting in the summer months, morning’s also the best time for avoiding the heat and humidity and the regular afternoon thunderstorms.
If you are after some water action, head to Everglades City – gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands and the Wilderness Waterway. This maze of mangroves, creeks, rivers, lagoons and open bays is great for canoes, kayaks and small boats. My favourite day trip is the Turner River Canoe Trail. Beginning on the Tamiami Trail and finishing on Chokoloskee Island, the watery trail reveals a wealth of wildlife, from birds and alligators to sea turtles and manatees.
Cape Sable and Florida Bay
At the southernmost tip of Florida is Cape Sable. Hire canoes or boats from the coastal community of Flamingo and explore some of the most remote parts of the region. This is perfect for bird lovers – you can paddle along deserted beaches and spot seagulls, pelicans, shorebirds and waders.
Take a day trip by canoe to Snake Bight or Frank Key. One of the most famous spoonbill colonies can be found at Frank Key, which is closed during the winter months (December–April) to protect the birds during nesting season.
When to visit
The two primary seasons to travel to the Florida Everglades are The Wet and The Dry. Peak tourist season is from December–April when the dry season brings low humidity and mild temperatures. The wet season lasts from May–November and tourists should be aware that tours are restricted and some facilities closed. That said, the summer thunderstorms are impressive to watch and bring sweet relief from the heat.