24 Things To Do In Everglades City: Hiking Trails, Biking, Paddling, And More

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I love Everglades City. I don’t know where I want to live forever, but Everglades City is one of the contenders so far (along with Moab and the Asheville area, if you were curious.)

Every January we make a trip down there and do the same things but also manage to find new things to do in Everglades City every time. Like the Marsh Trail. I didn’t know that existed until the 2021 trip. But then I did it twice this year.

I’ve been wanting to write this post forever and finally feel like I’ve done the majority of the things and hikes near Everglades City that aren’t tours or paddling where I’m qualified enough to really get into it all.

I like to wait until I’ve done most of the things and have the experiences before I make these lists, that’s why you haven’t seen many here until recently and will be seeing more in the near future.

So, today, I bring to you all the Everglades City hiking, paddling, biking, days trips, and other fun things to do in the tiny little swamp town in South Florida.

Hike the Marsh Trail

Where is it

The Marsh Trail is just 21 minutes from Everglades City. To get there, head out of town towards the Tamiami Trail. Once you get to that stoplight by the gas station, turn left and follow the Tamiami Trail for about 13 miles.

There will be a parking area on the left. There is a sign for the Marsh Trail in Ten Thousand Islands. Just park there and the trailhead will be marked with a sign. If your back is to the road, the trail is on the left.

Why should you do this?

This is a nice, easy trail with pretty good bird pay-off. It’s close to Everglades City but also nice to do if you’re driving between Everglades City or Miami and Marco Island/Naples/Fort Myers.

Important things to know

This is a flat 2.3 mile out and back trail. It’s great for wildlife viewing, especially birds. I went in January and mi-March and would recommend January. There was so much more wildlife that first time . It was still a nice walk in March though.

It does get hot and there is almost no shade. After the observation tower, it’s fairly uneventful but you may see a gator or two after that. It’s not totally necessary to pass that, but of course, you can.

Visit the Skunk Ape HQ

Photo by Richard Elzey Flickr

Where is it

This is right along the Tamiami Trail as well, but the opposite direction of the Marsh Trail. At that stoplight by the gas station, turn right and follow that for about 3.5 miles. It will be on the right side of the road.

Why should you do this?

To see/learn about the Skunk Ape, Florida’s swamp version of Bigfoot! Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see one while you’re out hiking or paddling in the swamp.

This is perfect for anyone interested in quirky roadside attractions, bigfoot, cryptozoology, or anything along those lines. While it may not be quite as exciting as I hoped (and my Skunk Ape pin broke super fast) it was still a fun little stop but I wouldn’t go it with super high expectations.

Important things to know

This is basically just a little store at a campground but you can take your picture with a few Skunk Ape statues and get some Skunk Ape merch. There is a Geocache here, too.

This is a good stop if you’re just passing through or on your way somewhere else since you don’t need tons of time here. And if you’re camping, you could always stay here, too. I can almost guarantee this is exactly what you think it’s going to be.

If you want to get to know the weird side of Florida before visiting or while you’re here, definitely check out Best State Ever by Dave Barry.

Hike to the Fakahatchee Hilton

Where is it

The Fakahatchee Hilton is about two miles down the East Tram Trail in the Fakahatchee Strand State Park Preserve. To get here from Everglades City, head out to that stoplight and go straight across.

Keep going for about 2.5 miles then turn left onto the Janes Memorial Scenic Drive. You’ll pass the visitor center/ranger station where you pay the entrance fee then follow the dirt road as far as it goes, about seven miles. Park there and the trail is on the right.

Why should you do this?

Because it’s one of the best hikes near Everglades City! It’s an easy hike with pretty great gator payoff. You hike to a small swamp shack with a pond full of gators out back. This is one of my favorite hikes in Florida and I’ve done it three times now!

I would also recommend reading The Orchid Thief while you’re there or before/after you go. It can be a little dry at times but it’s kind of set around the Fakahatchee and it’s cool to know what these people will slog through for orchids.

Important things to know

The park entrance fee is just $3 and can be paid at the ranger station. I believe it is cash only and if there isn’t anyone there, they have envelopes to pay in.

The hike is about four miles round-trip but it’s super easy since there is like, two feet of elevation gain. I would bring bug spray though. If you encounter any gators on the side of the trail make sure to give them as much room as you can when you pass them.

If there are any on the trail, either wait to see if they move (from a safe distance) or turn around. Don’t try any get them to move. Some of the trail is shaded but there are other parts right in the sun so a hat is really good to have too.

Most cars should be able to drive the scenic drive but it is dirt. Some parts are pretty potholey but I’ve seen plenty of small cars on it, just take your time. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way.

Kayak the Turner River Canoe Trail

Photo by Big Cypress National Preserve Flickr

Where is it

The Turner River Canoe Trail is on the Tamiami Trail in Bug Cypress. From Everglades City, go out to that stoplight and turn right. It’s about seven miles down the road on your left. There is a sign and parking area for this. There are usually a few other vehicles there already.

Why should you do this?

To experience Big Cypress in a way most people visiting don’t! I still haven’t done this, I haven’t paddled here at all, actually, but I bet it’s pretty cool, especially if you’re used to kayaking.

Important things to know

The trail is just under ten miles and moderately difficult. The launch point is on the Tamiami Trail and the takeout point is either the Gulf District Ranger Station or Chokoloskee Island.

This can take 4.5-7 hours to complete, so plan for that and a way to get back to your car. I suppose you could always paddle back but I wouldn’t plan for that unless you’re a somewhat seasoned kayaker since it can be tough. Also, keep an eye on the weather if you’ll be on the water at all.

Hike the Gator Hook Trail

Gator Hook trail big cypress Florida

Where is it

The Gator Hook Trailhead is about 25 minutes from Everglades City on the Loop Road. From the town, head out to the stoplight and turn right onto the Tamiami Trail. Follow that for about 19 miles and you’ll see signs for the Loop Road Scenic Drive. Turn right there and it’s a couple of miles down.

You’ll see the trailhead and parking area on the left. This is a dirt road but any car can drive it (proceed with caution if its’ rainy though). The trailhead is pretty small and kind of hard to spot at first but there is a small opening in the grasses with a holey limestone path. That’s it.

Why should you do this?

To really get a taste of swamp hiking while still being on a trail. It’s the perfect beginner swamp hike. This is a great beginner one because it is a maintained trail and there are usually other people on it so you’re not just wandering aimlessly through the swamp, which would make me nervous.

Important things to know

Unless you’re about five feet tall, or shorter, you’re probably going to be hunched over for a good portion of this hike. This is a 4.7-mile hike, round-trip, with 0 feet of elevation gain. You will be walking through swamp water for at least part of this if you do the whole thing.

If you do this in the winter (dry season) it probably won’t all be flooded but if you do it in the summer there will most likely be a lot more water. And a lot more bugs. And humidity. I would wear closed-toe shoes you don’t mind getting muddy for this.

Visit the Museum of the Everglades

Photo by qwesy qwesy

Where is it

This is right in the heart of Everglades City, just across from the cutest city hall ever. It’s a little pink building and it’s address is 105 Broadway Street.

Why should you do this?

While I haven’t been here yet (I’m not much of a museum person) it’s a great place to learn about the Everglades and the history of the area. I’m sure I’ll get here someday but who knows when.

This is a pretty small museum so I don’t think you would need to plan tons of time to spend here. It would be perfect to stop at if you’re waiting to check into your hotel or Airbnb.

Important things to know

They are open Monday – Saturday from 9-4. I can’t find an entrance fee but they do accept donations and have membership available.

Day trip to Shark Valley

Where is it

Shark Valley is part of Everglades National Park but is a different area than Flamingo. This part is off of the Tamiami Trail as well.

To get here from Everglades City, head out to that stoplight and turn right. Follow that for about 42 miles and it will be on your right. There will be signs for it.

Why should you do this?

Because it’s a great way to experience Everglades National Park in a way a lot of people won’t. You can either do a tram tour, walk, or bike the loop and I would recommend biking it because it’s fun and you can go at your own pace.

It’s a great place to really see the Everglades and experience the park wildlife up close. You can also go to the highest point in the park here.

Important things to know

The entrance fee for the park, including Shark Valley, is $30 per vehicle but if you have a national park pass, that will get you in, too. There are additional fees for renting bikes and tram tours.

The loop is 15 miles, so be prepared to bike that if you plan to bike to the observation tower. It may seem like a lot and your butt will probably hurt by the end, but it’s a flat 15 miles which really helps.

If you are not doing a tram tour or biking the loop and don’t have a park pass, it is not worth the $30 to see this. There is nothing else to do here besides the loop.

Join a swamp tour

Photo by Big Cypress National Preserve Flickr

Where is it

Throughout Big Cypress and the Gulf District of Everglades National Park. What you decide to do will decide where you need to go.

Why should you do this?

To experience Big Cypress, Everglades, or Ten Thousand Islands with the guidance of a park ranger or swamp professional. Not only will they be able to guide you on your adventure, but they’ll be able to tell you all about wherever you are as you go.

Important things to know

I thought there were ranger-led tours in Big Cypress but I haven’t been able to find these and it may have actually been with the Everglades Gulf District.

You can sign up for guided tours of Big Cypress through the Big Cypress Institute, though they are not free. If you want to do a ranger-led paddling tour, you can do that at the Gulf District station. You will need reservations for these.

Go shelling on Marco Island

Where is it

Marco Island is about 40 minutes from Everglades City and is the perfect option if you’re looking for a beachy day trip. To get here from Everglades City, head out to the stoplight and turn left.

Follow the Tamiami Trail for about 16 miles then turn left onto San Marco Road for 16 more miles. If you plan on shelling, you can go to South Beach or Tigertail Beach. Google Maps should take you to either just fine.

Why should you do this?

There is great shelling on Marco Island and it’s not as busy as nearby Sanibel or Fort Myers area. It’s easy to get to on your own and has some great shells.

It’s also the closest beach to Everglades City and while there isn’t a whole lot to do on Marco Island, it is a nice place to relax for an afternoon.

Important things to know

If you go to Tigertail Beach (which I would recommend) there is an $8 parking/entrance fee and there are plenty of facilities available. They have a snack bar, beach rentals, and bathrooms.

You will have to either wade across a lagoon or walk around like, ten minutes to avoid that. The walk around isn’t that bad. I haven’t been to South Beach yet so I don’t know what the shelling is like there.

If you are going to go shelling, I would recommend going early to get the best shot at the best shells. You may have to walk in the water to find the best ones but right along the shore where the water goes back is also good (the spot where it’s wet but kind of dry and the sea stuff piles up.)

Visit Clyde Butcher’s gallery

Where is it

Clyde Butcher is a famous photographer with amazing shots of Florida and a gallery right in Big Cypress. To get here from Everglades City, turn right at the stoplight and follow the Tamiami Trail for about 22 miles. It will be on your right, not too far after the Loop Road.

Why should you do this?

To see some amazing photography right in the heart of where it was taken. It’s a cool little gallery and you don’t see them in the middle of parks like this very often.

Important things to know

The gallery is open daily from 10-5 and also offers swamp walks and cottages to rent! Tours are about $125 per person and cottages are $295-450 per night with a two or three night minimum, depending on when you go.

It’s the perfect stop after doing the loop road (if you’re heading back towards Everglades City) or if you’re going from Everglades City to Miami.

Do a Ten Thousand Island shelling tour

Where is it

The Ten Thousand Islands are just of the coast between Everglades City and the Marco Island area. Most shelling tours leave from Marco Island but where exactly will depend on the company.

Why should you do this?

To go shelling on pristine uninhabited islands. Your chances of find large and rare shells is a lot higher on one of these tours compared to just going to Marco Island on your own.

Important things to know

Price will vary by company but plan to spend $125+ for one of these tours. Alternately, you could always rent a boat and go yourself but I wouldn’t do this unless you’re used to driving a boat, boating on the ocean, and are confident navigating through all the islands.

Join a ranger-led Ten Thousand Island tour

Where is it

These will leave from the Gulf District Ranger Station which is on the right side of the road on your way from Everglades City to Chokoloskee Island.

Why should you do this?

To experience the Ten Thousand Islands from the comfort of a boat being driven by someone who knows what they’re doing and where they’re going.

Important things to know

There are two tours: the narrated boat tour and nature’s notebook boat tour. Both require a fee but the website doesn’t mention how much it is. You could call the park station to find out and reserve that.

There is an event calendar here for all of Everglades National Park but it’s a little confusing. The Gulf Coast phone number is (239) 695-3311.

Hike the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

Where is it

The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk is on the Tamiami Trail (do you see a trend here?) just 15 minutes from Everglades City. At the stoplight, turn left and continue for about 7 miles. There will be signs and a parking area on the right.

This is part of the Fakahatchee Strand State Park but is a different area than the Hilton. There isn’t tons of parking but there is enough and the trailhead is on the right side of the building if you’re facing it.

Why should you do this?

It’s a nice short walk and an easy way to see south Florida’s flora and fauna. Chances of seeing wildlife are pretty good. Gators, snakes, a bald eagle, and more can be seen from here.

Important things to know

There are usually gators in the pond out front, so look for those when you get there. There may also be gators or snakes on the trail. We’ve only seen one gator on the trail, I think but we’ve seen snakes all three times we’ve hiked this.

The snakes were all black racers, so harmless, just cute. One was on the trail, one was off the trail on a palmetto plant, and two were, uh, busy at the end of the trail under the boardwalk. This. isa 1.2 mile easy hike.

Hike the Kirby Storter Boardwalk

Where is it

Again, the Kirby Storter Boardwalk is on the Taimiami Trail, this time a left at the stoplight will get you there. Continue for about 14 miles and there will be signs and a parking area on your right.

Why should you do this?

This is a nice short walk and while your chances of seeing wildlife aren’t super high here, it’s still enjoyable. I always love a nice boardwalk, even if it’s short. This is also a good spot for a lunch break.

Important things to know

This is an easy, flat one mile boardwalk hike. It’s my least favorite of the boardwalks in Big Cypress but it’s still worth doing at least once. If you fog early in the morning you may catch it with fog which would make it a little cool and creepy.

Hike the Fire Prairie Trail

Where is it

Finally, a hike off of the Tamiami Trail. While this Everglades City hike is a little further out there, it’s worth the slightly longer drive to get away from people. I would take the back way there to avoid driving on 41 (the Tamiami Trail) because people drive like maniacs on there.

To get here from Everglades City, head out to the stoplight and continue straight. Follow this for four miles then turn right onto Wagon Wheel Road for about 2.5 miles. Turn left to stay on Wagon Wheel Road and follow that for about five miles.

Finally, turn left onto Turner River Road and continue for seven miles. The trail will be on your left. There is a little parking along the road but be sure to not block the gate.

Why should you do this?

This is a great hike for escaping the crowds out on the main road, not that the crowds there are excessive, but if you want some solitude, this is a great place to find it.

It’s an easy hike but long for the area (though it isn’t really that long) and you may see some wildlife. We’ve seen panther tracks and possibly bobcat tracks. We also saw a raccoon! In the swamp!

Important things to know

This is a flat 4.5-5 mile out and back trail. It’s easy but there is no shade and the sun can be pretty harsh here. That can make it a little tough, but terrain wise it’s easy. There’s even a little outhouse on the trail.

I haven’t done this entire hike but it’s a nice one, if you like Florida prairies. We just turned around at this cypress strand but it’s pretty much the same if you keep going so you wouldn’t be missing much.

If you just want a nice, quiet hike, this is a good one. And keep an eye out for Florida Panther tracks along the trail here! We saw them both times I did this.

The drive here is mostly on dirt roads, but they’re easy dirt roads and any vehicle should be able to make it, no problem. And make sure to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen.

Do an airboat tour

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar Flickr

Where is it

Just around Everglades City. There are a few companies that go and you’ll see them around town, most are right as you’re driving in. Where will just depend on who you go with.

Why should you do this?

To really experience Big Cypress in all it’s glory since most of the park is water based. You’ll be able to see parts of the park that you wouldn’t be able to from your vehicle or hiking and you’ll have someone experienced to drive you around.

Important things to know

I haven’t done an airboat tour so I don’t have one to personally recommend but I’ve heard good things about Captain Jacks. I also wouldn’t pick one that has gator wrestling, gator shows, or gator handling of any sort, really, because it just seems unnecessary to me.

Of course, that’s up to you, but I’m not a fan of wildlife interaction in tourist attractions. It’s just as cool to go and see them in the wild without them having to be manhandled. This is honestly the main reason I haven’t done this yet (and they’re just so loud.)

If you know one that doesn’t have the gator interactions that you would recommend, I would love to hear it!

Drive the Loop Road in Big Cypress

Where is it

The Loop Road Scenic Drive (yes, that’s it’s name) is off of the Tamiami Trail. It’s a mostly dirt road about 17 miles from Everglades City. From the stoplight, turn right and continue for 17 miles. There will be a sign on your right for it.

It’s just past the Monument Lake Campground and you’ll also see signs for the Monroe Contact Station here. It eventually connects back to Highway 41.

Why should you do this?

To experience the Florida backwaters a little bit and hopefully see a lot of wildlife! You’re pretty much guaranteed to see wildlife down here, what just depends on when.

Mid-day we saw SO MANY gators along the road, not even just in the watery open spots but just laying on the side of the road. Birds are plentiful and we even saw a cottonmouth snake, Reggie, who you can see above.

Important things to know

If you’re thinking of the scenic drives out west when you think of this, stop right now. This will be a major letdown if you’re imagining anything close to that.

This is Florida scenic and Florida pretty. It’s flat with fairly dense trees along the side. There are openings where you can see out into the swamp though and those stops are really pretty. This is also great for spotting wildlife.

Don’t get too close to any of the wildlife if you do stop and get out. Enjoy it but keep a safe distance from it. This is another one of my favorite things to do in Everglades City and we’ll drive the beginning dirt part more than once, especially if we’re camping at Monument Lake.

Do the Chokoloskee Bay to Sandfly Island Paddle Trail

Photo by Big Cypress National Preserve Flickr

Where is it

You would just launch at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for free or at one of the private launches in town for a fee. There is also a hiking trail in Sandfly Island on a Calusa Indian shell mound.

Why should you do this?

This is a great way to experience the park from a new perspective, like the airboats, but with less noice and human-powered. Most people on a short visit to Big Cypress are probably sticking to the road or hiking trails, so it may not be as busy as other activities.

Important things to know

This is a strenuous five mile loop. Tide and wind can effect the difficulty of this paddle trail, so keep that in mind when planning and heading out.

This paddle trail crosses Chokoloskee Bay taking you to Sandfly Island. You can bring your own kayak or rent one in Everglades City. I haven’t done this one and I’m not sure I would try unless I was more familiar with kayaking (basically stronger in case of wind and tides.)

Look for gators at the Oasis Visitor Center

Where is it

The Oasis Visitor Center is about 30 minutes from Everglades City. Turn right at the stoplight onto the Tamiami Trail and follow that for about 21 miles. It will be on your left and there is plenty of parking.

Why should you do this?

Because you’re almost guaranteed to see gators here. We usually only saw a few, maybe five or so, but the most recent time I went (mid-March), we saw, like 15! The ranger out there said it’s the most she’s seen there at once.

You can also see plenty of birds and even some fish here. AND it’s the terminus of the Florida Trail! While I don’t want to do any thru-hiking myself, I always enjoy reading about them and seeing the trails.

Important things to know

The visitor center does close but the boardwalk over the canal is always open. You’ll probably see more gators here in the winter, but it’s always worth a stop to see. There is no fee for this.

This is one of my favorite things to do in Everglades City and we’ll stop here multiple times in one trip. It’s an easy stop and doesn’t take too long.

Visit the Smallwood Store

Photo by Haydn Blackley Flickr

Where is it

Way at the end of Chokoloskee Island. To get here from Everglades City, head into town where the roundabout is. Take the exit opposite City Hall (which number it would be depends on where you’re coming from) and continue straight over to Chokoloskee.

Eventually you’ll pass Havana Cafe (definitely eat there) and come to a stop sign. Turn right, then take a left and you’ll be there in no time. It’s super easy to find (and Google can take you there) but the natural direction of. the road sort of takes you there.

Why should you do this?

To get to know the history of the area and see tons of old stuff from around here. You can also look for dolphins out on the deck of the store.

We just sort of did this as a time filler and out of curiosity but if you like history and museums, this is the perfect stop for you.

Important things to know

The museum/store is open daily from 10-5 and has a $5 entrance fee. They also offer boat tours that should be reserved in advance. There is no tour pricing on the website (who needs prices, anyway?)

Visit Collier-Seminole State Park

Where is it

Collier-Seminole State Park is on the Tamiami Trail as well. From the stoplight, turn left and continue straight for about 18 miles. You’ll pass San Marco Road (the road to Marco Island) and it will be on your left not too far after.

Why should you do this?

Because it’s a nice little hiking area with a boardwalk, a couple of other trails, and even some paddling if you want to do that outside of Big Cypress.

Important things to know

There is a campground here and the park entrance fee is $5 per vehicle. In the main part where you pay the entrance fee, there is the Royal Palm Boardwalk and some paddling.

There are a couple of other trails that are a little longer outside of this area along the Tamiami Trail. You need to register for them in the main area of the park first though.

Go stargazing in Big Cypress

Photo by Big Cypress National Preserve Flickr

Where is it

Everywhere! Open areas will be best, of course so you can easily see the sky but anywhere works. The Monument Lake Campground would be perfect or even parking areas along the main road. If you want to be by a road but not the Tamiami Trail, Wagon Wheel or Turner River Roads would also work, just make sure you’re pulled off to the side.

Why should you do this?

Big Cypress was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2016 making it perfect for stargazing thanks to it’s lack of light pollution. You’ll be dazzled by the stars that you won’t be able to see in nearby cities.

Important things to know

You can go stargazing anywhere in Big Cypress on your own but they also offer astronomy programs! What the programs are and when vary (right now they’re virtual because of you know what in 2020) but you can check for information about them here before you go.

Walk around town and see the City Hall

Where is it

The city hall is right by the roundabout in town but the whole town its pretty cute. I just like driving around and looking at all the houses, too.

Also make sure to stop at the smallest post office in the US in Ochopee while you’re here! It’s right on the right side of the Tamiami Trail if you turn right at the stoplight.

Why should you do this?

Because this is seriously the cutest city hall ever. I mean look at it! It’s the perfect building with palm trees and the brick sidewalk. SO CUTE.

Important things to know

I’m not sure if you can go in it, but seeing the outside was enough for me. Sunset seemed to be the best time to photograph it so you could catch the glowing light and palm tree shadows on the outside.

The post office is operational and i you want to send something from there, you can! Hours vary by day if you want to see it open (yes, they have a postmaster and everything) and you can find those here. There is also a Geocache here.

Do a swamp buggy tour

Photo by Big Cypress National Preserve Flickr

Where is it

Throughout Everglades City to leave and wherever they take you in Big Cypress.

Why should you do this?

This. isa fun alternative if you want to get out into the swamp but don’t want to take an airboat tour. These swamp buggy’s are giant off-road vehicles, basically, that will take you to hard to get to spots in the swamp.

Important things to know

Cost and tour length will vary by company. I haven’t done this yet either, but I always think it’s fun seeing them around. I do wonder about the environmental impact of these, though and that is part of what’s holding me back from trying this.

If you know anything about the environmental impact of swamp buggy’s, I’d love to hear that!

Have you been to Everglades City? What did you do there? What is your favorite thing to do in Everglades City?

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