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Want to know why Everglades National Park is worth visiting?
Everglades National Park sprawls across three counties in south Florida, covering 1,542,526 acres of land and water.
While the park isn’t as popular as some western national parks, it still gets a solid number of visitors each year: typically 1 million(ish) with some years over and under.
That said, even though it sees that many visitors, I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem and I’m here to share with you today all the reasons Everglades National Park is worth visiting.
National Park Goodies
- If you’re planning to visit three or more national parks within a year from your trip, definitely get the America the Beautiful pass. It will save you money in the long run if you’re going to more than three parks in a year. Buy the pass here.
- If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking on your trip, or even at home, check out AllTrails! This is my favorite app to find, keep track of, and track my hiking activity. And it’s FREE! Sign up here.
- This Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is a must-have. You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a National Park journal for all of the NPS sites (400+!) to keep track of your travels!
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
Reasons to visit Everglades National Park
There are so many things that make Everglades National Park worth visiting and I’ve listed them all for you here!
I love the Everglades and surrounding swamp but I know the landscape here doesn’t quite do it for everyone and that’s ok. But it’s worth a visit to find out if it works for you!
Wildlife! Wildlife! Wildlife!
First up we have wildlife! This is one of the best places to see wildlife in Florida, specifically Anhinga Trail and Shark Valley.
Everyone knows you can see alligators in the Everglades but there is so much more to see. Here is just some of what you may be able to see:
- American crocodile (Yes, crocodiles!)
- Roseate Spoonbills
- American Purple Gallinule
- Florida Panthers (very rare)
- Black Bears
Paddling trails for days
If you like kayaking and canoeing, this is the park for you. There are ten paddling trails between Flamingo and the Gulf Coast ranging from a few hours to multiple days.
There are three paddling trails in the Gulf Coast area near Everglades City:
- The Sandfly Island Loop – five miles, accessible from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. This may be difficult if it’s windy or tides are unfavorable. There is a 1 mile hiking trail on Sandfly Island.
- Turner River – 8.5-11.5 miles from Turner River Launch to Chokoloskee or the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. It may be impassable if water levels are too high or too low.
- Halfway Creek – 7.3 miles from the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Upper loop is 3.7 additional miles. **THIS IS NOT COMPLETELY PASSABLE AT THIS TIME**
There are seven paddling trails in the Flamingo area. Bear Lake and Mud Lake Loop trails aren’t passable right now so I’m not including them in this list right now.
- West Lake – 8.1 miles one-way too Alligator Creek. Not recommended on windy days. Keep an eye out for alligators and crocodiles here!
- Florida Bay – distances vary from the Flamingo Marina. Not recommended on windy days.
- Hell’s Bay – distance varies depending on destination. This is a fairly shaded route through mangrove creeks.
- Noble Hammock – 1.9 mile loop though shady mangroves. Sharp turns and narrow passageways require good maneuvering skills.
- Nine Mile Pond – 3.5 to 5 miles with or without shortcut through shallow grassy marsh and mangrove islands. **IF SHALLOWS ARE ENCOUNTERED, TURN AROUND AND DON’T RISK GETTING STUCK**
Shark Valley is awesome
Shark Valley is one of the three areas of Everglades National Park and is not accessible by car. You can only see this area by tram tour, bike, or foot. We biked the 15-mile loop and absolutely loved it.
Similar to the Anhinga Trail, this is one of the best places to see wildlife in the national park. If you’re short on time, the tram tour is your best option but I would highly recommend biking it if that’s within your abilities.
You know I love a good boardwalk and there are lots of them in Everglades National Park! A lot of trails are part regular trail, part boardwalk which I still love.
Here are some of the trails with boardwalks in Everglades National Park:
- Anhinga Trail
- Bobcat Boardwalk
- Pahayokee Overlook
- Mahogany Hammock
- West Lake Trail
- Snake Bight (boardwalk is at the end)
There are three areas to visit
I’ve mentioned all the areas already but Everglades National Park has three different areas you can visit!
There is Flamingo (the main area of the park), Shark Valley along the Tamiami Trail, and the Gulf Coast area by Everglades City.
Flamingo has the most to do and is the main area for a reason. Shark Valley has biking and a tram tour, and the Gulf Coast area has some paddling and a boat tour but not much else.
I would only stop at the Gulf area if you really need to visit all three areas for some reason or if you’re planning to visit Big Cypress and/or the Naples area.
You can see crocodiles
Yes! Actual crocodiles! Everglades National Park is obviously home to alligators but you can also see American crocodiles here!
We saw one by Flamingo Marina and we saw a manatee there, too. I, of course, didn’t have my camera on my so I would love to see more next time.
It’s beautiful, in a Florida way
Everglades National Park may not have the mountains and sprawling views of the western US national parks, but it’s absolutely beautiful in it’s own Florida way.
It’s full of amazing wildlife, has marshes, mangroves, beaches, boardwalk, tropical hammocks, and so much more.
It’s a popular enough park but still easy to find a place to yourself so you’re not fighting crowds. It’s a great place to enjoy the beauty of Florida.
It’s close to other national parks
The final reason to visit Everglades National Park is it’s proximity to other national (and state) parks.
Key West (gateway to Dry Tortugas National Park) is just three hours away. And John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is just 40 minutes away.
If you go west a bit more from Big Cypress you’ll find Collier-Seminole State Park, Fakahatchee Strand State Park, and Picayune Strand State Forest.
Plus, there’s the Ten Thousand Islands and that’s not even getting too the beaches of southwest Florida. Together they all make an unforgettable south Florida road trip.
Where to stay near Everglades National Park
Florida City – Quality Inn
We stayed at the Quality Inn when we visited the Everglades and while it’s not fancy, it wasn’t bad and I’d stay there again because of it’s procimity to the park.
Breakfast is included and they have a pool (heated, in winter I assume) and has laundry available.
Homestead – Courtyard by Marriott
If you want somewhere a little nicer than the Quality Inn above but not as fancy as below, this is a great option and still close to the park entrance.
They have a pool, restaurant, and bar, plus breakfast at an extra charge. Most rooms have a small seating area.
Key Largo – Largo Resort
A little under an hour from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is the Largo Resort. This is in Key Largo and is a much nicer option than the first two.
They have a private beach area, a pool, and a garden plus bike rentals, canoeing, fishing, and beach chairs. It’s a great choice if you want some beach time, too.
Miami – The Elser Hotel
This is a nicer option a bit further away than Florida City and Homestead (an hour). The Elser Hotel right in Miami with a terrace, pool, and private parking.
Rooms have a seating area, kitchen, and dining area with stunning city views and a balcony. They also have a restaurant on site.
Final thoughts on reasons to visit the Everglades
If you’ve been wondering if Everglades National Park is worth visiting, I hope this helped you make your decision and convinced you to make the trip! If it did, I would love to hear (good or bad!) what you thought of it below.
Other posts you may like
Have you been to Everglades National Park? What was your favorite thing about it?