For our first trip in 2015, Guillaume and I spent four days in the wild and shockingly beautiful Florida Everglades. This National Park is the third largest in the country but most of the park is covered in water making it difficult to access… unless, of course, you’re an alligator.
Remember how excited we were to see the tiny “canaligator” in Cape Coral? Well, I hope you’re not tired of us talking about alligators because these ever-present, ominous creatures are lurking around every corner in the Everglades. According to one park ranger, there are over one million ‘gators in southern Florida, and I think we saw at least half of them. Each one seemed bigger than the last, and by the end of the trip, we were numb.
“Gators are a dime a dozen,” I said, shrugging. “Bird watching is my new passion.” It was almost a game, searching for a bird in the Everglades with my binoculars and trying to identify it with the bird-watching app I purchased for my smart phone. Guillaume rolled his eyes at my new hobby, but I reminded him of his new Florida passion: fishing. Now at least I have something to do while he stands on the dock and casts, and casts, and casts.
Guillaume and I towed our tiny home all the way to the Flamingo campground at the southern most point of the Everglades. We had a wide campsite with electricity, fresh water and cold showers for $15 a night (with our National Park Annual Pass). My only complaint was that we were forced to share our tiny home with dozens of unwelcome tiny visitors – mosquitos and no-see-ums. BUGS! I can’t stand them! We have screens on our windows, but whenever we opened the door a swarm of blood suckers would invite themselves in. The no-see-ums didn’t even need the door, they could fit through the screens.
If you’re planning a trip to the Everglades, and have a few days to explore, try to hit these “Five Must Do Experiences.” Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Our Recommended Five “MUST DO” Experiences in the Everglades
1). Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trip. In the winter season, the park provides a daily ranger lead canoe trip through Nine Mile Pond and the mangrove hammocks. It’s free and the canoes, paddles and life jackets are provided! You just need to reserve a spot. The trip starts at 8am and we were finished by 11am. It’s a short trip, but we went through some tight mangrove channels in shallow, clear water. Great for bird watching and the occasional gator sighting. It’s just beautiful and peaceful. This was by far my favorite experience on the trip, similar in some ways to the peaceful canoe trip we took not long ago in Congaree National Park.
2). Anhinga Trail. Explore Anhinga trail with a ranger or by yourself. It’s an easy, elevated 1/2 mile loop. You will see several alligators and this is the best place in the park for bird watching. I was amazed at the amount of concentrated wildlife.
3). Watch for crocodiles and manatees behind the Flamingo marina store. The water is salty down by Flamingo, so there’s a high concentration of wild life. American Crocodiles are endangered, so it’s really amazing to see one in the wild. I think we saw three crocs and two manatees within thirty minutes! Usually you have to be patient for those kinds of wildlife sightings, so we were either lucky, or the Everglades park is just that miraculous.
4). Fishing. Guillaume went out every evening and fished from the docks at Flamingo. He didn’t catch much, only a poor spider crab that was wrapped in a previous fishing line. We freed him. Meanwhile, Guillaume was eaten alive by mosquitos. Bring bug spray!
5). Drive the entire main park road. We drove a lot in the Everglades, and because the park is so large and diverse, you really need to. There are a lot of well maintained elevated trails along the drive, or signage that you can pull over and read. It’s a great way to get an overview of the park, especially if you only have one day.
There are boat tours available in the Everglades as well, and we did the Backcountry Boat Tour. It cost us about $32 per person, and we saw a few crocodiles. It’s a nice way to see the park by boat, but it wasn’t really “aw-inspiring” like our canoe trip. If you’re on a budget, save your money and simply watch for wildlife by the marina store.
The longest hike we did was a 3 mile round trip hike on Snake Bite Trail. This hike is supposed to be great for bird watching, but we saw many more birds on the Pahayokee and Anhinga trails. We did see one alligator, looming nearby in the brackish water. The best part of the trail was that it was utterly deserted. It felt like we had the whole park to ourselves!
The next time I’m in the Everglades, I want to do the backcountry multi-day canoe trip where would would bring all of our own supplies and camp out on chickees (raised platforms that are elevated above the water). Wow, now that would be an amazing adventure!
Next we took our house island hopping. Can you guess where?