Everglades National Park - Where to Go
Check out my blog post on What to Bring When Visiting A National Park here.
Shark Valley Visitor Center
When thinking of Everglades National Park images of swamps and alligators conjure up, but did you know the Everglades is actually a river? Because the Everglades river moves very slowly, it is a perfect habitat for many types of trees, animals, reptiles and birds that thrive in this unique environment. There are three entrances to get into Everglades National Park. To locate the closest entrance to where you are, follow this link. (There is a $30 entrance fee) Everglades National Park contains 1,509,000 acres of land!!!!! There are no shuttle services, therefore, driving a car is essential, especially if you would like to explore a lot of this park.
I have to admit, I was intimidated about the wildlife I could come across while visiting this national park. So, after researching what to do in the Everglades, I came across Shark Valley Tram Tours at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, located less than an hour from Miami, which provides tram tours that provide a safe environment to explore the park. These tram tours fill up fast, unfortunately, I learned that the hard way. Therefore, plan ahead and make a reservation way in advance. We were not able to reserve a tram tour because they were already sold out for the one day we were planning to visit the park, therefore, we rented bikes at the Shark Valley Visitor Center for a self-guided bike tour on the 15 mile flat paved road. Be sure to get to the park early for they can sell out (the best time to visit the park is in the morning before it gets too hot.) Bikes are rented on a first come/first serve basis. On average, this ride takes 2 - 3 hours. You can find the bike rental area behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
Shark Valley Visitor Center is a one stop shop. It is a visitor center complete with restrooms, water fountains, a souvenir shop, bike rental, educational displays and, last but not least, park rangers to ask any questions you may have about where to go and what to do in Everglades National Park. Be sure to visit my blog post about what to bring to a national park. At Everglades National Park be sure to carry plenty of water, and wear sunscreen and bug spray. Also, I would recommend visiting this park from fall through spring. If visiting in the summer, I would recommend visiting during the early morning hours. It can get very hot in the summer months and mosquitos are very problematic.
Shark Valley is home to many local animals. You will definitely see alligators, and possibly a Cottonmouth Snake, Barred Owl, and many birds. (Thank goodness I didn't see a snake!)
As you can see in the above photo, the road is very flat, smooth, and paved. I thoroughly enjoyed our two hour bike ride through the Everglades. At the half-way point there is an observation tower where you can get panoramic views of the Everglades. We did see many alligators in the channel that runs parallel to the road.
Back at the visitor center are two very short trails, the Bobcat Boardwalk and the Ottercave Trail. The Bobcat Boardwalk is a 0.2 mile boardwalk. This is an easy fifteen minute walk on a boardwalk over swampland. The Ottercave Trail is an easy unpaved 0.3 mile trail. At the entrance we were able to see a baby alligator and a white ibis.
Although Everglades National Park is massive, and we were only able to visit a tiny fraction of it, I felt like we witnessed the quintessential attractions of the park. We could see miles of low-lying marshy swamp land complete with alligators and some local birds. Had we had more time to visit Everglades National Park, a boat tour or kayak tour (not!), would have been a great way to view the Everglades. In addition, there are many hiking trails to explore if you are feeling very adventurous. I truly never thought I would visit this amazing and massive park, but I'm certainly glad I did. Before visiting Everglades NP we visited Biscayne NP, just an hour away. Read my blog post about visiting this great national park here.
See you later alligator!
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