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Everglades National Park :- The Practicalities of a Visit - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Places to Visit

Getting there:

The park is on the southern tip of mainland Florida. The nearest airports are in Miami, 50 miles and Fort Lauderdale, 65 miles away from the park''s eastern entrance and in Fort Myers, 31 miles from the western entrance. If you are flying into Miami for an Orlando holiday you may want to do this first before starting your journey North. The park is open daily and the main entrance, near Homestead, is open 24 hours a day.

Visitor centres:

Ernest F. Coe Visitors Centre, at the park''s main entrance near Homestead and Florida City, is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. It offers exhibits, brochures and information, film presentations and gift shop.

Royal Palm, four miles west of the main entrance, is open 8 a.m.-4:15 p.m. daily. It has a boardwalk, ranger-led programs, exhibits and a book store.

Flamingo has a marina, lodge, campgrounds, restaurant, a museum, gift shop, boat tours, canoe rentals and hiking trails. It is open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Shark Valley, which offers a tram tour, walking trails, exhibits, bike rentals and a book store.

Gulf Coast Visitor Centre in Everglades City is open daily and has exhibits and boat tours.

Staying there:

The only hotel within Everglades National Park is the Flamingo Lodge in Flamingo, about 40 miles from the park''s Homestead entrance. Operated by Amfac, the lodge offers 103 hotel rooms and 24 cottages with kitchens. All accommodations have air conditioning, two double beds and private bath.

Homestead and Florida City, just outside the park''s eastern entrance, offer a variety of lodging options, including budget chains. Options are limited in Everglades City, which has a few small hotels and campgrounds. Naples, about a 30-minute drive from Everglades City, provides lodging that ranges from luxury resorts to inexpensive motels.

The park also provides camping facilities at Flamingo and Long Pine Key, both accessed through the park''s main entrance.

Flamingo has 234 drive-in sites many with water views, restrooms, showers, grills, picnic tables and dump stations.

Long Pine, with 108 sites, has similar amenities but no showers or hookups for recreational vehicles. For reservations at either campground, call 1-800-365-2267.

In addition, the park has many primitive campsites. Backcountry permits are required to use these sites, most of which are accessed by boat. However you will need to contact the park rangers for details.

Everglades City, Homestead and Florida City have independent campgrounds which the local tourist boards can advise you about.

Tours and programs:

Everglades National Park rangers lead dozens of seasonal tours ranging from four-hour canoe adventures through the mangroves to two-hour off-trail hikes where you''re guaranteed to get your feet wet. Other programs include easy starlit walks and fascinating alligator filled talks. You can get a program guide at any park office or call 305-242-7700 for details.

In Everglades City, Everglades National Park Boat Tours offers two excursions: Ten Thousand Islands and Mangrove Wilderness. Participants may see manatee, dolphins, eagles and other birds. Trained naturalists are aboard each tour, but you''ll be better off if you opt for the park ranger led tours that are offered once or twice a day. Other tours depart several times daily. Call 1-800-445-7724 to find out which will have park rangers aboard. Cost for the 1¾ -hour Ten Thousand Islands Tour is $16; $8 for children. The 2½-hour Mangrove Tour costs $25; $12.50 for children. Call 941-695-2591.

In Flamingo, several operators provide boat tours. A two-hour backcountry cruise costs about $18 or $10 for children. A 1½-hour bay cruise costs $12 or $7 for children. During peak season from December to April, the Windfall, a sailing vessel, and the Dolphin also provide tours. The Windfall''s sunset cruise at $20 is good value.

Other activities:

Biking: Bicycles are permitted on the main park roads, the Shark Valley Tram Road and several trails. You can ask for a list of recommended cycling trails. Rentals are available at Flamingo and Shark Valley.

Hiking: Trails in the Flamingo area are generally agreed to be the best. The Snake Bight trail has views of roseate spoonbills, while the Christian Point is known for its many bird sightings. Again you can get an up to date list of recommended trails.

Canoe/kayaking: Park rangers will tell you that canoes and kayaks provide the best way to explore the Everglades. Rentals are available at Flamingo and Gulf Coast visitor centres. A $3 launch fee which covers you for seven days is required at Flamingo. Personal life jackets are also required. A canoe trail is available for those that don’t want to explore on there own.

Fishing: As one third of the park is covered by water it is very popular with anglers. Licenses for both freshwater and saltwater fishing are needed. You can ask a park ranger about regulations or access www.floridaconservation.org if you want to find out before you go.

Essentials: Even during the winter months, mosquitoes can be a problem. Insect repellent is a must. Wearing light weight long trousers and long-sleeved shirts also can cut down on bites and sun exposure. Also take plenty of sun screen with you even in winter.

Information: You can always call the park''s headquarters in Homestead at 305-242-7700; or find them on the Web at www.nps.gov/ever .

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