Occupying an area of land larger than the state of Delaware, the Everglades National Park was dedicated in 1947 to protect the landscape, plants, and animals in the area. The Everglades is home to over a dozen endangered species, including the Florida panther. The park provides visitors with the opportunities to view wildlife, fish, bird watch, canoe, and hike. If you’d like to spend your days and nights out on the water, rent a houseboat from the Flamingo Marina and navigate the Everglades on your own.
Rent bikes and take the Shark Valley Loop. This flat, easy trail provides your best chance of seeing alligators; if you prefer to walk, you can view the reptiles from the Anhinga Trail. For a more up-close-and-personal experience with the park’s water wildlife, take a canoeing or kayaking trip along some of the 99 miles (159 kilometers) of marked waterways between Everglades City and Flamingo.
For fish sandwiches and key lime pie, head to the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City. Request a seat on the screened-in patio and watch the boats plying the Barron River.
For information about rentals from the Flamingo Marina, call 1 239 695 3101.
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City (1 239 695 3311) also offers boat tours and canoe rentals.
Editor's note: The National Park Service is monitoring the potential spread of oil from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the South Florida region. There is no immediate threat, but check http://www.nps.gov/ever/parknews/oilspillresponse.htm for updates.
Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux