By: Jennifer Agress
Visit some of the most iconic sites in the Florida Everglades.
There are few places in the world like the Everglades. It’s a protected, 1.5-million acre natural habitat that environmentalists come from far and wide to see. From its wild mangroves and giant alligators, to its shallow bays, remote keys, reflective waters and towering sawgrass, the Everglades are equal parts interesting and mysterious. And within the boundaries of the vast Everglades National Park, there are some iconic sites that you should check out.
Explore the nation’s smallest post office
Not bigger than an outhouse, the Ochopee Post Office is the smallest post office in the nation. A single postal worker, who simultaneously sells postcards and handles all the mail for the 500 residents of Everglades City, helms this small joint; which hasn’t really changed in 50 years. How it got there is an interesting story – when a fire destroyed the original post office in 1953, the shed from a tomato farm you see now served as a suitable temporary replacement. Now, we don’t think it will ever leave.
Combine food and adventure at Coopertown Airboat Rides and Restaurant
Want to explore the Everglades? Head to Coopertown, a small “town” with a total population of maybe eight people and the site of the famed Seminole Indian Village helmed by Chief Jimmy Osceola. While there, stop by Coopertown Airboat Rides and Restaurant for a must-do airboat-meets-food experience where you can munch on all of the interesting wildlife you find along the way. Start with an airboat ride through Hardwood Hammock, the National Park, and other parts of the Everglades, and then return to the restaurant for a local meal of frog legs, gator tail, catfish and more. A guide will be with you the whole time, and can give you more insight into the fun and interesting animals you’re sure to see in the water…and on your plate.
Go camping in an open-air chickee hut
In between its countless waterways, there are plenty of islands, or “keys,” where adventurous explorers can camp in the Everglades. Get to the islands by kayak or canoe, and pitch a tent, or if you’re braver, lay a sleeping bag under an open-air chickee. There are larger campgrounds that are accessible by car, so for those, rent an RV and make your camping experience a little more comfortable – and air-conditioned. Camping is no doubt one of the most authentic ways to see the heart of the Everglades.
Stop by South Florida’s oldest alligator farm
Home to over 2,000 alligators, Everglades Alligator Farm is where entertainment and adventure collide. Hop on an airboat tour, which leaves every hour on the hour, to see vast populations of alligators and snakes, watch a live show, and go on a guided tour of the area’s lush walking trails. The farm is located right near the main entrance of Everglades National Park, is home of the famous 14 ft. "Grandpa" alligator, and hosts a daily calendar of snake shows, alligator shows and feedings, airboat rides and more.
Go on an Everglades style safari
The Everglades is also home to a safari adventure, and it goes by the name of Everglades Safari Park. If you’re in the mood for an educational experience that includes the age-old Everglades Safari Wildlife Nature Show, preservation tips, and up-close views of crocodiles tanning or swimming, head to this park for unique airboat tours that leave every 30 minutes, daily. The airboat takes you 30 minutes out on the bays and waterways of the Everglades, where you’ll get to checkout Gator Island. Plus, if you go at dusk, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful South Florida sunset in the midst of your tour.
Meet the Miccosukee Indian Tribe
Miccosukee Indian Village has been a mainstay in the Everglades for longer than any of us can remember. A protected Indian reservation, it offers a series of educational and entertaining experiences for interested visitors like history museum tours, basket weaving demonstrations, alligator handling, displays of tribal artifacts and garments, and more. As you can probably tell by now, no trip to the Everglades is complete without an airboat ride, so hop on one with your Miccosukee Indian guide and get a firsthand account of the nature and mystery of the Florida Everglades.
Bike along Shark Valley
The 15-mile loop that is Shark Valley is packed with cyclists and bikers every weekend. It runs through a natural habitat, and as such, is home to countless species of local wildlife, plant life and more. If biking isn’t your thing, then see the beautiful valley from the comfort of a tram. Led by trained naturalists, this two-hour, open-air tour is as laid-back as it is eye-opening.
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