By: Kara Franker
Get out on the water and explore the Florida Everglades.
White-tailed deer, bobcats, gray foxes, river otters, pilot whales and Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins are just some of the mammals found in the Florida Everglades. The Everglades is a beautiful and wild subtropical oasis, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Take advantage of these watersport activities during your next visit to the Florida Everglades.
Kayaking & Canoeing
The Florida Everglades is a great place to kayak or canoe. In addition to its tall sea grass and protected mangroves, this area is home to a series of “keys” like Mormon Key, New Turkey Key, Pavillion Key, Rabbit Key, Jewel Key and Sand Fly Island. These tiny islands are connected by different bodies of freshwater, creeks, bays and rivers.
If you’re a novice kayaker, paddling through the Everglades’ tall sea grass on a sunny day is a great way to spend a day. The mangroves are a more protective environment for a newbie kayaker as you will not be exposed to the spray and elements of the rough open sea.
Depending on your skill level, you can spend a morning kayaking, or pack a bag and camp under a “chickee,” a word with Calusa origins meaning “house with no walls.” For the adventurous and hard core nature lover willing to spend over a week camping in the fresh air, watching out for dolphins or watching shore birds, there’s no better place than the Florida Everglades. Your trip will be a blend of exciting and serene and we recommend enlisting an expert with years of experience in the area because routes may change subject to winds, season or weather.
Whichever you choose, grab your kayak and head to the Everglades to experience its different bodies of water, from Flamingo’s Canoe Trails and Nine Mile Pond, to Hell’s Bay, Gulf Coast, and The Ten Thousand Islands. You’re sure to see dolphins, birds, manatees, alligators and more.
The adventure doesn’t stop on the water. Expect to stop and hike the hardwood hammocks, take some time to lie out on the beaches you’ll discover along the way and see the many inhabitants of the Everglades’ diverse ecosystem.
Canoe and kayak rentals start at $20 for two hours and are available at Everglades National Park Boat Tours at the Flamingo Marina, 38 miles south of the entrance gate.
Boating & Sailing
Just like kayaking, boating in the Everglades can be an adventure you won't soon forget. Sign up for a guided tour or explore the Everglades solo.
Sailing eco-tours are meant to focus on the ecology of the Ten Thousand Islands area and they don’t always use a traditional sailboat. Some companies in the area use “sailing canoes,” a stable boat that uses skiffs for guiding the boat.
Whichever you choose, the views and the species you’ll encounter are sure to be memorable. Rent a 17-foot skiff starting at $80 for two hours at Everglades National Park Boat Tours at the Flamingo Marina.
Saltwater & Freshwater Fishing
Did you know that the Everglades is made up of half fresh water and half saltwater? All waters from the Nine Mile Pond north and interior rivers north of the park are considered fresh. South of that, saltwater fishing abounds. Whether you’re looking for fresh water fish or saltwater, you’ll need a license to do it first and there are certain areas that are off limits for fishing, including everything along Shark Valley Road.
We recommend that you hire a captain or fishing charter to guide you through the waters. They’ll help you troll for mackerel or fly fish, show you their lucky spots, warn you of fish that shouldn’t be eaten (for example, some bass in the area has high mercury levels) and be aware of regulations for fishing around manatee areas, shrimping and lobstering. If you’re traveling with the family, they can cater the trip to all ages and skill levels. To book a fishing charter, contact a company like Captain Rapps Fishing Charters, Chokoloskee Charters or Everglades Fishing Charters.
If there’s one thing the Everglades is known for, aside from its interesting ecosystems, it’s its airboat rides. Drive down Tamiami Trail and you’ll see them everywhere. An airboat is a shallow-draft boat powered by an aircraft engine, one that is specifically used to navigate swamplands. Now a key part of tourism in the Florida Everglades, these vessels have been enhanced with comfortable seating, and take you right through the heart of mangrove jungles, small creeks and open water bays, giving you an up-close view of alligators, manatees, birds and more. Tours are available through the Miccosukee Indian Village and Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tours.
Stand Up Paddleboarding
Paddleboarding has been making waves among water sport enthusiasts. While challenging, it provides a serene environment for exploring without the noise and extra equipment of some other sports. In stand-up Paddleboarding, or SUP, it’s just you, the board and the paddle. This sport is perfect for navigating the swampy Everglades and getting up close to the exotic and unique wildlife that you can truly only find in this subtropical wetland.
Keep in mind that the best time to visit the Everglades is the winter. When the rest of the country is covered in snow and shoveling their driveways, in Miami we’re getting outdoors for water sports, camping and hitting the beach. The summers are lovely as well, but be sure to pack sunscreen with an extra high SPF and very strong bug spray.
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