Airboat ride through the Everglades
By: Kara Franker
Everything you need to know to plan your trip to Everglades National Park.
One of Florida’s most gorgeous natural assets, the Everglades is definitely a place you’ll want to explore while you’re in Miami. Everglades National Park spans 1.5 million acres across southern Florida and there are two ways to access the park from Miami-Dade County.
Unless you book a group tour, you’ll need to rent a car and drive yourself to one of several entrances. Here’s what you need to know and how to get there.
Everglades National Park Entrance Fees
Entrance to the park costs $20 per car and the pass grants you access for seven consecutive days. Otherwise it’s $8 for individuals who arrive by foot, bicycle or motorcycle. Commercial vehicles like vans and buses are charged based on the seating capacity (e.g. $75 for 7-15 people inside a minibus or van up to $200 for 26 or more passengers). Fees for camping are additional and vary depending on whether it’s rainy or dry season.
Travel Tip: In the Everglades, there are two main seasons: dry season (the busiest time of year, which is late November to May) and wet season (less busy, but more mosquitos and lots of rain).
Southern Entrance to the Park in Homestead
Open 365 days a year, the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is located at 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL 33034. The center is open daily until 5 p.m. and is approximately 1.5 hours away from Downtown Miami, depending on traffic.
Either plug the above address into your GPS or follow these driving directions: Take Florida Turnpike (Route 821) south until it merges with U.S. 1 in Florida City. Then take a right on Palm Drive (the first traffic light) and follow the signs into Everglades National Park.
Four miles from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, you’ll find the Royal Palm Visitor Center. From there, you have access to both the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail. These trails provide great opportunities for biking, bird watching, camping, kayaking, hiking and group tours.
If you keep driving roughly 38 miles south of the park’s main entrance, you’ll find the Flamingo Visitor Center. There you’ll find a public boat ramp, marina store with drinks and snacks, plus more hiking and kayaking trails. Visitors can rent boats, canoes, kayaks, bicycles or book a boat tour. There’s also a seasonal restaurant called Buttonwood Cafe that typically closes in April and the slower summer months.
Northern Entrance to the Park in Shark Valley
To access the park’s northern entrance, you can take the Tamiami Trail (SW 8th Street/Highway 41) all the way west to the Shark Valley Visitor Center at 36000 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33194. It’s about an hour drive from Miami, depending on traffic.
On the way, you’ll pass popular Everglades tour companies and alligator farms along the way; some are operated by the Miccosukee Indian Village. Once you make it out to the Shark Valley Visitor Center, you’ll find a variety of biking and hiking trails. There’s also a tram tour that leaves from the center and goes deep into the park. Reservations are highly recommended and tours start at $23 per person (in addition to the $20 park entrance fee). For tram schedules and reservations, contact Shark Valley Tram Tours at 305-221-8455.
Travel Tip: When you’re traveling to the Everglades, it’s important to think about safety. Always let someone know your itinerary before you go. And because of the presence of dangerous wildlife, swimming in the park is not recommended.
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