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By: Shayne Benowitz

The Florida Everglades is home to one of the most unique ecosystems in the country. And with plenty of family-friendly options to choose from, it’s a great place to add to your family getaway. There are many ways to discover everything the Everglades has to offer on a day trip or overnight adventure. Whether it’s hiking, biking, camping or gliding across the “River of Grass” on an exciting airboat tour, here’s your guide for outdoor activities for families in the Florida Everglades.

Airboat Tours & Wildlife Shows

Airboat tours are hands down one of the most popular and accessible ways to experience the Florida Everglades. These tours are a fun way for the entire family to get out into the Everglades and they often include educational wildlife shows and exhibitions perfect for curious kids and adults alike. Here are a few of our favorites.

Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tour

Founded in 1945, Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tour is the original. You’ll learn about the area’s natural ecosystem and the history of the Everglades at Coopertown while spotting alligators, turtles and wading birds in the wild. Before or after your airboat tour, be sure to catch their alligator show and reptile display where you’ll have a chance to hold a baby alligator. There’s a small restaurant next to the gift shop that serves fried gator tail and frog legs for a true taste of the ‘glades. While Coopertown is complying with CDC guidelines for COVID-19, for those who want to take extra precaution, private airboat tours are also available. 

Everglades Safari Park

Everglades Safari Park serves up all sorts of family-friendly outdoor fun, from thrilling airboat rides to wildlife shows and private eco-adventures. Each 30 to 40 minute airboat tour includes tickets to their wildlife show with alligators and crocodiles. You can even get your photo taken with a baby alligator. The park is connected by a jungle trail with an observation platform offering scenic views, including Gator Island where gators and crocs enjoy sunbathing. There’s also a small restaurant and gift shop onsite. The folks at Everglades Safari Park are taking COVID-19 safety measures seriously with airboat tours loaded at 50 percent capacity, mask requirements for all employees and visitors over two years old, sanitizing stations and enhanced cleaning. Online tickets purchased in advance are recommended to guarantee your reservation as capacity is limited.

Everglades Alligator Farm

Everglades Alligator Farm’s airboat tour includes admission to their reptile shows and alligator farm. You can book enhanced experiences, like the hour-long alligator encounter where you and the family will get up close and personal with hundreds of gators. You’ll also have the chance to feed these awesome creatures and hold the babies. Everglades Alligator Farm specializes in private airboat tours and VIP experiences where your family can spend extra time exploring the exciting surroundings.

Miccosukee 

Miccosukee is a historic Indian reservation, home to a resort, casino, airboat rides and an Indian Village. While the casino has reopened with restrictions, the resort, airboat rides and Indian Village are currently closed due to COVID-19. But keep Miccosukee top of mind for future travel when you can enjoy the entire experience. Their thrilling airboat tours offer a glimpse of Miccosukee traditions including a stop at a hammock-style camp that has been maintained by the same family for over 100 years.

Hiking, Biking, Canoeing & Camping

If you’re looking for family-friendly activities in the Everglades, you can’t go wrong with the many hiking, camping, biking and paddling opportunities. There are three Miami entrances to the Everglades National Park: Shark Valley, Royal Palm and Flamingo, as well as Big Cypress National Preserve, a preservation area within the Everglades. Each area offers its own unique set of activities for all levels, from short hikes to outdoor camping to ranger-lead programs perfect for little ones. 

While the Everglades are open with COVID-19 safety precautions in place, call or check the park’s website for amenity availability and hours. 

Shark Valley

Location: Due west off the Tamiami Trail  

Shark Valley Visitor’s Center is an excellent entry point to the Everglades for families with younger children – and there’s plenty to explore for visitors of all ages. Embark on a ranger or naturalist led tram tour around Shark Valley’s 15-mile paved loop. Bike rentals are also available at the park or you can bring your own wheels. There are also shorter trails to explore by foot. Don’t be surprised if you spot an alligator snoozing in the sun, but don’t get too close either! At the midway point of the paved loop, you’ll find a 65-foot tall observation tower where you can take in unobstructed views of the lush vegetation sprawling before you. 

Royal Palm & Flamingo

Location: Royal Palm is accessible through Homestead in South Dade and Flamingo is accessible by boat or by driving south for about 40 miles from the Royal Palm entrance.

Royal Palm is a destination for active families who enjoy a good nature hike in the wilderness. The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is located here, offering a variety of ranger led programs and hikes. For short hikes, try the Anhinga or Gumbo Limbo Trail, both of which are less than a mile long. If you’re looking for a more strenuous trail, take on the 22 miles of Long Pine Key’s connecting trails. The variety of options makes it easy to tailor your experience to your activity level and enjoy the surrounding sawgrass prairie. If you decide to travel deeper into the glades towards the Flamingo entrance, kayaking, canoeing and camping are also on offer.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Spanning over 700,000 acres in the Everglades, Big Cypress National Preserve is a vast slow-moving slough, covering hardwood hammocks, pinelands, prairies, cypress swamps and estuaries before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The Oasis Visitor Center is the closest entry point from Miami where a variety of activities are on offer, from ranger-led discovery hikes to treks down the Florida National Scenic Trail and bird watching on the wildlife observation deck. You can also embark on guided canoe excursions, swamp buggy tours or a gladesmen-led swamp walk through the Turner River. With its lack of light pollution, Big Cypress is home to one of the most stunning night skies. Camping at one of the eight campgrounds here is an unforgettable experience. 

Flamingo Adventures Camping 

Flamingo Campground
Flamingo Campground

For a truly immersive Everglades outing, make your way all the way to the southernmost tip of the Florida Peninsula to Flamingo Adventures campgrounds. Set on the Florida Bay’s backcountry, this is an oasis for birders, fishermen and anyone who loves the great outdoors. Flamingo makes it easy for families to plan an overnight stay in the Everglades with their campsite, eco-tents and houseboat accommodations. For experienced campers and RVers, hitch your trailer and pitch a tent at Long Pine Key or Flamingo Campground. For those looking for a more full service experience, Flamingo offers safari-style eco-tents outfitted with beds, electricity, a seating area and floor fans. You can even rent a 42-foot, two-bedroom houseboat that sleeps up to six people to explore Whitewater Bay with your family by day and sleep comfortably docked at the marina by night. For day trippers, Flamingo also offers boat tours and rentals, canoe and kayak rentals and bike rentals to explore the abundance of trails and streams. 

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