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By: Jennifer Agress

Greater Miami & Miami Beach is known for its wetlands, the two most notable being Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Beautiful and wild, these vast protected lands maintain an aura of mystery, as you need a specialized ride to explore their depths: an airboat or a swamp buggy.

What is an airboat? Designed for navigating shallow water, airboats are flat-bottomed vessels powered by giant fans, allowing them to glide through natural pathways that are cut through mangrove forests and grassy wetlands. And swamp buggies are elevated trucks with knobby tractor-like tires for powering through cypress groves, hardwood hammocks, muddy marshes and more.

Here are five airboat tours that will take you into the heart of dense mangroves, cypress swamps dotted with ghost orchids and, of course, places to spot alligators and other wildlife.

Airboat tours guided by the Miccosukee
Discover Florida's wildlife on an airboat ride led by the Miccosukee Indian Tribe

1. Miccosukee Village & Airboats

Drive about an hour west of Downtown Miami along Tamiami Trail (Southwest 8th Street), near Everglades National Park’s Shark Valley Visitor Center, to learn about the vibrant life of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. At Miccosukee Indian Village, a hammock-style camp with a museum, daily alligator wrestling and airboat tours. Keep an eye out for Florida Everglades wildlife as your airboat cuts through water trails, leaving rippling grasses in its wake.

2. Coopertown Original Airboat Tours

Coopertown Original Airboat Tours has been taking folks deep into Florida’s marvelous swamplands since 1945. Just 45 minutes due west of Downtown Miami on Tamiami Trail, Coopertown’s professional guides will cruise you through Everglades National Park on a personalized – and educational – nine-mile airboat tour featuring a hardwood hammock, alligator holes and some fascinating wildlife habitats. Finish your tour with frog legs, gator tail, catfish and more at the laid-back Coopertown Restaurant.

Osprey with fish
Spot a variety of wildlife like this osprey with its fresh catch

3. Airboat Rides Miami

Also located on Tamiami Trail, Airboat Rides Miami offers daily airboat tours led by experienced guides. These excursions take visitors through the natural habitats of some of Florida’s most iconic wildlife: alligators, soft-shelled turtles and beguiling birds, such as blush-colored spoonbills and wood storks clattering their bills. When you get back on land, stay for the alligator and wildlife show.

Holding a baby alligator
Experience an alligator encounter at Everglades Alligator Farm

4. Everglades Alligator Farm

One of the oldest alligator farms in Miami, Everglades Alligator Farm is home to more than 2,000 alligators. This South Dade attraction is conveniently set eight miles east of Everglades National Park’s Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. The farm features daily airboat tours with knowledgeable, professional guides, as well as a park with emus, snakes and even an alligator encounter with a feeding demonstration. With numerous show times each day, VIP packages and family-friendly activities, the Everglades Alligator Farm offers a wide variety of wildlife experiences.

Taking pictures of an alligator from Everglades Airboat Tours' airboat
An alligator opens wide for an Everglades Airboat guided tour

5. Everglades Airboat Tours

Get a guide all to yourself with private excursions via Everglades Airboat Tours Miami. On two-person outings ranging from one to two hours, local guides entertain you with interesting tidbits about the famed wetlands, providing a deeper understanding of their ecosystems and habitats. Guides will point out alligators, rare plants and a variety of birds – such as crowned herons and snail kites – along with other Everglades wildlife. For a one-of-a-kind experience, try the sunset tour. The dusky hues of Miami’s skies vary at different times of the year, and watching the sunset over the Everglades is a vacation memory you’ll never forget.

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