The Best Everglades Water Sports and Boating


Ride an airboat

Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tours

Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tours

Everglades birds

Birds in the Everglades

Florida Alligator

Florida Alligator

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By: Lori Kahn

Nicknamed the “River of Grass,” the Everglades is a remarkable ecosystem of fresh and saltwater wetlands. It comes as no surprise, then, that one of the best ways to explore the area is by canoe, kayak, sailboat, airboat or paddleboard. Along the way, you’ll see lush habitats and you may encounter native wildlife such as manatees, American crocodiles, alligators, many bird species and perhaps even a bobcat or Florida panther.

Tour the Everglades in a kayak or canoe to navigate mangrove tunnels and get an up-close view of wildlife. 

Kayaking and Canoeing in Everglades National Park

Since much of the Everglades is accessible only by water, one of the best ways to explore is by canoe or kayak. Paddle through tall sea grasses, mangrove tunnels and tiny islands through an interconnected system of creeks, bays and rivers.  

A kayak or canoe trip can last a few hours – or a few days. Adventurers may want to plan a longer voyage and spend a night or two backcountry camping in an open-air chickee – one of the area’s raised, covered campsites. Register for a free backcountry permit at the Flamingo Visitor Center or the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. 

Popular canoeing and kayaking spots include Flamingo’s canoe trails and Nine Mile Pond, Hell’s Bay, the Gulf Coast and the Ten Thousand Islands. Beginning paddlers may want to hire a guide, such as from Flamingo Adventures at the Flamingo Marina, to outfit the trip and lead the adventure. 

Sailing Adventure
Book a sailing charter to see the Everglades with an experienced guide. 

Boat Tours in the Everglades

The Everglades is home to a variety of tour operators offering memorable boating and sailing excursions. The Ten Thousand Islands Cruise takes visitors through the saltwater portion of the Everglades, where you’re likely to see manatees, bald eagles, ospreys, roseate spoonbills and dolphins, who love to jump and play in the boat’s wake. 

The Mangrove Wilderness Tour takes you through the shallow, brackish part of the Everglades. There you’ll have a good chance of seeing alligators, raccoons, bobcats, mangrove fox squirrels and a variety of bird life including mangrove cuckoos.

Want something off the beaten path? Consider a sailing ecotour, possibly in a sailing canoe, that highlights the ecology of the Ten Thousand Islands area. Operators include Jenny’s Eco Everglades Wilderness Tours, Everglades Adventure Pole Boat Tours and Everglades Area Tours.

Fishing Charter
A fishing captain can point out the best spots for both fresh- and saltwater fishing. 

Airboat Tours

Airboats – flat-bottomed boats that get their thrust from an aircraft-style propeller mounted on the stern – are iconic Florida Everglades craft. They’re the perfect vessel for maneuvering through shallow, dense marshland. 

Zip through the heart of mangrove forests, up small creeks and across open bays on an airboat for close-up views of alligators, manatees, birds and more. Tours are available through the Miccosukee Indian Village and Coopertown Everglades Airboat Tours.

Gator near airboat
Airboats are an ideal way to explore the Everglades' water wilderness.

Saltwater and Freshwater Fishing

Hire a captain or fishing charter to guide you through the unique half freshwater and half saltwater environs of the Everglades. An experienced guide will know the best spots to find a wide variety of fish, plus they’ll be knowledgeable about local regulations and licensing. 

If you’re traveling with the family, guides can cater the trip to accommodate all ages and skill levels. To book a fishing charter, contact a company such as Captain Rapps Fishing Charters, Chokoloskee Island Charters or Everglades Fishing Charters.

Stand Up PaddleboardingGive stand-up paddleboarding a try for a serene and immersive adventure.

Stand Up Paddleboarding

For a truly immersive Everglades experience, try stand-up paddleboarding. It takes a little practice to get your balance, but it provides a serene opportunity for quiet exploration. In stand-up paddleboarding, it’s just you, the board, the paddle and the natural splendor around you. Paddleboarding is ideal for navigating the shallow waters of the Everglades to see the subtropical wetland’s wildlife and vegetation.

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