Covering 2,200 square miles of Florida’s “down under,” the Everglades can be daunting and intimidating. However, about two hours away via Interstate 75 and Route 29, Everglades City provides an easy gateway to the expanse of wetlands, mangrove forest, hardwood hammocks, sandy islands, and desolate wilderness.
The park’s western headquarters is located in town, and from there you can catch nature boat tours and ranger-led bike, foot, and paddling excursions. Outfitters in town lead one- and multi-day paddles along 99-mile Wilderness Trail. These are not for novices.
North American Canoe Tours is the oldest and most well-respected. You can also catch a noisy airboat tour, which is more disruptive to the wildlife.
Any way you tour the ‘Glades, you’re bound to see lots of wildlife – hundreds of bird species, alligators, crocodiles, raccoons, manatees, dolphin, and more.
Everglades City and its working waterfront offer a number of restaurants serving the freshest seafood. Stone and blue crab come into port here, and you won’t find it any fresher. Try City Seafood. For true Everglades fare – gator tail, frog legs, fried anything – the Oyster House lies directly across the road from the national park headquarters.
Strong word of advice: The Everglades is for winter exploring. No amount of insect repellent will protect you during mosquito season.
About two hours from the Sanibel Causeway.