The Gulf Coast Visitor Center serves as the gateway for exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, the mangrove maze that extends from Lostman’s River to Cape Romano. The region is accessible only by boat.
Located 5 miles south of Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) on State Road 29 in Everglades City, the Gulf Coast Visitor Center includes educational displays, orientation films, brochures, and is the place to secure backcountry permits.
Restrooms are available and restaurants, stores, lodging and campgrounds all are located nearby. Except for its out of the way location, this is most convenient park section to visit because of all the nearby facilities.
Ranger tours are offered primarily during the winter months. These include an early morning walk and daily ranger talks. The rest of the ranger tours are on water, including a 4-hour canoe tour that can be booked 2 weeks in advance and a 2-hour afternoon canoe tour.
The concession operated boat tours leave the visitor center throughout the year. There are two boat tours, the Ten Thousand Islands Cruise and the Mangrove Wilderness Tour. Of the two, the Ten Thousand Islands Cruise offers the best chance to see dolphin, manatees and bald eagles.
Kayak and canoe rentals are also available.
This is a good place to set out on the week-long 99-mile Wilderness Waterway paddle from Everglades City to Flamingo. This is not something to be undertaken without careful planning. Some people cheat and make the trip by powerboat.