(photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Florida Everglades has long been an area of sustainability and intrigue. It is home to some of the nation’s most interesting (and endangered) animals. Travelers can walk (or take an airboat ride) past or through the marshes, hammocks and mangroves that make up this expansive natural habitat. Throughout the area, there are national parks and recreational vendors that provide access to the many areas available for touring. Whether you are a lover of nature or you’re looking for a vacation opportunity you’ve never experienced before, a weekend trip to the Florida Everglades will be an unforgettable experience.

Getting There

Driving to the Everglades from Miami takes about one hour and 40 minutes for one-way travel. US Highway 41 (better known by us locals as Tamiami Trail) stretches all the way to the west coast of Florida and connects travelers to lodging, local restaurants and most importantly, the two major parks managed by the National Park Service. Everglades City, the largest town in the area, is about 80 miles west of Miami.

A Stop Along The Way


(credit: gatorpark.com)

Gator Park Airboat Tours
Gator Park
24050 SW 8th St
Miami, FL 33194
(305) 559-2255

Taking an airboat ride from Gator Park will provide you with your first experience of the Florida Everglades on your weekend trip. The team of professionally trained tour guides will conduct an in-depth tour of the area. Some of the common sites to see during the tour include a replica of a chickee (a fishing camp used by Indians who inhabited the area), alligator sightings and a variety of birds. The park itself offers a wildlife show where the native animals are the star attraction. Airboat tours leave the dock at Gator Park approximately every 30 minutes during operational hours.

Where To Stay

Captain’s Lodge and Villas
102 E Broadway St
Everglades City, FL 34139
(239) 695-4211

Located near Everglades National Park, this local establishment offers quality accommodations with an authentic Florida feel. Guests can chose from standard hotel rooms, two-room suites and one-bedroom villas. Onsite is a barbecue area, a boat ramp and free parking. Local businesses frequently offer discounts to guests at Captain’s Lodge, which is an added bonus.

Marco Beach Ocean Resort
480 S Collier Blvd
Marco Island, FL 34145
(239) 393-1400

If luxury resorts are your preference, then the 45-minute drive from Everglades City to Marco Island will be well worth the trip. At this resort, there’s a whole bounty of upgraded amenities, including excellent garden views and ocean views of the Gulf of Mexico. Standard accommodations include marble in the bathrooms, high-quality wood furnishings in the living space, fully equipped kitchens and state-of-the-art electronic equipment such as flat-screen TVs. For added luxury, the resort provides concierge services. This team of attentive professionals will handle arrangements for a variety of activities from transportation to a day at the spa.

Where To Eat

City Seafood
702 Begonia St
Everglades City, FL 34139
(239) 695-4700

Being so close to the wetlands and excellent fishing, this restaurant effortlessly succeeds in providing high-quality seafood, freshly caught from the owner’s boats. There’s also a seafood market onsite to buy fresh fish – a popular feature for local residents and out-of-towners that use its shipping service. Its close proximity to both Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park makes it an excellent stop for a meal after a day of sightseeing. No trip to the Everglades is complete without sampling local favorites like gator, frog legs and gulf shrimp.

Camellia Street Grill
202 Camellia St
Everglades City, FL 34139
(239) 695-2003

This is the place to be when you want to experience the kind of place the locals go. The décor is eclectic, yet adds a festive vibe. The restaurant services typical bar and grill fare which is what makes this place so popular. Many online reviewers rave about the burgers and salads offered at Camellia Street Grill, calling it some of the best food ever eaten.

Related: The Best Scenic Drives Within 60 Miles Of Miami

What To Do

Big Cypress National Reserve
Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center
33000 Tamiami Trail E
Ochopee, FL 34141
(239) 695-4758

The prestige of being a part of the National Park Service says it all. This protected habitat is home to some of the world’s most intriguing wildlife. A variety of park ranger-led activities will take you on an up-close and personal adventure. Among the choices are nature hikes and canoe trips. If you prefer being in your personal vehicle, choose from either the 17-mile or 27-mile loop to go on a scenic drive through the preserve.


(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Everglades National Park
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
815 Oyster Bar Lane
Everglades City, FL 34114
(239) 695-3311

Everglades National Park is massive; its landscape is an astounding 1.5-million acres. Several trails are available for bicycling and hiking, as well as a water trail for canoeing. Travelers can go backcountry camping and spend the night under the stars. Wetlands make up one-third of the park, providing excellent fishing opportunities.

Related: Best Kayak Tours In South Florida

For nearly 20 years, Shawanda James has been actively involved in creative writing in Miami, Florida. In addition to her work as a freelance writer, she is actively seeking publication for her debut novel and collection of poetry. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.