City Guide / Miami

Day Trips From Miami: The Best Things to Do in the Everglades

By Amanda Mesa | Aug 3, 2022
Kayaking through the Everglades swamp in Florida, USA

Expert-led wildlife tours and airboat rides through thick sawgrass filled with glimpses of alligators are among the best things to do in the Everglades, but South Florida locals will tell you there are countless other reasons to spend an entire day (or several!) at Everglades National Park. Nestled close to the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast, this lush wetland is one of Florida’s top national parks and a true paradise for outdoor lovers looking for new places to explore beyond Miami.

A World Heritage Site, a Wetland of International Importance, and an International Biosphere Reserve, the Florida Everglades is home to a diverse range of wildlife. You’ll find endangered species like the American crocodile, the Florida panther, and the manatee living here, as well as peacocks, eagles, egrets, and foxes. There are even several flamingo areas that can be reached by airboat or a wildlife-spotting boat tour, as well as an observation tower and many biking and hiking trails for those looking to explore the Everglades by land.

No matter how you choose to spend a day in Everglades National Park, you’ll be glad you made the trip from Miami. Here are some pointers for planning the perfect day trip to the Everglades.

How to get to Everglades National Park

Mahogany Hammock Trail of the Everglades National Park. Boardwalks in the swamp. Florida, USA.

If you’re starting your Everglades day trip in Miami-Dade County—including Miami Beach—you’ll be pleased to know the journey is quite simple. Head west until you cross the Ronald Reagan Turnpike. After that, it’s pretty much a straight shot along US-41 to the nearest Everglades main entrance.

This sprawling park has several main entrances and visitor centers where you can begin your adventure, including the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, the Flamingo Visitor Center, the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, and the Shark Valley Visitor Center.

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is the closest main entrance to Miami proper. If you’re driving from Miami Beach, Brickell, or Coral Gables, it will likely take you around an hour to reach Shark Valley by car. If you live in the Sweetwater area, you’ll shave a bit of time off your drive.

That said, driving yourself isn’t the only way to reach these beautiful wetlands. If you’re interested in visiting the Everglades with a guide, there are several tours that go from Miami to the national park and back again by chartered bus. The Miami Tour Company offers multiple options, including some with airboat tours, power boat tours, alligator shows, and other activities geared around the national park’s abundance of wildlife.

While Everglades National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, one important thing to note is that all visitors must pay an entrance fee. An individual pass will run you $15 and is valid for seven days. A vehicle or vessel pass is $30 and grants admission to the pass holder and the passengers of a single vehicle or vessel for seven days.

If you fall in love with Everglades National Park after your first visit and are left craving more, you can opt for an annual pass. Priced at $55, it offers park access for a full 12 months and will give you the best bang for your buck. You can select and purchase your passes via Recreation.gov.

Fees are waived on select holidays, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.

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The best things to do in Everglades National Park

Couple kayaking together in mangrove river of the Keys, Florida, USA. Tourists kayakers touring the river of Islamorada.

If you’re planning to hit the Everglades independently by car, it helps to have a game plan for activities. Everglades National Park is massive—it encompasses a whopping 1.5 million acres of subtropical wilderness that’s teeming with life. The park is home to one of the world’s largest wetlands, with nine unique habitats that range from watery coastal lowlands to rugged pine rock lands to rustling sawgrass prairies.

In a region so big, it’s safe to assume you won’t run out of activities any time soon. It’s why we recommend returning multiple times in order to really get a feel for the place and its many natural wonders.

Here are some of the best things to do in the Everglades, and are all well worth considering when planning your visit to Everglades National Park:

1. Shark Valley

Everglades National Park spiral ramp way and platform of the Shark Valley observation tower

Shark Valley is hands down a favorite among folks visiting Everglades National Park. Located a mere 25 miles from the Florida Turnpike, the visitor center for Shark Valley is the closest to Miami, offering convenience in addition to endless potential for recreation. You can take a tram tour led by a local naturalist here or climb to the top of an impressive observation tower—just make sure you keep your eyes peeled for resident wildlife!

Despite its moniker, you won’t see any sharks in Shark Valley. This area gets its name from the Shark River and Little Shark River, two nearby waterways that shelter various shark species. However, you can count on glimpses of alligators, turtles, manatees, and all kinds of unique local and migratory birds during your Shark Valley visit.

“The best thing we did in the Everglades is the Shark Valley Tram Tour, where we saw so many alligators, learned a ton, and got to see some of the most scenic views of the park.”

Landing member Madison Liston Gomes, “How We Spent Three Months Living in Miami

2. The Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail

United States, Florida, Miami-Dade County, Everglades National Park, Anhinga Trail

Just over a half-mile, the Anhinga Trail at Everglades National Park and the shorter Gumbo Limbo Trail are favorites among hikers. Both wheelchair accessible, the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail wind through a beautiful sawgrass marsh. You’ll likely be able to spot alligators, herons, turtles, egrets, and, of course, anhingas as you make your way along the trail, especially if you’re hiking during the winter months.

To reach the trail, head to the Royal Palm Visitor Center. It’s about four miles away from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, one of the park’s main entrances.

3. Big Cypress National Preserve

Pond in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida with lily pads and other aquatic vegetation on clear cloudless winter afternoon.

The Big Cypress National Preserve is located right along the border of Everglades National Park, allowing visitors to hit two spectacular national parks within the same day. There’s so much to do at each, though, you’ll likely want to divvy them up across multiple visits.

Cypress National is a great choice for anyone looking to camp out. It hosts 12 campgrounds where visitors can pitch eco-tents, as well as off-trail parking for those camping overnight. Cypress National is also home to the southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail, beloved among hiking enthusiasts during the cooler winter months.

The land between the iconic Loop Road and the Tamiami Trail also abounds with beautiful walking and wading opportunities. Like Everglades National Park, Big Cypress is home to an abundance of old-growth vegetation and vibrant wildlife—including alligators and Florida panthers—that can be seen from airboat tours and tram tours. You can explore the area on your own, join a swamp hike with a ranger from the National Park Service, or hit the waterways by canoe.

3. Everglades City

Everglades city, Florida, United States of America. Airboat tours at the mangrove forest

Just a quick car ride southwest of Big Cypress and the Everglades sits Everglades City, also known as the gateway to Ten Thousand Islands. This charming city is home to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for Everglades National Park, and a wonderful home base for those looking to extend their Everglades visit over a few days. You’ll find so much to do here, from canoe trips along lush mangrove tunnels to backcountry hikes and some great inland fishing.

You can also time your visit around the Everglades Seafood Festival. Typically held during the month of February, this laid-back foodie-favorite event spotlights fresh-caught delicacies paired with live music, adrenaline-amping carnival rides, and fun, family-friendly activities along the scenic river.

4. The Tamiami Trail

Big Cypress National Preserve. Tamiami Trail. South Florida. USA

If you want to experience all the wild natural beauty of the Everglades from the comfort of your car, the Tamiami Trail is a great option. Also known as US-41, this two-lane road cuts across the lower Florida peninsula through the sprawling splendor of the Everglades, offering close-up glimpses of birds and alligators. The trail crosses 3.5 miles of scenic bridges and passes by various stops and lookouts for spotting wildlife and snapping selfies.

A few tips for your Everglades adventure

American Alligator in Florida Wetland

You now have plenty of options for activities, as well as a general overview of how to reach the Everglades from Miami, but there are still a few tips to consider when planning the perfect Everglades experience.

While the national park brims with activities year-round, the weather is hottest and most humid from May through November. Highs during this period typically reach an average of 90 degrees, with a heat index of over 100 degrees. This is also considered the “wet season” in the Everglades—afternoons are characterized by heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. These storms pass quickly, but you’ll likely get much better weather if you visit between December and April.

With that, you’re pretty much ready to plan an unforgettable visit to Everglades National Park and its surrounding outdoor attractions. Whether you feel most drawn to airboat tours in Shark Valley, kayaking in Everglades City, or camping in Cypress National—or even if you prefer to simply cruise past the natural beauty from Tamiami Trail—you can rest assured you’re in for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Miami is a great place to live if you want easy access to spectacular natural sites like this one—and Landing offers fully furnished apartments with flexible lease terms that let you stay in town for as long as you want to explore the area. Find the perfect apartment now and experience the best South Florida has to offer.

Looking for more day trip ideas from Miami? Check out our blog post, “Why You Should Take a Day Trip From Miami to Key West.”

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Amanda Mesa

Amanda currently lives in Chicago but was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She’s covered a wide range of topics as a journalist, including travel, hotels, bars, restaurants, interior design, nightlife and music. Some of her past bylines include Indulge Magazine, Miami.com, the Miami Herald, Dining Out Magazine, Plate and Boca Magazine. When she isn’t writing, Amanda is usually planning future trips around the world—at least half of which involve skiing.