The Everglades can be reached from both the East and the West Coast. The easiest is perhaps from Naples as this offers you more opportunity for accommodation if you want to spend more than a day in the Everglades.
The 41 from Miami to Tampa – hence being known as the Tamiami Trail, opened in 1928, takes you deep into the Everglades and the best way to experience the wild and expansive scenery of the Everglades National Park. Further north you can cross from Fort Lauderdale to Naples on the 75 or better known as "Alligator Alley".
The Everglades are the one of the most celebrated natural areas in the US – the largest subtropical wilderness. The Everglades National Park covers just one fifth of the Everglades, at 1.5 million acres. The park mostly consists of small pockets of trees protruding out of completely flat sawgrass plains. There are elevated boardwalk walking trails although a word of warning here, given the combination of stagnant water and heat, you are a easy target for mosquitoes – I cannot recommend enough the use of “Cutter” which is a locally made mosquito repellent. The park was established in 1947 and provides a welcome contrast to the theme parks and nightlife that Florida is better known for. There are three main entrances to the Evergales National Park – there is no public transport along this part of the 41 or to any of the park entrances, although there are some organised day trips available.
The furthest south entrance is via Florida City and Homestead, south of Miami on the way to the Keys. This is the Earnest F. Coe entrance and the only way to get to Flamingo and the Anhinga Trail – a hiking trail teeming with heron, egrets, turtles and of course alligators. Look out for the strange anhinga – black bodied birds similar to cormorants, which spend hours drying off, after diving for fish, on the rocks with its white tipped wings fully spread. The Mahogany Hammock Boardwalk meanders through the dense tropical hammock and the final stop is Flamingo. The parks only hotel and largest camp ground, with many hiking and canoe trails.
Shark Valley can be accessed from the 41, some 25 miles from the junction with the Turnpike or driving north from Homestead on 997. You can cycle or join the educational tram tour on a 15 mile ride into the heart of the River of Grass – guaranteed to see lots of wildlife such as otters and alligators. At the end of the loop there is a 60 ft tower that provides great views.
Back on to the 41 heading west and you pass the Miccosukee Indian Village and Oasis Centre. Carry on until you reach a cross roads (41 & 29) and turn left towards Everglades City and Chokoloskee. This is way to reach the Ten Thousand Islands archipelago and the Park’s west coast. Explore the islands of dense mangroves, see pelicans, dolphins and sea turtles by boat or canoe. At Everglades City take a kayaking tour. There is also a museum to visit. The city started to develop in the early 1920s but Hurricane Donna in 1960 forced many of the business to relocate to Naples and Everglades City exists purely to serve the tourist trade.
Big Cypress Reservation