It’s been a few years since we made a visit to Everglades National Park in South Florida, but I came across a few photos from our time there which reminded me about what a great visit to the park we had! Growing up in South Florida, I’ve been lucky to visit the area several times, but it was our first time introducing our kids to the unique landscape and diverse wildlife found in the region.
We spent our time exploring the Royal Palm Visitor center where we hiked both the Gumbo Limbo and Anhinga Trails and the kids earned their Junior Ranger badges. There are several short trails located throughout the park which let you explore without having to make a long trek. Talking with the rangers there helped focus our visit with hikes and overlooks we all enjoyed.
While we didn’t canoe during our visit, it is one of my favorite ways to explore the park and allows you to get away from the crowds. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from various outfitters, but I have read good reviews of Everglades Adventures which will drop off and pick up rental canoes at your desired location. I have wonderful memories of a two day canoe trip I took as a middle school student.
Tips on visiting Everglades:
–While the park is open all year, the best time to visit is definitely in the winter where the temperatures are moderate and the rain is minimal. If you come during the summer, prepare for the humidity and heat interrupted only by rain storms and also plan to encounter tons of mosquitoes and flies. Really, it is best to visit in the winter!
–With minimal food offerings in the park, pack food for your visit. We enjoyed eating at one of the many picnic tables near the Royal Palm Visitor Center.
–Drink plenty of water. Even in the winter time it can get brutally hot. On the same note, wear sunscreen. The sun is strong in South Florida! In addition, use insect repellant. Even in the winter months mosquitoes and flies can be bothersome.
–Keep children within arm’s reach! During our walk on the Anhinga Trail which was crowded with visitors, we came across several alligators including a nest filled with babies. Since mother gators keep watch over their nests, I knew a mama gator must have been close by and we saw several people climb into the bushes to get a closer look. While there have been no alligator attacks on visitors in recent years, I wanted to make sure that my little ones didn’t wander into the brush with a hungry gator waiting!
–Bring binoculars! Not only are there alligators and crocodiles you want to see without getting too close, the Everglades are a bird lovers paradise. We saw dozens of different birds and our kids spent a good portion of our visit looking through two of our favorites- Everglades Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species and National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America and identifying them.
–I like to have my kids read about the park we are visiting before we arrive and there are several great books about the Everglades! Everglades is a great book which gives an overview of the region with beautifully illustrated paintings. Another favorite is Sawgrass Poems: A View of the Everglades: Poems with gorgeous pictures and appealing poems. Kids will also enjoy The Missing ‘Gator of Gumbo Limbo: An Eco Mystery.
–Some of the best for adults are Everglades Patrol, an interesting first person account of a 30 year law enforcement and game warden veteran and The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise.
Enjoy your visit! It is a wonderful place filled with birds and animals you are unlikely to see anywhere else in their natural setting.