Known as one of the country’s largest national parks, the Florida Everglades is famous for its verdant marshes and local wildlife. If you’re planning a trip to Paradise Coast’s beautiful beaches, we highly recommend that you make the Everglades part of your itinerary. But which outdoor activities should you try there?
Read on to find out which exciting outdoor activities you simply must do in the Everglades. Whether you’re camping for a weekend with friends or taking a day trip, you’ll want to cross our top picks off your bucket list!
Start Your Adventure At The Flamingo Visitor Center
Formerly a remote fishing village, the Flamingo Visitor Center is a great place to start your Everglades trip because of all the nearby sights. While it may feel a bit too far from the Homestead Entrance to Everglades National Park, the Center has many nearby resources for visitors and offers easy access to other attractions.
There are several campgrounds and short hiking trails near Flamingo Visitor Center. It’s also near Flamingo Marina, a great place for spotting manatees, ospreys, and even the occasional crocodile. You can also book a boating tour at the marina or explore the area by kayaking.
If you’re not sure which kayak trails to take, ask the rangers for suggestions and tips. One popular idea is to paddle up to Cape Sable, then get a permit so you can camp on the beach after a long day in the water.
Visit The Ten Thousand Islands
The Ten Thousand Islands are a gorgeous, labyrinthine chain of mangrove islets and islands just off the southwestern coast of Florida. These islands are home to countless marine species, making them a favorite spot for kayakers to visit. If you’re not up for canoeing or kayaking, you can opt for a boat tour instead – go to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades National Park to book a spot.
You can also sleep under the stars here. Bring a few supplies and pitch a tent at one of the three different campsite types. You can choose from chickees (platforms over water), beach sites along the coast, and ground sites located near rivers and bays.
While in town, stay at the LGBTQ-owned Parkway Motel and Marina in Chokoloskee. Check out our video below which includes a recap of our Chokoloskee experience in the Florida Everglades.
Rent A Bike And Go Cycling
If the weather is warm and sunny, why not go for a bike ride? There are five unique bike trails that visitors can explore here, ranging in length from three to fifteen miles. Cycling is a great way to immerse yourself in the Everglades’ natural beauty, soak up the different trail landscapes, and spot the local flora and fauna.
Rent a bike from one of the different bike rentals nearby. There are different options to choose from depending on your budget and how much cycling you want to do. You can rent one by the day or for the duration of your entire trip.
Paddle Through Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail
Nine Mile Canoe Trail is a fun place to explore for experienced canoers and newbie paddlers alike. Keep in mind that this trail is best navigated when the dry season is over. Otherwise, there may not be enough water for you to smoothly paddle through the trail.
This looped trail located near the Homestead Entrance stretches up to 5.5 miles and can be navigated by canoers of all skill levels. Make sure to pack a picnic with you, as this route can take a whole morning or afternoon to complete. The scenery is worth it though, as it gives you a chance to glimpse several mangrove islets, tunnels, and Florida’s unique wildlife.
Explore The Big Cypress National Preserve
The Big Cypress National Preserve is one of the Sunshine State’s hidden gems. Home to five distinct ecosystems, the preserve is inhabited by many of Florida’s native animals and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for wading birds, manatees, black bears, or even the elusive Florida panther.
Take a free ranger-guided tour or join a private themed tour to navigate your way through the preserve, whether on foot, by buggy, or by boat. It’s a prime destination for those who want to camp, birdwatch, and learn more about Florida’s wildlife.
Go For An Airboat Tour
Traveling with a group? Make your Everglades adventure unforgettable by hopping on an airboat and exploring the wetlands together! Instead of spending hours paddling, you can sit back and relax as the giant rear fan propels your airboat through the water.
There are many companies offering airboat tours where expert guides teach you more about Florida’s plants and animals. Explore the beauty of the mangrove tunnels, get up close to the wildlife, and navigate deeper into the water trails of the Everglades. We recommend that you ride a covered airboat for protection against the heat on a sunny day.
Take A Kayak Eco Tour
There are several unique kayaking tours that you can take through the Everglades for unparalleled access to the natural scenery. Some of them will focus on showing you a certain species, such as manatees or dolphins. Others will navigate specific areas, such as the Wilderness Waterway or the Ten Thousand Islands.
Book a tour that suits your group’s tastes, budget, and schedule. You can do this by checking out private tours online in advance or by scheduling a tour at one of the various visitors’ centers in the Everglades.
Try Saltwater And Freshwater Fishing
As one of the only two everglades in the world, the Florida Everglades offers an incredible ecosystem that’s perfect for fishing throughout the year. The national park is home to freshwater, saltwater, and brackish water habitats, offering a diverse variety of fish species to catch.
Cast your line in one of the many bodies of water here to catch fish such as largemouth bass, redfish, and speckled trout. You can fish while kayaking, or hop aboard a fishing charter so you can cover more ground while a captain handles all the navigating.
For more experienced anglers, you may want to join one of the many fishing tournaments regularly held here. The Everglades Bassmasters often hold open competitions promoting bass fishing and the restoration of the Everglades.
Families should join Hook ‘Em In The Glades together for a fun activity that children can participate in. The cherry on top of this fishing tournament in the Ten Thousand Islands is that it raises funds to support Everglades City School.
Visit Shark Valley
Spend the day touring the Shark Valley Trails in the Everglades to have a peek at one of the world’s most amazing ecosystems. Surprisingly, you won’t encounter sharks here – the valley’s name is a reference to the sharks that were often seen downriver near the sea.
The trail leads to an observation tower that stands 65 feet tall, where you can look over the vast marshlands and mangrove forests. You can walk, bike, or take a guided tour by tram to the observation tower. Along the way, you may encounter animals such as herons, turtles, and American alligators.
Try These Fun Outdoor Activities In The Everglades
The Paradise Coast is known for fabulous beaches and cultural experiences, and it’s conveniently near the vast wilderness of the Everglades. Nature lovers who are vacationing in the area should set at least a day aside to explore the great outdoors here.
If you’re not sure what to do in this expansive natural park, fret not! Just check out our list to find out which activities to try while you’re there. This simple guide will help you plan an adventure-packed trip to the Everglades, whether you’re traveling solo or in a group.
Looking for more things to do along the Paradise Coast? Check out our guide to Southwest Florida.
***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.