I just came back from a long vacation in Florida, Grand Cayman, and St. Kitts. One of my highlights had to be my half day down at the Everglades. I think many people don’t realize what an amazing place the Everglades is. Furthermore, it’s SO convenient to do a half day trip there from Miami. We were staying at the Renaissance Eden Roc Miami Beach hotel, and the Everglades was on the top of our list of things to do.
I did a bunch of research at Tripadvisor, and I was pretty certain that I could make an awesome half-day itinerary, still leaving time for a nice afternoon / evening in Miami. I was right! So without anymore introduction, here’s how our trip went!
We were planning on leaving the Renaissance at around 6AM to maximize our time down there. Well, 6AM quickly turned into 8AM after a bit of snoozing. So better late than never, we were on the road by 8AM. We stopped at an Einstein’s bagels in Homestead, Florida, and after a drive of 45 to 60 minutes, we were at the entrance to the Everglades National Park. You’ll have to pay $10 to drive into the park. We stopped at the Visitor Center to ask for directions to the Annhinga Trail, but we didn’t stop in the gift shop for too long, as the weather looked pretty daunting. We wanted to get out there before the storm hit.
The Everglades is a HUGE national park. If you take a quick look at Google Maps, you’ll see that it it takes up a large chunk of the southern part of Florida. That being said, you really can get a great feel for it by just walking on the Annhinga Trail, the trail closest to the entrance. This is a paved trail that turns into a boardwalk over the water. Because of the terrain, this is an awesome place to see wildlife. On our walk, we saw three or four alligators, including one giant ten footer. We also saw a small group of baby gators.
In addition to the gators, we saw some beautiful birds and really cool scenery. It really was a fantastic walk. We drove a bit further into the park, and we took a quick stroll on one of the other trails, but we felt that the Annhinga trail was by far the coolest.
Of course… no trip to the Everglades is complete without an airboat tour! I don’t believe there are any airboat tours inside the national park itself, but I found a place called the Everglades Alligator Farm, a gator breeding center just outside of the park. If you check their website, you can get a coupon. In addition to having a crapload of gators, they also run airboat tours.
The airboat tour was pretty fantastic. We were cruising through the ‘glades at 40mph or so. It was really fun to see that because the boat just rides up on the surface, it didn’t matter if we drove over weeds, water, etc – it all felt the same. We had a great airboat driver, and she spun the boat into a full 360 a few times. For those of you who have spun around on a seadoo or jetski, it’s pretty much the same concept. After our boatride, there was an alligator show, which was cheesy but interesting at the same time. I did get to hold a baby alligator, though. The Everglades Alligator Farm was a fantastic way to top off our trip to the Everglades National Park. And we had done all of this in less than a half day.
And as a final way to finish off our morning / early afternoon adventure, we went to Versailles Cafe for lunch in Calle Ocho, or the “Little Cuba” part of Miami. It’s about 3/4 of the way to Miami Beach from the Everglades. This is an awesome restaurant, and it’s very reasonably priced. A great way to sample a bit of the Cuban flavor on your trip to Miami. After lunch, we pulled into the hotel, and it was still only afternoon time. Next time you’re in Miami, I really recommend doing a half-day down to the Everglades! You won’t be disappointed!