15 Best Things to Do in Everglades National Park, FL

Everglades National Park, FL
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The Everglades National Park in Southern Florida is one of the few places left in America where you can experience an authentic taste of the natural, subtropical wilderness.

Established in 1947, UNESCO added it to its World Heritage Sites that deserve protection because of its fragile ecosystem.

The Everglades is a popular tourist destination because of its lush, thriving nature—from marshes, mangroves, and swamps to diverse wildlife—which equate to adventurous outdoors trips.

For people not yet sure of their adventure, the Everglades National Park has plenty of activities that can push you out of your comfort zone.

Take a break from city life and try the outdoors with this world-acclaimed national park!

Here are the 15 best things to do in Everglades National Park, FL:

Book a Slough Slog at Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

Exterior of Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
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In 1996, this visiting center opened, named after one of the founders of Everglades National Park, Ernest F. Coe.

Located along State Highway, this center allows you to book a unique activity—slough slog—which brings its visitors to a beautiful off-trail hike where you’ll walk through massive piles of mud reaching up to your knees.

Florida panther statue on the grounds of Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
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If that’s not your fancy, you can still roam around the visiting center, look into their artwork collection, and learn about Everglades through their infographic videos and brochures.

Plus, you can check out their quaint gift shop and bring home souvenirs like postcards.

Bring sunscreen and insect repellent when you head towards Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center.

Boardwalk leading to Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center's entrance
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Stroll along the Mahogany Hammock Trail

Swamp beside the Mahogany Hammock Trail
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Connect with nature as you walk through the Mahogany Hammock Trail, located in Homestead right at Mahogany Hammock Road.

It’s a smooth, wooden-carved boardwalk littered with large trees and plants, making it seem like a safe, straight trek through dense jungles.

Trees shading the Mahogany Hammock Trail
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Squint your eyes through the dense forests, and you might see some of the Everglades’ wildlife.

If you’re unlucky, don’t worry because there are other sights to admire on the Mahogany Trail, like the largest living Mahogany tree in all United States.

Take a deep breath and admire the realistic view of this boardwalk in Everglades National Park.

Nature view from Mahogany Hammock Trail
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Learn History in the Museum of the Everglades

Exterior of Museum of the Everglades
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Situated west of Broadway Avenue, you’ll find the Museum of the Everglades, listed in the US National Register of Historic Places.

This museum may seem like an average house in Florida, but it has stood there since 1928, enduring many reconstructions as its owners and function changed to a historical museum.

Visitors to this house will learn about the 2000-year history of Everglades and the area surrounding it, including the tale of Florida’s Last Frontier.

Welcome sign of Museum of the Everglades
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The gist is that Florida was originally a separate country until the Great Depression in the 1930s, which forced it to enter the United States.

Aside from that, the museum has changing exhibits so locals and frequent guests can have new learning experiences.

Head to the Museum of Everglades to know more about the area you’re traveling in.

Set Up Your Tent at the Long Pine Key Campground

An alligator on the waters of Long Pine Key Campground
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What better way to experience the wilderness if not camping?

Long Pine Key Campground is one of the camping venues in Everglades National Park, where guests can set up tents and experience an overnight stay outdoors with little help from staff.

What makes this campground special are the rare pinelands surrounding it.

Loggers already cut down many pinewood trees before the park could apply the conservation rule.

Luckily, they could find these grounds and protect them from any further logging activities.

Visit this one-of-a-kind camping spot, located a few miles from Homestead, and surround yourself with the presence of nature.

Relax at the Highland Beach Campsite

Everglades National Park is not just home to forests, jungles, and rough terrains.

It’s also home to this tropical beach campsite near Highland Point.

With white sand and a soothing view of Rodger’s River, the Highland Beach Campsite appears like an oasis to travelers who want a break from the wilderness.

Rare Australian pines and tall coconut trees are scattered around the beach premises.

You can set up your tents on the sandy parts of the area but make sure that it’s not too close to the river to avoid high tides.

You can also watch raccoons, a prominent species in the area, who may rummage through your belongings.

Look for Wildlife on the Anhinga Trail

Waters below the Anhinga Trail
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Established in 1996, the Anhinga Trail is famous because of the abundant wildlife nestled on the sawgrass marshes beneath the boardwalk.

It presents a clear, overlooking view from above and has led to the discovery of exciting interactions among wildlife.

People on the Anhinga Trail
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A famous example is an eye-catching fight between a Burmese python and an alligator which tourists captured and posted online, drawing plenty of views.

Currently, most of the species living in this marsh include alligators, turtles, anhinga, herons, egrets, and many other animals.

Take on this easy trail, found near Royal Palm Visitor Center, and you might see evidence of the national park’s unique ecosystem.

An alligator below the Anhinga Trail
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Ride a Tram at the Shark Valley Visitor Center

Tourist tram at Shark Valley Visitor Center
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For a more casual experience, the Shark Valley Visitor Center offers rental bikes and guided tram tours where you can sightsee and listen to trivia from friendly and educated tour guides.

This center is also the entrance to Everglades Loop, a long-cemented road in the middle of vast plains, where you can enjoy the sights while biking through a smooth path.

The observation tower of Shark Valley Visitor Center
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There’s also an observation tower, accessible through the tram and bike road, which allows you to have a stunning, bird’s eye view of Everglades National Park.

Visit this center to learn about the Everglades in a safe and relaxed setting.

Those interested in this center can find it along SW 8th Street.

Two people riding bikes along Shark Valley Visitor Center's paved road
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Join a Ranger with Royal Palm Ranger Guided Tours

Choose from their ranger-led programs and learn from a professional ranger as you discover all there is to know about the Everglades.

There are programs for day tours where you’ll have a clear view of the sights accompanied by natural light from the sun.

Still, night tours have their unique charm where you’ll only have the stars, flashlights, and sometimes fireflies to show you a different version of Everglades National Park.

One thing’s for sure—your ranger will indeed teach you plenty of information and trade secrets of the wilderness.

If you’re interested, stop by the Royal Palm area, close to Homestead’s main entrance, and meet one of their rangers!

Unwind on a Boat Tour of Flamingo Marina

The dock of Flamingo Marina
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At times, hiking can be tiring, so you can instead book a boat tour in Flamingo Marina.

You can still feel the wind in your hair and have great views of the Everglades while remaining seated on the out decks of Flamingo Marina’s boat.

Flamingo Marina also offers rentals for houseboats and eco-tents, which allows you to stay overnight in the wild while still enjoying the comfort of a secure bed, safe from dangerous creatures.

Daytime view of Flamingo Marina
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Take note that houseboats require an Everglades Boater Education card since you’ll be operating the boat on your way home.

If you're worried about the rough wilderness, Flamingo Marina’s boat tours and rentals can help you have a more comfortable, luxurious stay in Everglades National Park.

Their headquarters can be found on Flamingo Lodge Highway, which you can access through Ernest Coe E. Visitor Center.

Recently opened in 2017, the AIRIE Nest Art Gallery aims to curate a modern, interdisciplinary collection of art exhibits related to Everglades National Park.

Some of its themes include the park’s history, struggles, conservation efforts, and the like.

So far, the gallery has managed to collect diverse artworks in varying mediums, such as paintings, sculptures, wood carving, and videos.

They also have plans for a rotating exhibit so that frequent visitors can have new things to look at after every season.

Located inside the Ernest Coe E. Visitor Center, guests can look at artificial wonders and appreciate the skills of their fellowmen.

Visit the HM69 Nike Missile Base

The grounds of HM69 Nike Missile Base
Pedro Sostre from Miami, FL, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled inside Everglades National Park along Long Pine Road, you’ll discover one of Florida’s historical sites—the HM69 Nike Missile Base.

This base is a remnant of the Cold War because it was built in 1965 to defend against possible attacks from the South.

The military base looks like a triangle and still contains weapon facilities and equipment such as missile barns, Nike Hercules missiles, and a missile assembly building.

Interior of the HM69 Nike Missile Base
Khowald, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They have a seasonal open-house program where guests can freely explore the location, although guests should avoid touching any items without permission.

Historical buffs shouldn’t miss out on seeing a relic from the Cold War.

Don’t forget to visit this military base if you’re ever in Everglades National Park!

Transponder in HM69 Nike Missile Base
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Kayak at the Halfway Creek Paddling Trail

There are plenty of trails in Everglades National Park, but don't miss out on the Halfway Creek Paddling Trail!

As its name suggests, this trail requires travelers to paddle along calm waters in kayaks instead of traditionally hiking on land.

The sights in this trail are also on another level—a collection of mangroves slightly intertwining to form a sort of tunnel that surrounds kayakers as they make their way through stable waters.

It’s a calming experience and a great way to explore the mangrove habitat and its animals.

Head towards the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City to access this excellent trail.

Look into the past with Smallwood Store

Exterior of the Smallwood Store
Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock.com

The Smallwood Store is an old, small-time general store that has operated since 1906, becoming one of Everglades’ historical destinations.

The building may look weak and easily destructible, but it has endured natural calamities like storms and hurricanes for over a century.

View of Smallwood Store's exterior from the waters
KimonBerlin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The store is like a time capsule because of its unchanged designs and collection of antique items.

Located in Chokoloskee within Everglades National Park, it’s perfect for a quick visit and learning a few stories from locals.

There are also purchasable snacks, drinks, local crafts, and souvenirs to enjoy before you hit the road.

Other Nearby Things to Do

Relax in Everglades Isle

Everglades Isle is a resort that expertly blends in a comfortable, luxurious retreat with the essence of nature and the wilderness in your surroundings.

Premium well-maintained facilities like a theater, Tiki bar, and resort-style saltwater pool allow guests to enjoy the resort.

They also offer golf cart rentals for those who want to roam around the area.

If you’d like to step out of their comfort and bask in thrilling nature, the Everglades National Park is only five minutes away via Copeland Avenue.

Who says that you can’t be comfortable in the wilderness?

Everglades Isle can provide you with a safe, comfortable stay in Everglades City while you run off to experience a bit about life in the outdoors.

Eat Frogs and Alligators in City Seafood

This popular restaurant, only five minutes away from Everglades National Park, serves exactly what it says in its name—seafood.

It may sound routine and boring, but know that City Seafood got its fame not from selling traditional seafood meals.

Instead, the popularity of this restaurant stems from its menu offerings which include exotic animals such as alligators, frogs, and conches.

It’s the perfect place to try something new and taste the unique flavors of Everglade City.

Try local cuisine and give frogs and alligators a chance in this unique restaurant along Begonia Street.

Final Thoughts

Most of the activities in Everglades National Park involve exploring trails and the outdoors but note that each one can still be a whole new kind of experience.

Each trail in this list has a distinct feature that sets it apart from other routes—whether it involves kayaking, slough slogs, boat tours, wilderness camping, or a beach experience.

There are also historical sites to explore, museums to learn from, and exotic foods to try.

Coupled with the allure of nature and wildlife, it’s no surprise that Everglades National Park is one of the most memorable tourist destinations in Florida.