Everglades National Park
An unparalleled landscape of tropic wetlands, Everglades National Park is one of America’s most singular treasures. Here, rare discoveries are plentiful, like the area manatee, the American crocodile and the endangered Florida panther. A slow-moving river stretching 60 miles wide and 100 miles long helped create the Everglades, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to form a complex ecosystem of cypress swamps, mangrove forests and hardwood hammocks. Here are just some of the many attractions the Everglades have to offer:
On the water
Called the “River of Grass,” much of the Everglades are under water, making way for some of America’s most unique water exploits, where visitors can search for gators. The Everglades are infamous for airboat tours, where visitors skim the water at exhilarating speeds. Meanwhile, swamp buggies are Florida’s version of off-roading adventure, maneuvering through some of the Everglades’ most muddy marshes. The national park is also home to the Ten Thousand Islands, a labyrinth of water, mangroves and tiny islands, and the Wilderness Waterway, a 100-mile boat trail system through rivers, lagoons and bays, where birds, alligators, manatees and sea turtles call the Everglades home. Many visitors come to kayak or canoe, trekking into the bracken heart of the Everglades swamp.
Under the sea
South of the Everglades, Biscayne National Park protects this Florida bay and its offshore barrier reefs, including the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States and the third largest corral barrier reef system in the world. Encompassing more than 170,000 acres, most of it under water, Biscayne National Park is an underwater wilderness teeming with tropical fish, elkhorn coral and even scattered shipwrecks for beginner and experienced divers to explore. Remember, coral is fragile. Simply touching coral can cause it to die, so as the National Park Service suggests, “swim as though you were finning through an expensive china shop.”
On Everglades’ land
Back in the Everglades (and on solid ground), visitors can explore Shark Valley, which (believe it or not) has nothing to do with marine creatures. Instead, the valley is a slice of National Park Service grounds located in the cypress, hardwood and riverine section of the Everglades, and it’s more jungle than grass. A 15-mile paved trail lets visitors explore the park on bike. Halfway along the trail, the 50-foot-high Shark Valley Observation Tower offers dramatically different views of the park from this panoramic perch. There are a number of hiking trails throughout the Everglades to fuel your adventurous spirit.
Where to stay:
The Everglades, a national treasure in its own right, becomes a real gem when paired with an hour-and-a-half drive up north to Miami Beach for a luxurious stay at a historic hotel. After a day in the wetlands, one of these retreats will feel like a Florida paradox:
- National Hotel: Enter a classic era of grace, elegance and style at National Hotel Miami Beach, an authentically restored Art Deco landmark that epitomizes the mood and décor of the 1940s, redefined with a modern panache.
- Casa Claridge: Stylish, relaxed and easy, Casa Claridge is more of a home than a hotel, welcoming its guests to a whole new Miami experience by combining art and leisure in a charming residential atmosphere.