Everglades National Park, Everglades City
State Road 29
Everglades City , Florida
Tel: 239 695 3311
Concierge.com's insider take:
Although this is the third-biggest national park in the Lower 48, there is only one access point from Florida's Gulf Coast—Everglades City, on the park's northwest border. Here the landscape is much different from the classic saw grass prairie, hardwood hammocks, and cypress swamp characterizing the east side of the 2,358-square-mile park, the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River. Instead, the dominating feature is the mangrove forest of the Ten Thousand Islands, a labyrinth of ever-shifting islets and channels that is critical habitat for numerous species of fish and birds, as well as such endangered animals as the saltwater American crocodile. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is the gateway for exploring the grandest mangrove swamp in North America. Park naturalists lead 90-minute boat trips, or you can rent a canoe and poke around Chokoloskee Bay and the Turner River by yourself to spot alligators, greenhouse frogs, bats, and butterflies. For experienced paddlers, this is also the northern launching point of the Wilderness Waterway, a winding, 99-mile inland route south to Flamingo, which takes nine days by canoe and requires a park permit. North American Canoe Tours (239-695-3299; evergladesadventures.com) can arrange day trips or multiday expeditions.
The park's Gulf Coast entrance is open around the clock. Visitor center is open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm.