Due west of Miami’s bright lights lies Everglades National Park, an outdoor oasis where nature’s beauty and fragility is on year-round display. This remote yet easily accessible refuge – known as the River of Grass – sits on Miami’s doorstep, sprawling 7,800 square miles across the region’s rugged landscape. It takes only about an hour from Downtown Miami to reach the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states, a unique ecosystem of mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, freshwater prairies and hundreds of bird, animal and plant species. Miami may be known for its wild side but the Everglades are, in every way, decidedly wilder.
More than a million people visit this unique International Biosphere Reserve every year. The main entrance point is in Homestead. It offers educational displays and easy access to several walking trails. The other route is through the Shark Valley Visitor Center, a straight 40-mile shot from Little Havana’s Callé Ocho, westward along the Tamiami Trail. From this gateway, the sensuously winding waterways, tall grasses and mangrove islets of the Everglades are revealed via a looping 15-mile ribbon of road, frequented by Florida’s famous alligators. Explore it on a guided tram tour or, if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike onsite.
Whether you visit in the dry season (November through March) or the wet season (April through October), you’ll be enchanted by the beauty and diversity of this wetland park. The Everglades is a birder’s delight, with more than 360 species including the snowy egret, limpkin and roseate spoonbill. Snook, snapper and tarpon are among 70 types of fish in the park’s waters. You’re nearly guaranteed to spot alligators basking on the water’s edge. Walking trails as well as kayak and canoe rentals encourage leisurely exploration. If you plan to spend the night, several campgrounds offer welcoming spots to rest.
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