Air Tours

Wings Ten Thousand Islands Aero Tours. These 20-minute to nearly two-hour flightseeing tours of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and Gulf of Mexico operate November through April. Aboard an Alaskan Bush plane, you can see saw-grass prairies, American Indian shell mounds, alligators, and wading birds. Rates start at $50 and go up to $120 for a two-hour Everglades tour (per person with groups of three or four). Flights also can be booked to the Keys, connecting to the Dry Tortugas. Everglades Airpark, 650 Everglades City Airpark Rd., Everglades City, FL, 33149. 239/695–3296.

Boating and Canoeing

On the Gulf Coast explore the nooks, crannies, and mangrove islands of Chokoloskee Bay and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, as well as rivers near Everglades City. The Turner River Canoe Trail, popular and populated even on Christmas as a pleasant day trip with almost guaranteed bird and alligator sightings, passes through mangrove tunnels, dwarf cypress, coastal prairie, and freshwater slough ecosystems of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Glades Haven Marina. Access Ten Thousand Islands waters in a 19-foot Sundance or a 17-foot Flicker fishing boat. Rates start at $200 a day, plus fuel, with half-day and hourly options. The outfitter also rents kayaks and canoes and has a 24-hour boat ramp and dockage for up to 24-foot vessels. Launch your own boat for $15, a canoe or kayak for $5. 801 Copeland Ave. S, Everglades City, FL, 34139. 239/695–2628.


Shark Valley Bicycle Rentals. You can gaze at gators while getting your exercise, too, by renting a bike at the Shark Valley Visitor Center. The same outfitter that operates the tram tours rents bikes as well. Pedal along 15 miles of paved, level roadway (no hills or dales) to the observation tower and back while keeping an eye on plentiful roadside reptiles. Bikes, rented at $9 per hour, are single gear, coaster-style two-wheelers with baskets and helmets available, along with some child seats for kids under 35 pounds. The well-used fleet also includes a few 20-inch junior models. You'll need a driver's license or other ID for a deposit. Arm yourself with water, insect repellent, and sunscreen. Shark Valley Visitor Center, Shark Valley Loop Rd., Shark Valley, Miami, FL, 33194. 305/221–8776.


Some of the park's best birding is in the Flamingo area.

Everglades Birding

Where birds of a feather flock, birders often do, too. Each January on Martin Luther King Weekend, the Everglades Birding Festival attracts enthusiasts from far and wide. Field workshops cover "birding by ear," habitat, behavior, advanced skills, photography, and other topics. Target species range from the peregrine falcon to the purple swamp hen and plenty of feathered wonders in between. For info, check out


The 99-mile inland Wilderness Trail between Flamingo and Everglades City is open to motorboats as well as canoes, although, depending on water levels, powerboats may have trouble navigating above Whitewater Bay. Flat-water canoeing and kayaking are best in winter, when temperatures are moderate, rainfall diminishes, and mosquitoes back off—a little, anyway. You don't need a permit for day trips, although there’s a seven-day, $5 launch fee for all motorized boats brought into the park. The Flamingo area has well-marked canoe trails, but be sure to tell someone where you're going and when you expect to return. Getting lost is easy, and spending the night without proper gear can be unpleasant, if not dangerous.

Flamingo Lodge, Marina, and Everglades National Park Tours. Everglades National Park's official concessionaire operates a marina, runs tours, and rents canoes, kayaks, and skiffs, secured by credit cards. A one-hour, 45-minute backcountry cruise aboard the 50-passenger Pelican ($32.50) winds under a heavy canopy of mangroves, revealing abundant wildlife—from alligators, crocodiles, and turtles to herons, hawks, and egrets. Renting a 17-foot, 40-hp skiff from 7 am runs $195 per day (eight hours, if returned by 4 pm), $150 per half day, or $80 for two hours; there is a $100 credit card deposit required. Canoes for up to three paddlers rent for $16 for two hours (minimum), $22 for four hours, $32 for eight hours, and $40 overnight. Family canoes for up to four go for $20 for two hours, $30 for four hours, $40 for eight hours, and $50 for 24 hours. The concessionaire also rents bikes, binoculars, rods, reels, and other equipment for up to a full day. Feeling sticky after a day in the ‘Glades? Hot showers are $3. (Flamingo Lodge, a victim of massive hurricane damage in 2005, remains closed pending a fresh start.) An experimental Eco Tent of canvas and wood, unveiled in winter 2012–13, was booked solid for the season. Built by University of Miami architecture students, Eco Tent sleeps four, has a table and chairs, and wins rave reviews from designers, park officials, and campers. It's a prototype for up to 40 more units, once funding is secured. 1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy., on Buttonwood Canal, Flamingo, FL, 33034. 239/695–3101; 239/695–0124 Eco Tent reservations.

Everglades National Park Boat Tours. In conjunction with boat tours at Flamingo, this operation runs 1½-hour trips ($32) through the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Adventure-seekers often see dolphins, manatees, bald eagles, and roseate spoonbills. In peak season (November–April), 49-passenger boats run on the hour and half hour daily. Mangrove wilderness tours ($40) on smaller boats are for up to six passengers. These one-hour, 45-minute trips are the best option to see alligators. The outfitter also rents canoes ($24 per day) and kayaks (from $45 per day) plus tax. Ask about group discounts. Gulf Coast Visitor Center, 815 Oyster Bar La., Everglades City, FL, 34139. 239/695–2591 or 866/628–7275.

Everglades Rentals & Eco Adventures. Ivey House Inn houses this established, year-round source for guided Everglades paddling tours and rentals. Canoes cost $35 the first day, $29 daily thereafter. Daylong kayak rentals are from $45. Shuttles deliver you to major launching areas such as Turner River ($25 for the first person, $5 for each additional person, round-trip). Highlights include bird and gator sightings, mangrove forests, no-man's-land beaches, and spectacular sunsets. Longer adventures include equipment rental, guide, and meals. Ivey House, 107 Camellia St., Everglades City, FL, 34139. 877/567–0679 or 239/695–3299.

Buffalo Tiger's Airboat Tours. A former chief of Florida's Miccosukee tribe—Buffalo Tiger, who died in January 2015 at the age of 94—founded this Shark Valley–area tour operation, and his spirit carries on. Savvy guides narrate the trip to an old Indian camp on the north side of Tamiami Trail from the Native American perspective. Don't worry about airboat noise, since engines are shut down during informative talks. The 45-minute tours go 10–5 Saturday through Thursday at $27.50 per person. Look online for discount coupons. Reservations are not required, and credit cards are now accepted at this once cash-only outpost. 29708 S.W. 8th St., 5 miles east of Shark Valley, 25 miles west of Florida's Tpke., Miami, FL, 33194. 305/559–5250.

Guided Tours

Shark Valley Tram Tours. Starting at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, these popular two-hour, narrated tours ($23) on bio-diesel trams follow a 15-mile loop road—great for viewing gators—into the interior, stopping at a 50-foot observation tower. Bring your own water. Reservations are strongly recommended December through April. Shark Valley Visitor Center, Shark Valley Loop Rd., Miami, FL, 33194. 305/221–8455. Tours Dec.–Apr., daily hourly 9–4; May–Nov., daly hourly 9–3.

Boat Tours

Many Everglades-area tours operate only in season, roughly November through April.

Coopertown Airboats. In business since 1945, the oldest airboat operator in the Everglades offers 35- to 40-minute tours ($23) that take you 9 miles to hammocks and alligator holes to see red-shouldered hawks or turtles. You also can book private charters of up to two hours. 22700 S.W. 8th St., Miami, FL, 33144. 11 miles west of Florida's Tpke. 305/226–6048.

Everglades Alligator Farm. Open daily near the entrance to Everglades National Park, this working farm—home of the late 14-foot "Grandpa" gator (now mounted for display)—runs a 4-mile, 30-minute airboat tour with departures 25 minutes after the hour. The tour ($23) includes free hourly alligator, snake, and wildlife shows; or see only the gator farm and show ($15.50). Alligator feedings are at noon and 3 pm. Look for online coupons. 40351 S.W. 192nd Ave., Homestead, FL, 33034. 305/247–2628.

Miccosukee Information Center. The 30-minute narrated airboat ride ($16) departs from the information center (about 18 miles from the Miccosukee Resort) and stops at a 100-year-old family camp in the Everglades so passengers can hear tales and explore a little on foot. U.S. 41, just west of Shark Valley entrance, 25 miles west of Florida's Tpke., Miami, FL, 33125. 305/480–1924 or 305/552–8365.

Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours. This classic Florida roadside attraction, now under new ownership, runs airboat tours (starting at $28 per person) through the Everglades for up to 22 people and swamp-buggy rides ($24 per person) through the Big Cypress Swamp for up to 25 passengers. Each lasts approximately 30 minutes. (Swamp-buggies are giant tractorlike vehicles with huge rubber wheels.) More personalized airboat tours on smaller boats, seating six to eight, last about an hour. An on-site animal sanctuary with a live gator show ($8) shelters the typical Everglades array of alligators, snakes, and other creatures. Some packages include an airboat ride, swamp-buggy adventure, and sanctuary access. Rates change frequently, but check out the website for combo packages. 32330 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL, 34141. 1½ miles east of Rte. 29. 239/695–2781 or 800/282–2781. Daily 8:30–5; last ride departs at 4:30.

Auto Racing

Homestead-Miami Speedway. Buzzing more than 280 days each year, the speedway hosts racing, manufacturer testing, car-club events, driving schools, and ride-along programs. The facility has 65,000 grandstand seats, club seating eight stories above racing action, and two tracks—a 2.21-mile continuous road course and a 1.5-mile oval. A packed schedule includes GRAND-AM and NASCAR events. Two tunnels on the grounds are below sea level. 1 Speedway Blvd., Homestead, FL, 33035. 866/409–7223.

Water Sports

Homestead Bayfront Park. Boaters, anglers, and beachgoers give high ratings to facilities at this recreational area adjacent to Biscayne National Park. The 174-slip Herbert Hoover Marina, accommodating up to 50-foot vessels, has a ramp, dock, bait-and-tackle shop, fuel station, ice, and dry storage. The park also has a snack bar, tidal swimming area, a beach with lifeguards, playground, ramps for people with disabilities, and a picnic pavilion with grills, showers, and restrooms. 9698 S.W. 328th St., Homestead, FL, 33033. 305/230–3033. $7 per passenger vehicle; $12 per vehicle with boat Mon.–Thurs., $15 Fri.–Sun.; $15 per RV or bus. Daily sunrise–sunset.

Ranger Programs

From the Oasis Visitor Center you can get in on the seasonal ranger-led or self-guided activities, such as campfire and wildlife talks, hikes, slough slogs, and canoe excursions. The 8-mile Turner River Canoe Trail begins nearby and crosses through Everglades National Park before ending in Chokoloskee Bay, near Everglades City. Rangers lead four-hour canoe trips and two-hour swamp walks in season; call for days and times. Bring shoes and long pants for swamp walks and be prepared to wade at least knee-deep in water. Ranger program reservations are accepted up to 14 days in advance.


More than 170 species of birds have been identified in and around the park. Expect to see flocks of brown pelicans patrolling the bay—suddenly rising, then plunging beak first to capture prey in their baggy pouches. White ibis probe exposed mudflats for small fish and crustaceans. Although all the Keys are excellent for birding, Jones Lagoon (south of Adams Key, between Old Rhodes Key and Totten Key) is outstanding. It's approachable only by nonmotorized craft.

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving is great year-around but best in summer, when calmer winds and smaller seas result in clearer waters. Ocean waters, 3 miles east of the Keys, showcase the park's main attraction—the northernmost section of Florida's living tropical coral reefs. Some are the size of an office desk, others as large as a football field. Glass-bottom-boat rides, when operating, showcase this underwater wonderland, but you really should snorkel or scuba dive to fully appreciate it.

A diverse population of colorful fish—angelfish, gobies, grunts, parrotfish, pork fish, wrasses, and many more—flits through the reefs. Shipwrecks from the 18th century are evidence of the area's international maritime heritage, and a Maritime Heritage Trail has been developed to link six of the major shipwreck and underwater cultural sites including the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, built in 1878. Sites, including a 19th-century wooden sailing vessel, have been plotted with GPS coordinates and marked with mooring buoys.