Plan a three-day visit to this sub-tropical wonderland.
Just a 30-minute drive from Naples and Marco Island, discover this special ecosystem on Florida’s Paradise Coast.
Days 1 and 2: Kayak and Camp
Naples and Marco Island visitors can enter the park in Everglades City, which accesses the less-crowded Gulf Coast saltwater portion of the national park.
In contrast to the “sawgrass prairies” at other park entrances, the Gulf Coast section is a playground for paddlers and boaters in search of wildlife, including alligators, bobcats, dolphins, fish, manatees, sea turtles and many species of birds.
Rent a canoe or kayak at Everglades National Park Boat Tours in Everglades City and take a morning paddle as the birds are stirring up breakfast. Glide across Chokoloskee Bay to visit Sandfly Island, a shell mound created by the Calusa people, or head out along the Halfway Creek/Turner River loop through mangrove tunnels lined with bird roosts.
For the full wilderness experience, the park permits camping on some of the uninhabited, white-sand islands on the Gulf of Mexico, and on raised platforms called “chickees” along the 160-kilometer Wilderness Waterway. Guides are available for half-day trips or five-day paddling and camping expeditions.
A backcountry permit, issued at the park’s Gulf Coast visitor center, is required for all wilderness campsites. Wherever you visit, speak with the rangers for maps and advice on weather and tides.
Upon your return, stop for a meal at the famed Rod & Gun Club in Everglades City. Dine on sumptuous seafood in the antebellum mansion that has hosted such anglers as Al Capone, Ernest Hemingway, Mick Jagger and Presidents Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush.
Rent a canoe or kayak to immerse yourself in the “river of grass” – the Florida Everglades.
Day 3: Hike Unique Preserves
Celebrate your return to terra firma with a guided hike or tour through Southwest Florida’s fresh-water cypress swamps, which are home to rare orchids, bromeliads, deer, mink and birds of prey.
At Big Cypress National Preserve, the nation’s first preserve, and at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida’s largest state park, you can tour the wetlands guided by park naturalists, or stay on the boardwalks for an elevated view (without getting your feet wet). Swamp walks are offered frequently in the drier, winter months; private guides will lead excursions throughout the year.
Venture into the heart of the fabled Fakahatchee Strand Preserve on a guided swamp walk.
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is just 40 minutes to the north of the Naples area in Fort Myers, an easy drive via Interstate 75. Most major domestic airlines serve the airport; Air Berlin direct flights are also available year-round from Dusseldorf, Germany. The airport's passenger-friendly design makes the entry process fast and easy. Non-stop flights are available to and from 47 destinations.