While I’ve failed to have a bad National Park experience thus far, I was open to the possibility that visiting the Florida Everglades National Park might be my first. The rumors of mosquitoes, thick like clouds, combined with the seemingly dangerous, if not deadly, animal population was enough to make me second guess our sanity. Thankfully, once again, I was shown the error in my thinking and my preconceived notions were corrected and realigned. Perhaps you are curious to know what it’s like to visit the Florida Everglades National Park in your RV.
Here is my quick rundown:
During our visit, we were able to view multiple crocodiles sunning themselves in plain view just a short walk from to the visitor center. We also saw both alligators and crocodiles on our ranger-led canoe trip (more on that below). Two days later we were treated to an up close and personal view of several manatees in the marina near the visitor center. The following day, several bottlenose dolphins were swimming in the bay and we could easily see them cresting as they made their way across the Gulf. In addition to these new-to-us viewings, we also enjoyed sightings of many bird species including Coots, Pelicans, Osprey, Turkey Vultures, Egrets, and the Great Blue Heron.
One of my favorite aspects of the National Park system is the ranger-led activities. The number of talks, walks, and tours available in the Florida Everglades National Park amazed us. During our stay they offered a free 3.5-hour morning guided canoe trip, daily 30-minute afternoon talks and a one-hour program every other evening. They also offered bird walks, tropical tree walks as well as a ranger-led car caravan.
Know Before You Go:
- The Jr. Ranger program at the Florida Everglades National Park requires 4 pages to be completed regardless of age. You can ask for ranger packets at the visitor center, park entrance or even when checking in to your camping site. Or if you really want to be ahead of the curve, search online and print your own copy ahead of time! Activities in the booklet are not difficult and there were many to choose from.
- The 3.5-hour ranger-led canoe trip is free and for ages 10 and up. Ages 14 and up may paddle. Reservations are expected. You can reserve your spot at the visitor center. It was expected that both paddlers be from the same party/family. One underage (10-13) rider may sit between the two paddlers in the middle of the canoe. Surprisingly, mosquitoes were practically non-existent due to fish eating up the larvae. This made for an unexpectedly pleasant bug-free morning. I highly recommend this tour.
- Bikes were a plus for our stay. We used them on several occasions to ride to the nearby visitor center (about 1.5 miles from the campground) or the beach (think clay, not sand) although we could have easily used the car.
- The Flamingo RV campground is about 38 miles past the entrance of the park. Although the town of Homestead is just outside the Everglades Park, it will take you at least 45 minutes (one way) to drive there. We planned ahead and did our grocery shopping for the week before arriving so that we would not have to leave the park for food. Speaking of food, there is a small restaurant at the Flamingo visitor center (the one by the RV park). We never ate there but that is an option if you want to make use of it.
- We currently use Verizon and Wi-Fi within the park was non-existent for us. However, I’ve heard that people with AT&T were able to get service. There is free Wi-Fi at the visitor center. The visitor center closes at 4:30 each day but the doors remain unlocked and you can access the Wi-Fi both within the building our just outside of it. We took the opportunity to decompress from our devices and found our week without the Internet to be a welcomed change.
- Mosquitoes were the main drawback to our stay in the Everglades. Come equipped with good bug spray. During the dry season (from December-April) you will find the mosquito numbers to be most favorable. Keep in mind that “favorable” is a loosely used term. Although our stay was technically during the dry season, we are told it has been wetter than normal this year, which meant more mosquitoes than average. We did our best to avoid being outdoors until mid-morning and then again retreated into our RV around sunset. During those early mornings and late afternoon periods of time, the number of mosquitoes felt laughable to this Idaho girl. However, even for my mid-west man, the levels were irksome. That said, from mid-morning until late afternoon most days quite pleasant. There was often a slight breeze and we could enjoy our time outside in the sun with little interaction with mosquitoes.
- Although personal safety due to wildlife was an initial concern, I can honestly say that I never felt we were in danger (even while gliding past alligators in our canoe). Having a ranger with us on our tour may have had a lot to do with that. However, I was reminded that although wildlife can be dangerous, as long as we give them adequate space and respect their young, it is possible to enjoy the same space without fear
In conclusion, what I’d previously overlooked or even discounted as irrelevant swampland, I now understand to be a unique and vital part of our country’s ecosystem. If you have the chance to visit, I think it is worth exploring!
This post was written by Heather Ledeboer of Faith Takes Flight. You can find more great ideas on places to go & things to see on IndieRV Travel Network! IndieRV provides crowd-sourced content on the Best of the Best RV destinations, activities, attractions and more! Use the promo code RVDAILYREPORT for 50% off a 1 year membership on us!