A Winter Escape to the Florida Everglades
If you’re looking to explore the South Florida national parks, we’ll just about always suggest a winter visit. That is especially true for Everglades National Park. The summer heat and humidity are almost unbearable, but almost more important than the astronomical seasons is the rainy season vs. the dry season.
In the Everglades, the rainy season runs from mid-May through November, and the dry season is December through April. While no one likes a rainy vacation, the Everglades is all about water. Thus, you want to make sure you are visiting when there is plenty of water—that means late in the wet season or early in the dry season.
Walking the boardwalk of the Anhinga Trail is a must!/Photo by Bonnie and Grant Sinclair
We have now visited Everglades National Park twice in February, and I have to say, that was just about the perfect time of year to visit. Granted, we don’t have other visits to compare it to, but we really enjoyed both visits and thought the timing was just about perfect. The temperatures were quite nice as well, with highs generally in the upper 70s to low 80s.
In terms of what to see and do at Everglades National Park, my absolute must-do suggestion is to walk the Anhinga and Gumbo Limgo Trails. Both of these are short, easy walks that anyone should be able to handle, and they’re also both wheelchair-accessible.
The Anhinga Trail is actually a boardwalk through a sawgrass marsh, where you’re likely to see alligators, turtles, and tons of fish and birds. The adjacent Gumbo Limbo Trail travels through the shade of the gumbo limbo trees, royal palms, ferns, and air plants. These two trails really give you a sense of the two completely different ecosystems and habitats in the Everglades.
One of several alligators we spotted during our airboat tour of the Everglades/Photo by Bonnie and Grant Sinclair
If you’re looking for a little more adventure, an airboat ride is a fun way to get out on the “river of grass” and see more of the park’s backcountry. There are many area concessionaires offering airboat tours, and we certainly recommend one of the three that are authorized by the park service for tours inside Everglades National Park. We chose Coopertown, the oldest of the three. In addition to the airboat tour, they offered a short talk on retiles in the area.
Perhaps our favorite activity at Everglades National Park was a ranger-led canoe tour on Nine Mile Pond. We really enjoyed getting away from the crowds and paddling through the mangroves. The best part about the canoe tour? It was completely free! Just call the Flamingo Visitor Center and sign up for a space a few days in advance. They will provide the canoes, paddles, life jackets, and the tour guide. Yes, we encountered several alligators, some closer than others… that’s what made it interesting!
Listening to the ranger during our guided canoe paddle on Nine Mile Pond/Photo by Bonnie and Grant Sinclair
You can do this canoe trail on your own, but the path can be difficult to follow, so talk with a ranger before heading out. You can bring your own canoe or rent one at the Flamingo area marina.
If you time it right, you could do all of these things in one day. There’s quite a bit more to see and do in and around Everglades National Park, though, so I suggest giving yourself at least two or three days at this park. I haven’t even mentioned the Shark Valley area, Gulf Coast area, or the adjacent Big Cypress National Preserve—all of these are well worth a visit.
For more information on visiting Everglades National Park, check out our detailed post on Things to Do at Everglades National Park. For those with more time, check out our guide to visiting all of the South Florida National Parks: Everglades, Big Cypress, Biscayne National Park, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
Header photo: By Brian Call/Courtesy of NPS
Grant and Bonnie Sinclair are the founders of the travel blog, Our Wander-Filled Life. Both Georgia natives, they’ve lived in the Southeast their entire lives, and currently reside in Woodstock, Georgia, where they both work as high school teachers. When school is out, they hit the road to explore and learn more about the country through its national parks.