Unlike many National Parks, the Everglades doesn’t have a central entrance or iconic landmark that people flock to, so planning a trip to the area needs a little investigation. There are serval great sites to visit and the best place to start is on the NPS website so that you can get the lay of the land.
Our adventure took us to the Big Cypress Reserve, located on the western end of the Tamiami Trail as you head east across toward Miami and the Keys. It is a great place to experience what the Everglades has to offer. In total, the Everglades encompasses over 1.5 million acres of wetlands and protects a wide variety of flora and fauna along with providing water flow throughout the vast swampy area of Florida. Threatened by development the Park was established in 1947 to preserve the natural and cultural legacy that is bountiful in the region.
While technically, Big Cypress sits just outside of the National Park it is managed and protected by the National Park Service and is easily accessible off of US 41. For a great off-road experience, we recommend the Loop Road Scenic Drive. This 24-mile gravel road takes you right out into the thick of things where with a keen eye you will spot extraordinary sites around every corner. You can view a detailed guide of the drive by clicking the image below.
Naturally, the American crocodile is the most popular resident of the area, however, if you are lucky enough you may catch a glimpse of a manatee, river otter, or even the rare Florida panther. If you are looking for an up-close gator experience, there is no doubt that you will find that on this road trip. On our excursion, we saw dozens of them – in the water, on land, and often, sun-bathing right on the road. Clearly, you need to approach with caution, and if truth be told, we didn’t get out of the car too many times during our trip! As with anywhere you wander, it’s so important to stop and really examine the environment around you because there are so many incredible things to see. The plants, flowers, and trees are delicate and otherworldly. The reflections, the sky, the smells, the sounds can really take you back to a primeval time. Here you truly feel like you are a million miles (and years) away from the modern world. Put this one on your list of things to do when traveling in the Sunshine State. We added a few images from our trip below. Enjoy, and remember, Be Forever Wandering But Not Lost!