The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and the largest national park in the state of Florida, Everglades National Park is a must see for any nature enthusiast. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Everglades and was not disappointed.
Last week I posted a general overview of the three Florida National Parks. You can read that post here. This post will focus on everything you need to know to plan a trip to the Everglades to explore the Homestead Entrance which provides access to the southern section of the park.
The Basics – Everglades National Park
The Everglades cover the majority of southern Florida and span over 1.5 million acres across three counties. Since the park is so large it’s important to note that there are 3 different entrances into the park which are in 3 different cities. This post will focus on the Homestead Entrance, however, there are also entrances in Miami, Florida and Everglades City, Florida. The Miami entrance is also known as Shark Valley and the Everglades City entrance is also known as the Gulf Coast area.
- Address: 40001 State Road 9336 Homestead, FL 33034
The entrance fee provides access to all three entrances for 7 consecutive days.
- Vehicle: $30
- Motorcycle: $25
- Person/cyclist $15
Park Passes can also be utilized to enter the park.
- Everglades National Park Annual Pass: $55
- America the Beautiful Annual Pass: $80
- Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
- Mid-April through Mid-December Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
- Mid-December through Mid-April Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
- Royal Palm Visitor Center
- Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM
- Flamingo Visitor Center
- Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
How do I get to Everglades National Park?
If you live in Florida you can drive to the Everglades, but if you are coming out of state you will want to fly into a nearby airport and rent a car to access the park.
Driving distance from select Florida cities to the Homestead Entrance:
- Miami: ~1 hour
- Tampa: ~4 hours 45 minutes
- Orlando: ~4 hours 15 minutes
- Jacksonville: ~5 hours 30 minutes
The closest airports to the Homestead Entrance of the Everglades are Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Driving distance from select major airports to the Homestead Entrance:
- Miami International Airport: ~50 minutes
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: ~1 hour 15 minutes
- Palm Beach International Airport: ~2 hours
Where should I stay?
I recommend staying near Homestead, Florida if your primary purpose is to visit Everglades National Park. If you stay in Homestead, you should also consider visiting Biscayne National Park while you are there.
There are plenty of Airbnb’s you can rent for competitive prices in the area. We chose this Airbnb which was located in Princeton, Florida. It was a deal at only $40 per night when we were there and it was the perfect place to get some sleep during our visit. It took us approximately 25 minutes to get to the park entrance.
There are also plenty of hotels in the area if you prefer to stay in a hotel over Airbnb. Most places in the Homestead area should only be a 20–30-minute drive to the Homestead entrance of the Everglades National Park.
If you also want to experience Miami nightlife you could consider staying closer to the city, but will have at least an hour’s drive to the park depending on the exact location in Miami you chose to stay.
When should I visit Everglades National Park?
The Everglades has two seasons, dry and wet. Most visitors come during the dry season for two reasons. First, the temperatures are much cooler during the dry season. Second, with cooler temperatures and less rain, there are also fewer mosquitoes.
- Dry season: December through April
- Wet season: is May through November
The park is more likely to be crowded during the dry season as this is when most people plan to visit. If you visit during peak season, arriving early and visiting during the week are both tips to avoid larger crowds.
I visited the park in late November, and overall had pleasant weather. We only had issues with mosquitoes in the park near the Flamingo Visitor Center. We attempted two different trails in that area, but quickly headed back to the car due to A LOT of mosquitoes even despite using generous amounts of bug spray.
How many days should I spend?
This really depends what all you would like to do in Everglades National Park. I would recommend at least 1 day per park entrance you plan to explore. We spent 1 day at the Homestead entrance and 1 day at Shark Valley. However, you can easily spend more time and your park entrance fee is good for up to 7 consecutive days.
What should I pack?
For hiking you want to wear comfortable clothes, the exact clothes you will want may vary slightly based on the time of year. Be sure to check the weather, but I packed leggings, a tank top, and a rain jacket for each day of hiking. Even if you plan to go to the Everglades during dry season, I recommend packing a rain jacket because a quick Florid rain shower can occur anytime. For the evenings I brought casual clothes to go to dinner.
- Tank top or t-shirt – these are one of my favorite tank tops to wear and come in so many colors!
- Leggings, shorts, or comfortable pants
- Rain jacket
- Tennis shoes or hiking boots
- Hiking socks
Hiking in Everglades National Park
We primarily explored the Homestead Entrance by hiking and driving along the park road. It is approximately 40 miles from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to the Flamingo Visitor Center and there are several short trails along the way you can hike all in one day. A lot of the trails are paved or have boardwalks.
First, there are two trails you can access from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The Anhinga Trail and Gumbo-Limbo Trail are two of the most popular hikes in the Everglades and you do not want to miss either one!
- Anhinga Trail: 0.8 miles
- Paved/boardwalk, wheelchair accessible
- Walk through sawgrass marsh and keep a look out for alligators and other wildlife
- Gumbo-Limbo Trail: 0.4 miles
- Trail is not paved/boardwalk, but is well maintained
- Named after the Gumbo-Limbo trees which can be found along this trail
One thing to note at the Royal Palm Visitor Center is there are a lot of vultures in the area and they are known to destroy rubber on car windshield wipers or sunroofs. The park provides tarps and bungee cords outside the visitor center to cover your car so you can enjoy the trails stress free.
We stopped at a few other trails along the park road as we drove south toward the Flamingo Visitor Center. The Pineland trail, Pa-hay-okee trail and Mahogany Hammock Trail are approximately 7, 13, and 20 miles respectively from the Homestead Entrance.
- Pineland Trails: 0.4 miles
- Trail is not paved/boardwalk
- Hike through forest of various plants including pines and palmettos
- The Pahayokee Trail: 0.2 miles
- Boardwalk trail, wheelchair accessible
- Observation deck over grassy waters
- Mahogany Hammock Trail: 0.5 miles
- Boardwalk trail, wheelchair accessible
- Hike through dense, hammock area
There are many other trails located near the Flamingo Visitor Center, but these are no longer maintained to protect the critical habitat living there. The trail is open and you can hike there, but it is likely to be overgrown. Additionally, the mosquitos are much more active in this southern area of the park. We attempted to go on two trails, Eco Pond Trail and Snake Bight Trail, but did not make it further than a few steps due to the numerous mosquitos.
What else is there to do in Everglades National Park?
We primarily spent our time at the Homestead Entrance hiking, however there is plenty of other activities for you to enjoy in the area.
Some of these activities include bird watching, boating, camping, paddling (kayaking and canoeing), fishing, ranger led programs, and geocaching. More information on these activities can be found here.
Where should I eat and drink in the area?
We had some great food and drinks in the evenings after exploring the Everglades. Below are a few of the restaurants that we tried. Everything was good, but if I had to pick my favorite spot it would be “Robert is Here” for a milkshake!
Robert is Here
A roadside treasure, Robert is Here is well known for the world-famous guanabana milkshakes as well as other exotic fruits. I tried the Guanabana milkshake and I highly recommend you try it too! If that is not your thing, they have plenty of other milkshake flavors and you can mix and match more than one flavor. My friend had a Coconut Key Lime milkshake which she also really liked. The milkshakes are thick and creamy, best enjoyed with a spoon!
In addition to milkshakes, they also have fresh fruit, homemade guacamole and salsa and tortilla chips, honey, hot sauce, jelly, dressings, and more. I picked up a blueberry and blackberry jelly spread while I was there. If you continue outside to the back of the store there is even a small petting zoo. Your visit to the Everglades isn’t complete without a stop at Robert is Here.
Exit One Taproom
This is a great spot for a post-hike brew. They have ample indoor and outdoor seating featuring beers from local brewers all over Florida.
Spanish Marie Brewery
This brewery has some of the most colorful beers I’ve ever seen. We ordered flights and enjoyed sampling the various beers.
Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery
This place had an awesome atmosphere and something for everyone! There was a small market outside when we visited. In addition, they had live music, a formal dining restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, a winery, and brewery. The winery specializes in exotic fruit wines.
Homestead, Florida is known for their authentic Mexican food, and La Quebradita did not disappoint! I ordered a combination meal of a taco, a sope, and enchilada with a side of rice and beans and it was delicious!
Golden Rule Seafood
We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere at Golden Rule! The dining is outdoors, but you are surrounded by many plants and outdoor decorations providing a cozy dining experience. We started out with the conch fritters and I ordered the plantain crusted chicken sandwich. The portions were huge and we didn’t leave hungry.
Final Thoughts on Exploring the Everglade National Park
I hope this post contains some useful tips to help plan your next visit to the Everglades. Next week I will provide all the details of our visit to the Shark Valley area! If you want to read more about Florida National Parks check out this post.
Information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of author’s knowledge.
Looking to explore other National Parks? Check out my three-day itinerary for Hot Springs National Park!
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