3 Florida National Parks to Explore

There are currently 63 United States National Parks and Florida is home to 3 of them! The most well-known is the Everglades National Park. However, Florida also has two unique parks that are mostly made up of water, Biscayne National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park. Beyond this there are 8 other areas that fall under the National Park Services jurisdiction in Florida which many people are unaware of. Keep reading to find out more about Florida National Parks. 

One of the Florida National Parks, Everglades National Park, Shark Valley scenery

Florida National Parks and Sites

Everglades National Park

The Everglades are likely the most well-known of the three Florida National Parks and for good reason. With approximately 1 million visitors annually, it is the largest of the Florida National Parks and the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. There are 3 different entrances to the park and 5 different visitor centers. Therefore, when you plan your trip you want to consider which areas of the park you want to visit and what activities you want to participate in to ensure you have enough time.

Everglades National Park entrance sign

Homestead Entrance 

The homestead entrance is also known as the main entrance to the park.

  • Address: 40001 State Road 9336 Homestead, FL 33034

Three different visitor centers can be accessed from this entrance.

  • Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
    • Mid-April through Mid-December Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
    • Mid-December through Mid-April: 8 AM to 5 PM
  • Royal Palm Visitor Center
    • Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM
  • Flamingo Visitor Center
    • Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM

Miami Entrance 

The Miami entrance is commonly referred to as Shark Valley.

  • Address: 36000 SW 8th Street Miami, FL 33194
  • Entrance Gate Hours: 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM

One visitor center can be accessed from this entrance.

  • Shark Valley Visitor Center
    • Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
An alligator at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, one of the Florida National Parks

Everglades City Entrance

The Everglades City Entrance is also known as the Gulf Coast area.

  • Address: 815 Oyster Bar Lane Everglades City, FL 34139

One visitor center can be accessed from this entrance.

  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center
    • Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM

An entrance fee of $30 per private vehicle is required. This can be paid at any of the park entrances and is good for all entrances for 7 consecutive days. If you live close by and plan to visit the park frequently, Everglades National Park annual passes can be purchased for $55. 

Biscayne National Park

If you are visiting the Homestead entrance of the Everglades and you have an extra day to spare, I highly recommend checking out Biscayne National Park. Visited by approximately 700,000 people annually, the park is primarily enjoyed via watercraft with approximately 95% of the park underwater. Depending on what activities you want to participate in you can spend one day up to several days in the park.

Biscayne National Park entrance sign

There is only one main entrance into the park and one visitor center. 

Dante Fascell Visitor Center

  • Address: Southwest 328th Street Homestead, FL 33033
  • Hours: 9AM to 5 PM daily

There is no entrance fee for this park.

Dante Fascell Visitor Center Sign

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is the most remote of the Florida National Parks located approximately 70 miles west of Key West. The park is actually located in the central time zone, but the park service operates on eastern time to simplify things. Similar to Biscayne, this park is primarily underwater with only 1% of the 100 square-mile park above water. Dry Tortugas sees the least amount of visitors of the three Florida National Parks with just over 80,000 visitors annually. This is largely due to the remote location and limited options for transportation to the park.

It is not accessible by car and the park must be accessed by boat or seaplane. If you have a personal boat you are able to enter the park, however a permit is required if you stop anywhere in the park.

All other visitors access the park by riding the Yankee Freedom Ferry, a high speed catamaran, or by riding the Key West Seaplane Charter.

The entrance fee for the park is $15 per person, ages 16 and older. The entrance fee allows access to the park for 7 consecutive days.

Yankee Freedom Ferry

This is a great option to spend an entire day at Dry Tortugas. The boat leaves Key West at 8 AM and arrives back in Key West around 5:30 PM for the day trip. Additionally, the ferry service provides options for camping trips.

Reservations are highly recommended for the day or camping trips, but the camping trip spots in particular are very limited. It is recommended to book camping trips 8 to 12 months in advance. The cost of the ferry also covers the park entrance fee. A small breakfast snack and boxed lunch, narrated tour of Fort Jefferson, and snorkel equipment are also included.

Ferry Cost – Day Trips

  • Adults: $195
    • A $10 discount is applicable for seniors (age 62+), students (age 17+), and active military with valid identification.
  • Child (4-16 years): $135

Ferry Cost – Camping Trips

  • Adult: $210
  • Child (4-16 years): $155
  • Additional campsite fee of $15-30 per night

More information on the ferry can be found here.

My parents and I at the "Southern Most Point" in Key West

Key West Seaplane Charter 

If you prefer to visit the park via seaplane you have the option to choose between a morning, afternoon, or a full day tour. The flight is narrated and everyone has access to a window seat to take in the sites to and from Dry Tortugas.

Seats are limited so reservations are required and it is recommended to book early. The cost of the sea plane includes bottled water and snorkeling gear.  

Seaplane Half-Day Excursion

  • Adult: $361
  • Children (12 years and under): $288.80
  • Children under 2: Free
    • A seat will not be assigned and child must travel on adults lap

Seaplane Full-Day Excursion

  • Adult: $634
  • Children (12 years and under): $507.20
  • Children under 2: Free
    • A seat will not be assigned and child must travel on adults lap

More information on the seaplane can be found here.

There are three visitor centers for Dry Tortugas National Park, however two of these are in Key West, FL and not within the actual park boundaries due to the remote location of the park.

Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center

  • Address: 33 East Quay Road Key West, FL 33040
  • Now open on Friday and Saturdays from 9 AM to 4 PM

The “Bight” Interpretive Center (Key West Historic Seaport)

  • Address: 201 Williams Street Key West, FL 33040

Garden Key Visitor Center

  • Located inside Fort Jefferson
  • This is the only visitor center within Dry Tortugas National Park boundaries
  • Hours: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

More information on Dry Tortugas National Park can be found here.

Can I visit all three Florida National Parks in one trip?

Absolutely! Although Florida is a large state, all three Florida National Parks are all relatively near each other in South Florida. I know people who explored all three parks in as little as three to four days, but there is easily enough to explore for one week or longer depending on how much time you have.

The Everglades has three entrances, so depending on which entrance you start at Biscayne is between 30 minutes and ~2 hours from Everglades. Homestead, Florida is a great area to stay to explore both parks.

  • Homestead Entrance is ~30 minutes from Biscayne National Park entrance
  • Shark Valley is ~1.5 hours from either the Homestead Entrance to the Everglades or Biscayne National Park
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center is ~2 hours 15 minutes from the Homestead Entrance or Biscayne National Park
  • Shark Valley and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center are ~1 hour apart

Dry Tortugas National Park is accessible from Key West, FL. One way to get to Key West is to take the Key West Express from Fort Myers, FL which is only about 1.5 hours from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center of the Everglades. More information on the Key West Express can be found here.

Alternatively, driving to Key West along US Highway 1 is a great option to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. Key West is approximately 3-3.5 hours from the Miami/Homestead area. If you have never been to the Florida Keys, you can make several stops along the way to areas such as Marathon, FL and Islamorada, FL. One of the most iconic Florida State Parks, Bahia Honda State Park, is also along your way.  Bahia Honda State Park is located in Big Pine Key, FL and is a very popular destination.

US Highway One mile 0 sign

Final Thoughts on Florida National Parks

Regardless if you are looking to hike, camp, kayak, snorkel, or scuba there is something for everyone at the Florida National Parks. If you are planning a trip to one or more of these parks in the near future stay tuned. Over the next two to three weeks I will have park recap posts on my recent visit to Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park.

Looking to explore other National Parks?

The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. Information will be verified and updated periodically. If you are planning to visit any of the Florida National Parks I recommend verifying the most current information with the National Park websites.

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