Ten things for a day trip to the Everglades

SHARK VALLEY, Fla. — Just a short drive from Miami, this north entrance to Everglades National Park gives visitors access to 1.5 million acres of wetlands that are home to alligators, snakes, crocodiles and a whole host of birds.

There are numerous walking trails and boardwalks to for wildlife viewing, trams rides, bicycling, hiking, boat rides and airboat rides to see alligators in the marshes.

But if you’ve never been to the Everglades you might not know what to wear, what to bring and what to expect.  Here are some tips in no particular order, compiled through Internet research, informal surveys of past visitors and personal experience.

Visitors at Royal Palm check out the wildlife among the sawgrass on the Anhinga Trail boardwalk (Staff photos).

Camera:  You’ll see some outstanding landscapes and unique wildlife, so you’ll want to capture these scenes on film.  If you don’t want to bring a regular camera, bring a selfie stick for your smartphone.  You’ll be able to take photographs more easily and it’s less difficult to hold especially if you’re going on a bumpy airboat ride.  If you do decide to bring a camera, make sure you take a camera strap to reduce the risk of dropping it in a swamp.

Water:  It’s hot out there and you’ll want to stay hydrated.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re out in the middle of nowhere without a convenience store on every corner.  While the park’s multiple visitor centers may have water fountains or vending machines, be prepared and bring your own.

Comfortable, practical clothing:  Wear long sleeves and long pants.  The more skin you show, the more you tempt the wet-season mosquitos and other biting insects.  It will also help protect you from the sun.  Make sure it’s a little on the loose side to make it easier for getting in and out of trams, boats and airboats.  It’s more comfortable for walking too.

Walking at Royal Palm allows visitors close-up views of tropical plants native to the park.

A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.  Wear a hat and sunglasses.  Consider a hat with a chin strap in case you get caught in a gust of wind.  A strap can help keep your sunglasses on, too.  There are very few trees and no shade in flat, prairie-wetland.  Polarized sunglasses provide the best glare protection, especially on the water. 

Sun protection:  Wear sunscreen. Hats and clothing can only help so much, so be sure to apply a water resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, before you head out.  Bring it with you if you need to reapply.  The National Park Service website says that the Everglades’ popular Gumbo-Limbo tree is nicknamed the “tourist tree” by park rangers because its red, peeling bark resembles what unprepared visitors look like after a day in the hot sun.  You can buy some in the visitors’ gift shop or concession gift shop but it’s well marked-up.

There is a large amount of wildlife (left) to view along the trails at Royal Palm, not to mention the tall sawgrass (below) that covers much of the area.

Credit/debit cards and cash:  This may seem obvious, but if you’ve gotten used to contactless payments and use your smartphone for purchases, you may not usually carry cards or cash with you.  Make sure you do because most places do not accept Apple Pay.

A backpack or a fanny pack:  You need a way to carry your essential items and a purse or pockets might not be practical especially if you’re renting a bicycle in Shark Valley.  Try to find a balance between being able to carry the most but with the least amount of weight.

Insect repellent:  Like sunscreen, you can buy repellent at the Visitor Center, but it is much more expensive.  If you don’t like the feel or smell of repellents, try some mosquito repellent bands.  Be sure to wear one on both your wrist and ankle.

Comfortable hiking or walking shoes:  Just remember you might get wet and a soggy sneaker can ruin your trip.  Consider some rubber or jelly sandals that can take the moisture and dry quickly.  Just make sure they feel good.  Even boat and tram tours require some walking.

Umbrella or poncho:  South Florida is famous for sudden, violent rainstorms – mainly during summer – so pack an umbrella or poncho just in case.

A walk along the Gumbo Limbo Trail at Royal Palm offers an intimate look at the native plants in the area.

With a little preparation, you can make your trip to the Everglades safe and enjoyable.


If You Go

  • North Address: 36000 SW 8th St., Miami, FL  33194.
  • Directions to Shark Valley Visitor Center from Miami: From the Florida Turnpike, get off on exit 25A (from the north) or exit 25 (from the south) take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail/SW 8th Street)25 miles west to Shark Valley.
  • South Address: 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL  33034.
  • Directions to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center from Miami: Take the Florida Turnpike (Route 821) south until it ends, merging with U.S. 1 at Florida City. Turn right at the first traffic light onto Palm Drive (State Road 9336/SW 344 Street) and follow the signs to the park.
  • Entrance Fees: Per vehicle, $30, good for seven consecutive days starting from the day of purchase. Per person/cyclist, $15, good for seven consecutive days starting from the day of purchase. Annual pass, $55, valid for 12 months starting from the day of purchase and is good for unlimited visits to the park during this period. Free admission on select holidays.
  • Website:
  • Phone: 305-242-7700.

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