Visited: March 2020
Location: Homestead, Florida
Accommodations: Houseboat rental Flamingo Adventures in Everglades National Park
Duration: 3 days
At one point in time I was talking to some guy somewhere, if I remember correctly we were in the infield of the Daytona Speedway at the Daytona 500. No idea why I was talking to this guy but he said to me “If you ever go to the Everglades, rent a houseboat and spend a few nights on it, you will love it”. It stuck in my head for some reason and I am so glad it did. This experience was amazing and will go down in history as one of my favorite experiences at a national park. Stay tuned, that part is at the end.
Everglades National Park was the first National Park on National Park trip Season 5 – Spring Break Edition, we have Biscayne and Dry Tortugas planned but will be ruined by Covid, BOOOO!!!! Luckily we got Everglades National Park in before the parks closed down.
Everglades is an amazing park full of wildlife and water. We made it to all of the Visitor Centers the park offers on this trip with the exception of the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Our first stop in the park coming from Big Cypress Preserve was Shark Valley Visitor Center. What a mess! Cars lined up for a mile out of the entrance. Get there early if you have a tram pass. We made our tram appointment and it did NOT disappoint us. We saw tons of wildlife on the Tram Trail and several gators at the Observation tower. I would highly recommend doing this if you are visiting the Everglades. Check out these photos!! So much fun when we observe nature in front of us.
Lots of alligators to see along the tram trail and especially at the observation deck. We loved the Observation tower, great views too.
Once done with our tram ride, we drove from the Shark Valley Visitor Center down to Flamingo Visitor Center where we checked in and got the Houseboat. They drive you through a mangrove and then the driver gets on a boat to head back so you have the houseboat all on your own for the length of your stay. Husband had to take several classes and get a permit to drive it so be aware there will be several hours used up to prepare for this adventure (which is worth it).
We spent the next few days and nights on the houseboat and it was wonderful!!
Fishing was great, but the highlight of the trip was our dolphin encounter, while cruising around Whitewater Bay 2 dolphins swam with us for hours, splashing us, chasing us and just putting on such a fun show. Here is a clip for you. This was so fun to watch!
The nights out on the houseboat were pretty incredible as well. No lights so all the stars shone so bright we sat outside for hours enjoying the peace and beauty.
The next morning the boat folks met us to drive us back through the mangrove and check out. We found out then that all of the National Parks in Florida were closed. WHAT!!!!!! We needed to plan the rest of our trip on our drive to the Keys now. No problem.
Back through the beautiful mangrove
On our way out of the park we stopped and did a short hike to Mahogany Hammock. Cool place to see how these dense island forests work. Pretty neat.
And then it hit me as we left the park……
We didn’t stop at the Visitor Center when we came into the park so we won’t get our cancellations!!! The odds of us ever coming back is slim so it is now or never. With almost tears in my eyes I walked up to the Visitor Center where they had staff outside answering questions and handing out information. I begged a young female park ranger if she could please go inside and stamp all of our passports. She looked around and said she would see what she could do. A few minutes later, out she came, she saved the day AND did a wonderful job at that. One of my favorite cancellation pages!!
We were not able to earn our Junior Rangers, we had to send in for that. No problem, we did Biscayne as well and sent those 2 in plus our Big Cypress and we were able to earn a Tri-Park Patch as a bonus.
Unfortunately on our way to Key West our sea plane adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park was cancelled and our kayaking trip in Biscayne was cancelled. Thus concluding the end of our National Park Trip Season 5 – Spring Break edition. We spent the rest of the trip enjoying the Florida Keys, it was beautiful. Not a bad trip, we headed home to quarantine and spend the next few months home schooling.
Check back soon. We did do a short National Park Trip in the summer AND we completed the whole Santa Fe Trail and hit some odd National Parks on their own.
I loved Everglades so it really made the whole trip worth it. Have you been?? Did we miss anything??