Explore the Everglades by airboat.
The stunning beauty and vast wilderness of the Everglades covers much of the southern end of the Florida peninsula. This area is home to hundreds of species of colorful birds, fresh and saltwater fish, bobcats and elusive Florida panthers, as well as its most famous residents, alligators. In addition to Everglades National Park and several other parks and preserves, a few small towns, such as Everglades City
, dot the region.
Not surprisingly, wildlife watching and other nature-related activities are popular with visitors here. Because the Everglades is a unique ecosystem, many of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth.
Many visitors choose to explore the region's waterways on an airboat tour (airboats are flat-bottomed boats, powered by a huge fan in the back; they are able to navigate the very shallow waters that flow slowly between the marshes, prairies cypress forests and mangrove islands found here). While airboats are not allowed within the boundaries of Everglades National Park
, many tours are available nearby. Guided canoe and kayak trips (either within the park or nearby) are also popular for nature watching and photography.
Touring on foot comes in two varieties, wet and dry. Organized swamp walks get you up close to wildlife in an unforgettable way. Or, if staying dry is more your style, the 2,000-foot long boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
enables visitors to experience the beauty of this unusual swamp without getting their feet wet.
A town of some 500 residents, Everglades City is known as a base for fishing charters and nature tours into the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands. Its casual, quirky seafood restaurants serve up the day's fresh catches.
Many visitors don't realize that the Gulf Coast entrance to Everglades National Park, located in Everglades City, is the gateway to the saltwater portion of this expansive national park. Locals say this is the most beautiful section of the park, and it is a favorite with sport fishermen and paddlers for its natural wilderness and quiet beauty.