The Everglades National Park is not your typical park or your typical landscape. Though there are hiking trails that wind their way through the wetlands, Everglades airboats still provide the best way to experience the park.
If you’re a national parks enthusiast then you probably are used to experiencing them in pretty typical ways. You probably visit parks and hike the trails. And you might rent a kayak or take a guided tour. Alternatively, you might spend some time wandering off alone to get a little lost in nature and take some stunning photographs in the process.
For most national parks, that’s just par for the course. But, the Everglades are something completely different.
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What Makes the Everglades Different?
Everglades City, on the Southern tip of Florida, is known as the gateway to Ten Thousand Islands. This refers to the complex network of waterways that comprise the wetlands.
It is here that you will find guided tours, trails, festivals, and airboat rentals.
You can also check out Everglades Holiday Park, located near Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades, for airboat tours, alligator shows, and the chance to see some wild critters up close. But not too close.
3 Reasons You Need to Experience Everglades National Park by Airboat
Wherever you choose as your entry point to the Everglades, you should be sure to invest in a guided airboat tour. A ride through the wetlands on one of the fan powered boats is an experience you will never forget. And it can help you make the most of your trip to the Everglades. So, here are the three reasons why:
1. They offer the easiest way to access the park
Unsurprisingly, many parts of the park are only accessible using Everglades boats. These include airboats, canoes, and kayaks. Without using watercraft, you are limited to the trails and walkways.
While trails provide you with leisurely strolls, they only tell half the story of the Everglades. Using only trails, it is hard to get a full experience of the park. And you can miss many of the natural wonders that the wetlands have to offer.
Guided airboat tours
While you can use kayaks and canoes to navigate the waters, this is only recommended for skilled visitors. Note that the Everglades are treacherous. The wildlife is just that, and the wetlands themselves are unpredictable.
Murky waters, rapidly changing depths, and constant obstacles can make pushing a canoe or kayak through the water a lot more than a leisurely experience.
Plus, how much fun can you really have paddling if you’re constantly on the lookout for gators?
2. They help you avoid alligators, crocodiles, and other things that bite
If you aren’t native to Florida, you might cite gators as reasons 1 to 100 for using airboat rides in the Everglades. Even natives say that’s why it’s the primary means of experiencing the park.
The alligators, American crocodiles, and other dangerous amphibians that inhabit the swampland make a pretty good case for staying in the confines of a boat with a guide who is experienced and professional.
Sure, all National Parks pose a wildlife risk. One reason many people are drawn to places like Everglades National Park is precisely because they offer close encounters with nature.
Those encounters can sometimes be scary, and nowhere is this clearer than in the murky waters of the wetlands. The trick is to make sure that thrills don’t become dangerous.
Airboat rides, however, do come with their own set of risks. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure that you listen to all the instructions of your boat captain carefully. You can certainly benefit from their experience on those unique waters.
While most teens are concerned with getting their driver’s license, Everglades High School could probably issue licenses for airboats. That’s how much experience people native to the region have.
3. They Give You a Thrilling Adventure
Everglades airboat tours are clearly a practical and safe way to see the park. But perhaps the best reason to use them is that they’re fun. So, when else will you find yourself cruising through the water on an air-powered boat? Probably never.
While you might start off the journey on edge and unsure, after a few minutes gliding over the water, you’ll start to relax. If you can get past a fear of chomping alligators then all you’re left with is the wind in your hair and the wonders of nature.
Your guide will share stories about the history of the Everglades, about the unique ecosystems within it, and probably a bit about all those chomping gators. You’ll see animals up-close, but you’ll be at ease, and able to enjoy them.
Everglades National Park Airboat Tours
Everglades National Park doesn’t run their airboat tours through the park service. However, they have three authorized vendors that they permit to run tours inside the park.
To protect wildlife and our natural resources, airboats are only permitted in one section of the park. The approved vendors have been trained on where they can go and how to avoid damaging flora and fauna in the park.
All three are located on U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) and include:
What to Bring on an Everglades Airboat Tour
To make sure that you’re both safe and comfortable during your airboat ride, make a list of the things you’ll need to bring along or items you should wear.
- Bug spray
- Long pants, light colored
- Long sleeve shirts
- Rain poncho
Are Airboats Safe?
Flat-bottomed airboats move across the water via giant propellers. These are powered with car motors, and they push air behind the boat, moving them forward across the water.
Unlike other powered boats, the motor isn’t submerged into the water. This is pretty critical, since the Everglades is a swamp with a great deal of vegetation underwater. The last thing you want is to experience hours under the hot sun, stuck in plant life.
So, airboats aren’t just safe — they’re the best way to see the Everglades.
Can You Tour the Everglades by Car?
You certainly can see a lot of the Everglades by taking your car. However, you’ll see much more of the wildlife if you grab an airboat tour.
If for some reason you’d prefer to keep to dry land, The Florida Rambler website has some great suggestions for making the most of it. In fact, you may want to take two days to see all the sites on land and by boat.
What Else is There to Do in the Everglades?
After you’ve taken a fast and fun airboat tour of the Everglades, the fun isn’t over. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the unique environment around you.
The Everglades are spectacular for bird watching because the park is the perfect place for birdlife. You’ll find spoonbills, herons, and many other tropical waterbirds you may not see anywhere else in the nation.
Take advantage of the mild Florida climate for both front country camping and backcountry camping. Although the rainy season lasts from June to October, you’ll find fall and winter a great time to camp because of its mild winters. Everglades National Park offers campsites with access to fresh water, showers, and electric hookups at many sites. Or choose a primitive campsite on the beach.
The Everglades are famous with fisherman for its access to both saltwater and freshwater sport fishing. You can charter a boat if you like, but be sure to check regulations and acquire any necessary licenses.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Everglades
To get the most out of your vacation, you’re going to want to visit when the weather is most conducive. The Everglades, located in south Florida, doesn’t really have a winter season and a summer season. What it does have is a dry season and a rainy season.
You’ll find temperatures comfortable throughout the year. However, Florida’s rainy season comes with increased humidity and a great deal of rain. The dry season lasts from December through April, and sometimes into May. There might be an occasional cold spell when temperatures dip into the 40s or lower. For the most part, highs range in the 70s and lows drop into the 50s or 60s.
The nice thing about visiting during the dry season is that it doesn’t align with most family holidays in the summer. So, while this is the busiest time for the park, it isn’t as busy as other parks become in June through August.
If possible, try to schedule your trip after the year-end holidays for the best time to visit with the smallest crowds. January through February can be a little nippy, but these months assure short lines.
Get the Most Out of the Everglades
Everglades National Park is unlike any place you have been to before. And that means you have to experience it in a way that is as unique as the landscape is.
Finally, it’s just too fascinating and extraordinary a place to simply hike through. To really get a feel for it, you have to hop in a boat and get out on the water amid the tall grasses.
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Featured Image: CC0, by B. Call, via National Parks Service