As I do nearly every spring, I spent a week in Florida watching my brother kill it at spring training. We had some time to venture south Florida and check two more national parks off our bucket list – Biscayne and the Everglades. These national parks were less about the scenery and hikes and more about the amazing wildlife and ecosystems that exist there.
Biscayne National Park
As one of three national parks in Florida, Biscayne was on our list for this trip because of its proximity to other major areas on our trip (Miami, the Everglades) as well as its rich history, plant life and wildlife. With shipwrecks on the bottom of the ocean floor and unique greenery around the shore, I felt like this park had something for everyone. The lighthouse on Boca Chita Key, a key across the bay, is one of my favorite sights.
This park is 95% water, so while it’s nice to walk the boardwalk and gaze into the bottom of the clear ocean, we’d recommend taking advantage of some of the activities the Biscayne National Park Institute has to offer:
- Kayaking – double kayaks are only $55 for a day, so for two people, that’s a great deal!
- Boat Tours – nice to be able to see the islands, including Boca Chita Key.
- Snorkeling – if you’re feeling really adventurous and have a few hours, consider a half or full day trip to snorkel.
Everglades National Park
We came directly from Biscayne National Park, so we entered the Everglades at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center and made our way down from there. The visitor center gave us a good picture of all the ecosystems working together and how the Everglades thrives – something I had no idea existed.
I’ve never seen so many different creatures up close before – multiple alligator sightings, unique bird species and so much more. Some of our favorite waysides:
- Royal Palm, home to two trails: Anhiga Trail, where you can see nearly all the different animal species that exist in the Everglades; and Gumbo Limbo trail, which is like walking through the jungle.
- Mahogany Hammock, another jungle-like trail and a quick loop when you need a break from the drive.
- Flamingo, which opens up into the Florida Bay and rich with manatees and more unique ecosystem combinations.
It was so cool to learn about what makes South Florida’s national parks so special. I was certainly not used to walking on a trail and looking down to see an alligator a few feet from me (this happened more than once….). I think we’ll be back to see more – and visit our last national park in Florida.
And if you’re like me and you can’t visit Florida without going to the beach, we loved the two we visited this time around: Fort Lauderdale Beach and Clearwater Beach. We hope to be back next year for one more year of baseball and adventure!