Everglades National Park

By Rebecca McKellips

What is The Everglades National Park?

The Everglades National Park is the largest sub-tropical wilderness reserve in North America. It is a flat landscape, a mix of fresh and brackish water (slightly salty, slightly fresh) that flows south through a river of grass. This sea of grass, as the name literally translates to, is a habitat for many animals and plants. The park covers 610,000 hectares (2355 square miles).

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Text: Everglades National Park, United States. Images: above, an alligator in the water; below, a view over the grassy wetlands.

Why is Everglades National Park a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Everglades National Park is designated a World Heritage site because the animals and the environment are critical to the success of the Florida ecosystem. The Park is 86% designated wilderness, and as such is an amazing experience to see nature at its finest.

According to the UNESCO website, the Everglades contains a wide variety of water habitats, making it a “sanctuary for a large number of birds and reptiles and it provides refuge for over 20 rare, endangered, and threatened species. These include the Florida panther, snail kite, alligator, crocodile, and manatee. It provides important foraging and breeding habitat for more than 400 species of birds, includes the most significant breeding grounds for wading birds in North America and is a major corridor for migration.”

An alligator half-submerged in greenish water.

The Everglades was added to the “World Heritage in Danger” list in 2010. The Everglades are at sea level and the threat of rising seas, due to climate change, has greatly increased the danger to the viability of the Everglades over time. The “World Heritage in Danger” list was created to encourage the international community to act to preserve and protect these sites for the long term.

What can you expect on a visit to the Everglades?

Everglades National Park is a beautiful and unique place to visit. However, it is best to visit during the late fall through early spring months. The summer can be both deadly hot, humid and filled with more mosquitos than you could ever want to experience. During the winter you can see more birds filling the trees that have migrated south for the winter, and as the water can get chilly, the alligators are more likely to sun themselves so you can see them from the walking paths.

A flat landscape at Everglades National Park all the way to the horizon: mixed grass and water.

Is Everglades National Park worth visiting?

Absolutely, Everglades National Park is worth visiting. It is such a unique wilderness, and you can see plants and animals like nowhere else in the world. You can plan to take an airboat ride through the park, where you literally glide on the top of the water using a giant fan on the back of the boat. The captains of these boats know exactly where to take you to see the most alligators and manatees. You will also learn all about the mangroves that protect the shoreline and provide a habitat for so many fish and birds in the area.

If you are spending your vacation in Orlando or visiting Miami, you can add a day trip to the Everglades easily.

What sorts of travelers would like the Everglades?

Travelers who enjoy nature will love the walking paths in the park. Travelers who like a little adrenaline will enjoy an airboat ride through the park. You must enjoy getting out in nature and experiencing the environment to truly get the most from a visit to the park.

Tips for visiting the Everglades

Always try to avoid visiting in the summer: the heat can make it much less fun of an experience. Go early in the morning to enjoy the most wildlife before they sleep in the heat of the day. Bring both bug spray and sunscreen and make sure to reapply if you will be in the sun for more than a couple hours. Book a trip on a traditional boat, or else take an airboat; you really cannot beat the experience.

Where is Everglades National Park?

The Everglades National Park visitor center is located at 40001 State Hwy 9336, Homestead, FL 33034. The nearest major airport is Miami, Florida.

There is another visitor center on the west side of the park, but with very few amenities, so it can be skipped. There is really only one way to get to Everglades National Park and that is by car, either rented or through a tour group. It will take roughly an hour to get to the visitor center from Miami International Airport.

Use the map below to book your accommodations in Homestead, Florida. Shift the map north to find a place in Miami, if you prefer to stay there and drive down to the Everglades.

For more information about Everglades National Park, its opening hours and admission fees, see its official website.

Have you been to the Everglades? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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