The Everglades make for an exciting day trip from Orlando that is suitable for the entire family. This amazing natural region offers visitors a chance to see alligators, crocodiles and an array of other creatures in their natural habitat.
There are many different ways to experience the Everglades, so you are sure to find the perfect excursion whether you are looking for an adventure or simply want to relax and enjoy the scenery.
The Everglades National Park is located in southern Florida, several hours away from Orlando by road. However, the city of Kissimmee is known as the gateway to the Everglades by boat, and it’s just half an hour away from Orlando. Since the park is so large, you can access it from several different locations.
The journey from Orlando to Everglades National Park takes almost four hours to drive. If you're driving from Orlando, take I-75 South towards Naples.
Then, take exit 25A to merge onto FL-29 W/Tamiami Trail E toward Everglades City and continue for about 40 miles until you reach the park entrance. Note that some roads might have tolls, so have some change or a credit card ready.
The closest airport to the Everglades is Miami International Airport, which is about an hour drive from the park. There are many different airlines that offer flights from Orlando to Miami, starting from US$60 each way. From Miami the journey to the Everglades is just under an hour by car.
The best way to travel on a day trip from Orlando to the Everglades is on an airboat tour. Most tours depart from Kissimee, which is a 30-minute drive south of Orlando. Lake Cypress in Kenansville is another popular departure point for airboat tours, and is about an hour drive from Orlando.
From your starting point, you will board an airboat which will take you deep into the Everglades. The ride is usually 30 to 60 minutes long and will have the opportunity to see alligators, turtles and a variety of birds up close.
You may even spot an alligator or two sunning themselves on the banks! This is arguably the highlight of any excursion to the Everglades.
It costs US$30 per private vehicle or US$15 per person to enter Everglades National Park. However, the cost of entry will usually be included in the price of your Everglades excursion. Unless you’re exploring the area by yourself, you won’t have to worry about paying this fee.
Usually, an Everglades day trip from Orlando will begin in either Kissimmee or Lake Cypress, both of which are a short drive from Orlando. Some tours include a hotel pickup, or you can drive yourself to the meeting point.
From the tour starting point, you will board an airboat and head deep into the Everglades. Everglades day trips from Orlando typically include a 30- to 60-minute boat ride, as well as a stop at an alligator farm or wildlife center.
In some cases, an Everglades excursion will also include a "gator demonstration," where you can watch a trained gator handler put on a show. You’ll even be able to hold a small one yourself.
The best time to see alligators is before 10 AM, so Everglades day tours tend to leave early unless you're taking a sunset trip. Your tour will often include breakfast and/or a picnic lunch.
Sometimes a jaunt to the Everglades can also include a visit to Miami. There, you'll enjoy a boat tour of the islands and free time to explore areas like Bayside Marketplace and the famous South Beach.
There are several types of Everglades day tours available, so you can choose the one that best suits your interests.
Airboat tours are the most popular type of tour, and for good reason! These fast and exciting rides give you a unique perspective of the Everglades, as you zip across the water at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. You'll have plenty of opportunities to see alligators, turtles, and a variety of birds up close on your Everglades day trip.
If you want to see the Everglades in a different light (literally), consider taking a sunset tour. These tours depart later in the day and offer a peaceful ride through the park as the sun sets.
Night time Everglades tours are a great way to see nocturnal animals that you wouldn't normally see during the day. Alligators are particularly active at night, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to see them on a night tour and witness their eyes glow red.
For something a little different, consider a manatee adventure tour. These tours begin in the Crystal River, where it's legal to snorkel and swim with manatees. After that, you'll experience more Floridian wildlife at Homosassa Springs State Park and enjoy an airboat ride on the Withlacoochee River.
If you want to experience the best of both worlds, consider a tour that includes both the Everglades and Miami. These tours typically begin with an airboat ride through the Everglades, as well as a boat tour of Miami and some free time in the Magic City.
These tours typically include an airboat ride through the Everglades, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. You'll also get to see a launchpad and meet an astronaut.
Everglades day tours range from US$30 to US$199 per person, depending on the duration of your tour and whether you opt for a meal or not. Private tours tend to be more expensive, but offer a more personal experience.
If your tour includes a visit to Miami, you can expect to pay on the higher end of the price range. Night time tours also tend to be more expensive. Manatee adventure trips also fall on the higher end of the price range due to the volume of activities.
The Everglades is home to a variety of animals, including alligators, turtles, snakes and even dolphins. You'll also see plenty of unique plants and trees on your Everglades excursion, as well as the famous sawgrass prairies.
On an Everglades day tour, you can expect to see many alligators up close and even hold one during a gator demonstration. Some of the alligators weigh as much as 500 pounds, although the ones visitors hold are much smaller than this.
Some tours also include the opportunity to explore Miami or visit the Kennedy Space Center to learn about the history of space exploration.
Other packages offer the chance to swim with manatees in the Crystal River, which is one of the only places where it's legal to do so in the United States.
Of course, no Everglades jaunt is complete without sampling some of the local cuisine. You will have the chance to enjoy a picnic or visit a local barbecue restaurant, where you can try some of the famous Everglades swamp sauce.
It's also possible to explore the Everglades by bicycle. Popular cycling tours include the Snake Bight and Long Pine Key trails. Kayaking tours and hiking tours are also popular activities in the Everglades.
The Everglades National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, some of the tours and activities offered by tour operators may only be available during certain times of the year.
For example, manatee swims are only available from November to March, when the water is warm enough for these creatures. Everglades tours are also weather dependent and do not operate when the temperature falls below 10 degrees Celsius.
If you're interested in seeing alligators, the best time to take an Everglades day trip is between November and March. This is when they are most active.
December to April is also the dry season, when the weather is cooler and there is less chance of rain. However, this is also the busiest time of year in the Everglades, so expect crowds.
Yes, there are other tours departing from several other cities in the US: