The state of Florida is home to so many incredible natural wonders, from unique flora and fauna to stretches of utterly breathtaking shoreline to sunsets that put all other sunsets to shame. Among these wonders are many endangered species, protected plants and trees, and several national parks that these plants and animals call home—one of which is Everglades National Park!
Everglades National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Florida—and one of the most beautiful! Camping here is a definite must-try, but before you go, just know that Everglades National Park camping is a somewhat different animal than most national park camping—hence, why I wrote this guide! Read on to discover everything you need to know about Everglades National Park camping!
History of the Park
Within the bounds of the continental US, Everglades National Park is the third-largest national park—trailing just behind Death Valley and Yellowstone in size! This national park came to be in 1934 as an attempt to protect the rapidly diminishing ecosystems of the Everglades. Between protected mangrove trees, endangered species such as the Florida panther, and other at-risk living things, Everglades National Park has become a haven of safety for many creatures and plants that otherwise may have disappeared entirely.
What to Expect While Camping at Everglades National Park
There are many different ways to enjoy Everglades National Park camping, and many places to stay while doing so! For this guide, I’m going to focus on three options as far as campgrounds go: Trail Lakes Campground, Long Pine Key Campground, and Flamingo Campground. All three mainly run on reservations, so be sure to look carefully into their reservation and cancellation policies!
Everglades National Park Camping
Flamingo Campground offers several options for Everglades National Park camping, from classic RV and tent sites to eco-tents and houseboats! Flamingo offers access to dump stations, potable water, and bathhouses (though the bathhouses in their “T-loop” area do NOT have hot water, so keep that in mind). You won’t find any sewer or water hook-ups on the RV sites, but there are a handful that offer electric hook-ups. Flamingo is open year-round, so whether you’re a snowbird sort of camper or you choose to take advantage of the off-season, this campground is open and ready for you to reserve a spot!
Long Pine Key
Long Pine Key is run by the same people who run Flamingo, so you’ll find their reservation options on the same website, but their offerings are somewhat different. You’ll only find one dump station and one potable water station here, and there are no electric hook-ups available for RVs. However, you’ll also have access to a fishing pond, and there are some first-come, first-served sites for camping at Everglades National Park if you’re unable to secure a reservation. You’ll also have access to bathhouses.
Trail Lakes offers some of the most unique options for camping at Everglades National Park! Not only does this campground offer your classic camping options such as tent camping, RV camping, and cabin rentals, but they also offer the opportunity to stay in chickee huts. The cabins are outfitted with air conditioning and range in capacity from one-person cabins to five-person cabins. The RV spots offer electric hook-ups and access to both dump stations and the bathhouse, and some sites offer water access. Read the options carefully before booking to ensure that you choose the right site for you!
Things to Do While Camping at Everglades National Park
Ecotourism is huge in Florida, particularly in the Everglades, and you simply can’t miss out on the opportunity to explore via airboat while camping at Everglades National Park! If you’re not familiar with airboats, Wikipedia describes them as “flat-bottomed watercraft propelled by an aircraft-type propeller and powered by either an aircraft or automotive engine.” You’ll find numerous companies offering airboat tours of the Everglades, and these tours promise to provide ample opportunity to spot Everglades-native wildlife such as alligators, protected mangrove trees, and more. Most people who have been agree that airboat tours are the best way to explore the Everglades if you’re a bit leery of wandering on foot!
Hiking in the Everglades is a wildlife lover’s dream, but it’s important to be extremely cautious of the local creatures! Snakes and bugs abound in the Everglades, so if you plan to explore on foot, be sure to wear long, thick pants, insect repellant, and sturdy boots to prevent snakebites and insect nibbles.
That said, there are plenty of gorgeous hiking trails to explore in the Everglades, whether you’re an experienced hiker looking to try your mettle on the Coastal Prairie Trail (make sure you bring your backcountry camping permit on this route!), or a beginner looking to enjoy a stroll across Bobcat Boardwalk. There’s something for everyone to enjoy while camping at Everglades National Park, so don’t let the idea of hiking through it intimidate you!
If airboats aren’t really your thing, you’re anxious about hiking on foot, or you just want to get a more up close and personal look at the mangrove trees in this park, try out a guided kayak tour! You’ll be able to paddle through swathes of mangrove trees and spot plenty of vegetation and wildlife up close. Just be sure to wear long clothing and insect repellant while on the water!
Speaking of mangroves, while camping at Everglades National Park, you’ll likely spot a number of interesting plants and trees over the span of the park. The most well-known of these plants are the protected mangrove trees, which play a crucial role in the Everglades ecosystems (and many other places in Florida, as well!). Mangroves are protectors of the shoreline, their long, tangled roots forming a barrier against erosion. These trees look a bit hourglass-like because of the great span of their roots, which twine together to create great swathes of mangrove forests. They’re truly a sight to behold!
While on your Everglades National Park camping trip, you’re bound to see much incredible wildlife. Some of the animals that call this park home are American alligators, coral snakes, peacocks, bald eagles, and even West Indian manatees! If you’re lucky enough to spot one of those gentle giants, take note—while they’re not considered endangered, they are still listed as a vulnerable species, and if you spot one, you’ll likely see why. Many manatees bear scars from encounters with boat propellers; in fact, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t scarred. Luckily, there are actions being taken to protect this beautiful species.
What to Bring While Camping at Everglades National Park
Sturdy Hiking Boots
If you plan to hike your way through camping at Everglades National Park, you’ll want to make sure you pick out a good pair of hiking boots! The terrain can get rough, and some of the more difficult trails aren’t maintained, so you’ll want to come prepared. In addition, you’ll encounter many bugs (and potentially snakes!), and you won’t want your feet exposed!
Along the same lines, make sure you bring long pants made of moisture-wicking material to keep yourself as comfortable as possible while exploring the park. While the hot weather may tempt you to choose something with less coverage, you’ll be putting yourself at risk for bug bites, snake bites, and making contact with poisonous plants.
The mosquito population in Florida is no joke, and in the swampy Everglades, you’re bound to be surrounded by more than usual. Be sure to pack insect repellant, or you might find yourself scratching your way through the rest of your trip!
The Florida sun is merciless no matter the season, and especially when you’ll be staying outdoors, you won’t want to skimp on the sunscreen. Be sure to wear sunblock and bring along other UV-protective products, such as UV-protective shirts and sunglasses.
Though potable water can be found at the campgrounds, trust me on this: you’ll want to bring extra. Always bring along more water than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re planning to hike a lot! It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to drinking water, especially in hot and humid states like Florida where sweating is unavoidable.
Reviews for Everglades National Park Camping
Everglades National Park has a 4.6 rating on Google Reviews, tallied up via a whopping 10,724 reviews! Visitors rave about the opportunity to tour the mangrove forests, the thrill of spotting alligators or manatees, and the knowledgeable and friendly guides. You won’t be disappointed when you decide to take the plunge and explore this one-of-a-kind national park!
Wrapping Up Everglades National Park Camping
Have I sold you yet? The Everglades is an absolute must-add on any camper’s bucket list. Be sure to bring along your camera—you’ll want plenty of proof of the wonders you experienced to take home with you!
Looking to check more Florida national parks off of your camping bucket list? Check out The Complete Guide to Dry Tortugas National Park Camping and The Complete Biscayne National Park Camping Guide!