The Ultimate Guide to the Glades

Out of all the Florida Travel Tips I have shared, my Everglades trip has been the most repeated by my FLomad community. Over the course of a few trips, I have tested these best spots and things to do in The Everglades. You will never forget your time in The Glades, this river of grass is the heart of Florida.

When I tell people about the time I have spent in the Everglades, they usually respond with, “Are you insane?” They may envision me taking selfies in front of a Burmese pythons eating an alligator. Truth is, the Everglades is really not a threatening place! I find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando much more dangerous. Elder millennials fueled by Butterbeer spiked with Fireball are much more likely to attack you than an alligator.

The Everglades is one of the most peaceful places in our state. There are few cars, minimal billboard signs and barely any streetlights. There is no gift shop full of Made in China shell necklaces or tacky souvenir mugs with your name on it. Nobody bothers you during meals to offer to draw your caricature or harass you to buy a rose wrapped in plastic. How could the absence of all that nonsense be scary?

Perhaps, what is daunting about the Everglades is pure fear of the unknown. My goal is to help you get to know the Glades a little better. You can put your fears aside and explore our state’s natural wonder. Here is the ultimate guide of Exploring the Everglades.

How to Get to The Glades

The Everglades is almost 8,000-square miles with the southwest corner offering the easiest access for adventures. US-41, otherwise known as the Tamiami Trail is the access road running from East to West. Everglades City is located about 45 minutes east of Naples via US-41, and is the location of Everglades National Park. It offers great access to Ten Thousand Islands, the stretch of coast dotted with mangrove islets along the Chokoloskee Bay. The swamp towns of Ochopee, Chokoloskee and Copeland are within 20 minutes of Everglades City making it an optimal base camp for exploration.

Where to Eat

Havana Café of The Everglades

191 Smallwood Dr, Chokoloskee, FL 34138; 7AM-4PM

If you are in the swamp at sunrise, kick off your day with some Cuban cuisine. I found this spot desperately seeking strong hot cup of coffee during a damp, cold swamp visit. I saw “Havana” and swerved in search of a café con leche. I found it, along with an excellent Cuban breakfast and tropical ambiance.

City Seafood

702 Begonia St, Everglades City, FL 34139; 7AM-5:30PM

This eatery keeps things simple with seafood baskets and offering local fare like fried gator, frog legs and blue crab. I found this place by suggestion of my airboat guide, he raved about their homemade key lime pie and ice cream. I honestly did not make it to dessert, because I gorged myself on oysters and blackened grouper.

Camellia Street Grill

202 Camellia St W, Everglades City, FL 34139; 11AM-9PM

I stumbled upon this casual, waterfront spot when it is the only restaurant open after 5:30 PM. Camellia’s is now my “cannot miss” in the Everglades because both the grub and vibe are sublimely swampy. It is a rustic eatery, adorned with Florida kitsch like brilliantly colored buoys, a busted VW bug and aqua airstream in the courtyard. Where City Seafood plays it safe, Camellia Street colors outside of the lines. They have gator tacos, shrimp and grits, stone crab claws in season and “Finger Lickin’ Good” wings in with their signature “Bay Sauce.” It is a great place to enjoy the bay breeze, crack open a bottle of Florida brewed beer and watch airboats come in and out of the channel.

What to do

Pose with the World’s Smallest Post Office

38000 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141; 8AM-10AM & 12PM-4PM M-F, 8AM-11:30 Saturday, Closed Sunday

This classic Roadside America stop was once the shed to hold irrigation pipes for a tomato farm. In 1953, a cigarette burned down Ochopee’s original post office and the shed was used as a temporary location to serve a tri-county area. Over 60 years later, it is still operating as the Smallest Post Office in the US. If you catch it during operating hours, there is a stack of Ochopee post cards on the counter to send swamp-love to a friend back home.

Learn Some Nonsense at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters

40904 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141; 9AM-5PM

The posterchild of Florida Cryptozoology has its own dedicated research center marked by several statues of Skunk Ape. This tourist attraction was founded by the self-proclaimed “Jane Goodall of Skunk Ape,” Dave Shealy. Shealy states he first saw Skunk Ape at ten years old, then went on to make a small enterprise out of his childhood imagination. You would think this is a facetious tourist trap, but Dave Shealy truly believes he is an expert on an unstudied pseudo-species. There is a small zoo and tours offered, along with a campground. I stayed in a Chickee Hut during a visit once and although I heard all sorts of rustling in the Glades, I did not see, nor smell skunk ape. It is a great place to get a tacky souvenir, outdoor gear or just snap a roadside selfie with Skunky.

Shop Smallwood’s Store

360 Mamie St, Chokoloskee, FL 34138; 10AM-5PM

Opened in 1906, this small general store is on the US National Register of Historic Places. It has been poached upon by developers for the past three decades since the red stilt home has an incredible view of Ten Thousand Islands . Today it serves as a museum, with antiques and artifacts telling the history of the Calusa tribe and the pioneers of South Florida.

How to Experience the Swamp

Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours

905 Dupont St, Everglades City, FL 34139; 9AM-5PM

There are a lot of airboat tour options, but this is the only one I have tried. I will tout this activity as the most fun I have had as an adult, at least while bone sober. This access point takes you through Ten Thousand Islands. As you speed through mangrove caverns, you will feel the air temperature warm and cool. The airboat will roll right up on alligators and you can expect brazen racoons to come aboard. It is a thrill ride if you ask the captain to do 360s, however I advise you to plan to eat lunch after.

Clyde Butcher Swamp Walk at Big Cypress Gallery

52388 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141

I had the pleasure of being invited on a Big Cypress Swamp Walk Tour and met the swamp legend, Clyde Butcher himself. It is a Florida memory I will never forget. It is located at Butcher’s Big Cypress Art Gallery. If you’re not familiar Clyde, he is a true InFLOencer with a mission to share the beauty of the swamp through his incredible black and white photography. On the tour, we went about waist deep in the cool, clear swamp wate.r with an ecotour lead one of the resident photographers. On the journey, our guide Scott taught us about therapeutic plants and I got a selfie with an alligator. If you enjoy hiking, you will be surprised how much you will love mucking in the swamp water.

To prepare for your marsh mucking mission, check out all of my Everglades Spots on The Flohemian Google Map.

  1. Alyssa
    March 19, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Wow! These are some great suggestions. Thank you for taking the time to share with all of us. Can’t wait to get back down to the Glades.

    • Mandy Mizell
      Mandy Mizell • Post Author •
      March 25, 2020 at 6:57 pm

      Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed. I loved watching your adventures on IG!

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