We both enjoy nature and the outdoors, so the Everglades and the Ten Thousand Islands topped our list of “must visit” places.
The Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It comprises most of South Florida, spanning from just south of Orlando to the Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. Our trip to the Everglades started with a 1.5 hour drive along Highway 41 from Miami to our destination of Everglades City. Part of our experience was the drive through the vast Everglades. Along the way, we were amazed by the beauty and wildlife that abounds the wetlands. From the road, we saw several alligators and a variety of birds. Fish were abundant. Tom was a little sad that he couldn’t pull the car over and fish with the locals. Naturally he thought about the ways in which he would prepare the bounty for dinner!
Once we reached Everglades City, we decided to take an airboat tour through the mangrove wilderness. There are numerous tour operators. However, after doing research, we decided upon Speedy’s Airboat Tours because they are the only boats that can tour the grasslands in addition to the mangrove jungles.
We purchased our tickets and had an hour to spare. We were told that we could go to a nearby convenience store for drinks, which we could also bring aboard for the tour. Being a little hungry, we decided to go next door to City Seafood, where we shared a fried alligator appetizer (of course we had order this)! We enjoyed our snack, sitting in the sun with a view that overlooked the water and marina.
We returned for our one hour tour. The boats are intimate, with a maximum of 6 guests. In fact, our tour hosted only one other couple. Again, this is different from other operators that take 20+ passengers at a time. Our guide was Hoss. He was extremely knowledgeable and spoke about the Everglades and the wildlife we encountered. During our tour, we saw several birds and numerous alligators. One alligator even swam up beside the boat. Hoss, being a crazy guy, pet the alligator on its’ head. By the way, we don’t recommend bringing drinks on the tour. Speeding along the water and taking sharp turns, the drinks will undoubtedly spill!
Next, Tom and I headed out for another boat trip that is sponsored by the National Parks system. The Everglades National Park Boat Tours sponsors several excursions. We decided upon the Ten Thousand Island Tour. The rather large boat can accommodate over 20 passengers. Besides us, there was one other guest along with 3 guides. 1:1 ratio of guests to guides! This time, we decided to bring along a bottle of wine to enjoy during the sunset tour. We motored out of the mangrove forest and toured the outer islands bordering the Gulf of Mexico. During the ride, we saw a multitude of birds and several dolphins. It was a beautiful trip that was enhanced by detailed information imparted from our guides.
Once the tour ended, we headed to Camellia Street Grill for dinner. This is the place to be for dinner in Everglades City. It was jamming! The restaurant is a funky, eclectic space with fresh and tasty food, friendly staff, and fun diners. Since it’s the beginning of stone crab season, we naturally had to have some. We also tried the avocado salad, made from the fruit of their neighbor’s tree and some fried oysters. For dessert, we naturally had the heavenly key lime pie. All of these are stereotypical Florida fare, but it was a perfect way to end our day in the Everglades.
Our excursion to this vastly expansive and diverse land was incredible. We highly recommend leaving the beaches of South Florida for a day to tour the Everglades. You will not be disappointed!
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