Updated on June 11, 2020
Day 7 of 2019 Florida Spring Break, Everglades
Seventh day of my spring break Florida road trip. I would spend the majority of the day in Everglades National Park, among crocodiles and mangroves.
While I originally planned to visit Everglades the previous day and Miami beaches today, the puncture I suffered on Florida Keys meant I had to push all my plans a day back.
In addition, I needed a good night’s sleep to keep that frenetic encounter behind me. So it’s past 10am that I woke up today and left for Everglades.
Not long after getting off the busy Route 1, I found myself driving among fields of farmland. I found out later in the day that water from Everglades National Park supplied most of lower Florida’s agriculture, and urban development had eroded significant portions of the Everglades.
Everglades National Park
This park was created to protect a fragile ecosystem of wetlands and forests fed by a slow-moving river (400m per day). It’s the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. Today I would be visiting its southern part, of a long road from Parachute Key to Flamingo. Some other famous parts of the park include Shark Valley with its tramway and crocodiles, and Everglades City with its airboat tours, both were too far from our lodge near Homestead.
There were a few hiking trails along the highway from Parachute Key to Flamingo, most of them were rather short in length. They each exhibited a different kind of eco system that existed in the park, which was pretty well-designed in my opinion.
I also liked the fact that I bumped into different wildlife in different parts of the park. In addition to crocodiles that made the park famous, I met lizard, snail, and countless breeds of birds.
My first stop in the park was Royal Palm area. It’s the only place of the day that one could see crocodiles (and there were many).
Technically “crocodiles” and “alligators” were two different species, which I don’t know how to tell. I will address all the photos as “crocodiles”.
There were two short trails in the Royal Palm area, Anhinga Trail with its crocodiles were more popular than Gumbo Limbo Trail in the forest, that’s also where I went first.
After that, I went onto Gumbo Limbo Trail, which wound his way through Paradise Key, an “island” of trees surrounded by the slow-moving river of Taylor Slough.
Along the trail I came across some unexpected animals.
After that, I headed for Mahogany Hammock. This portion of the park road travelled through both forests and grasslands.
Then I arrived at Mahogany Hammock, probably the best place to experience a hammock ecosystem in the park. It also came with a short 700-meter boardwalk trail.
Hammock was an island of trees, often just a few inches high from surrounding wetlands. And in the case here, indeed it was an “island” among a slow-moving river (400m per day).
After that, I headed off for West Lake.
West Lake was in a place where fresh water met sea water, it’s also where sceneries changed from marl prairie to coastal mangrove.
As usual, it came with a 600-meter boardwalk through twisted mangrove trees to the coast of West Lake.
Most animals supported by mangrove forest, like shrimp, fish or crabs, were hidden underwater, leaving me mostly to admire the variety of plants.
West Lake was a large body of water, with a kayak one could visit the intricate waterways of coastal mangroves across many lakes. What I saw from the boardwalk was only a small portion of it.
After that, I reached Flamingo, which was the southern end of the park road right next to sea.
There was a visitor center, a large campground and a general store. There were a few boat launch sites for larger, motor-powered boats, and maybe a water tour of the mangroves.
While the place would be heaven for either campers or boaters, I was neither. So after snapping a few photos of the ocean where road ends, I went on the return trip.
On the way back, I made a brief stop at the bank of Nine Mile Pond, which was actually a very small pond. It’s name after the canoe trail exploring the mangroves that stretched for nine miles.
The name of the trail meant “grassy water” in Seminole language. It’s a 250-meter boardwalk with an elevated observation platform.
It’s my final stop in the park. It’s a 625-meter paved trail at the boundary of pine forest and hardwood hammock.
It was 5pm that I headed out of Everglades National Park back to Homestead. Feeling hungry from lack of lunch (only a few snacks) and being away from my food columnist friends, I had a quick lunch in Homestead. That’s when they messaged me that they had great fun on Miami Beach for the day, and invited me over.
Unfortunately, I was leaving at 6pm, which was certainly evening rush hour by local standards. So what Google Maps predicted a 60-minute drive in good traffic turned into a 100-minute misery.
Unfortunately, it took me longer than expected to find parking on Miami Beach Island. So by the time I parked my car and joined my friends, it was already dark.
Miami Beach at Night
Nonetheless, since it’s our last night together, we still decided to give Miami Beach a quick walking tour before heading back.
We walked along Lincoln Road, which was a pedestrian street lined with restaurants and shops. Had we been hungry we might give the restaurants a try.
Then it was starting to drizzle, so we drove back to Homestead to our Airbnb house and called it a day.