The Everglades national park is heaven for lovers of the great outdoors, with loads of nature to watch, tons of trails for hikers, and sailing, snorkelling and diving for watersports fans – plus beachcombing and relaxing for those who want a ‘proper’ holiday
1.Take the road from Homestead to Flamingo
The main road through Everglades national park has been called “38 miles of nothing”, but that’s way off the mark. The road passes through every major natural habitat, including fire-shaped pinelands, sawgrass marshes, cypress domes, sloughs and mangroves before ending at the campground on Florida Bay. Drive slowly, stop often (there are numerous hiking trails, boardwalks and observation towers) and watch for wildlife. At the Anhinga Trail boardwalk, you can watch alligators and wading birds at exhiliratingly close range, while the boardwalk around Mahogany Hammock winds through a West Indian hardwood forest that contains the largest living mahogany tree in the United States.
• Everglades national park, 40001 State Highway 9336, Homestead, +1 305 242 7700, nps.gov/ever. Park entrance costs $10 per car and $5 per cyclist or pedestrian
2. Explore Cape Sable and Florida Bay by boat
Cape Sable is a wild, desolate beachscape at the very bottom of peninsular Florida. Except for the Coastal Prairie Trail, from the campground in Flamingo leading west to Clubhouse Beach, you’ll need a boat to explore the beaches of Cape Sable and Florida Bay. If the trade winds are light, exploring by canoe will put you in proximity to terns, gulls, wading birds, shorebirds and pelicans, particularly at low tide. Canoeing into Snake Bight and off Frank Key are easy, bird-rich day trips. If the wind is too strong to paddle in the open bay, head up the Buttonwood Canal from the marina into Coot Bay, or portage over to the Bear Lake Canoe Trail. Carl Ross Key, 10 miles south in the Bay, is my favourite spot to camp in the national park.
• Flamingo Marina Rentals and Boat Tours, +1 239 695 3101, evergladesnationalparkboattoursflamingo.com. Houseboat, canoe, kayak, bicycle rentals and boat tours are available through the marina store, open Mon-Fri 7am-7pm and Sat-Sun 6am-7pm; fuel sales 7am-6pm daily