Last year we spent a few days dipping our toes into the Everglade’s waters. This year we wanted to dive deeper into this unique and incredible place, so we booked ourselves four nights at the Flamingo Campground, right in the middle of the National Park.
On the way into (and out of) Everglades National Park we made the obligatory stop at Robert is Here. This famous fruit stand sells every kind of tropical fruit you can think of, and many you didn’t know existed.
The place was packed on the Sunday we headed into the park, so we skipped the line for the milkshakes. Luckily the lines were short when we stopped back through on our way out!
Flamingo Campground is located at the southernmost tip of the Florida peninsula within the vast Everglades National Park. The 35 mile drive from the main visitor center in Homestead to Flamingo takes you off the grid to a remote and wild place situated along Florida Bay. Our campsite, one of only a handful with electrical hook ups, provided us with 24-hour access to the park, which few get to experience.
When we were here last year we rented kayaks and explored the centrally located, easy to access Buttonwood Canal. This year, with our Botē kayaks, we were prepared to explore a little more off the beaten path. Our first stop was the Nine Mile Pond.
Most people just drive by and look at the lagoon at Nine Mile Pond, Chevy Chase “Vacation-“ style. We went deeper! Paddling across the pond took us to a 3 mile canoe trail which passes through shallow grassy marsh and scattered mangrove islands. Expecting to see alligators, crocodiles, or other scary creatures, we settled for a sea of grass and lots of sea life below.
We followed the trail by paddling from marker to marker. These numbered PVC pipes became a beacon in the often disorienting swamp. In fact it kind of became a game to paddle to one and then look for the next. Our two hours on the water, complete with a lunch break, was one of the highlights of this year’s visit to the Everglades.
Because we camped so close to the Ranger Station we were able to take advantage of several Ranger-led programs. First we learned about the osprey that populate the park. Once we knew a little more about these giant birds, we saw them and their massive nests all over.
We also learned about the American Crocodiles that live in the Everglades. South Florida is the only place where this species coexists with the American Alligator. Yes, the crocodiles are much bigger than the alligators!
On our afternoon kayak out to Florida Bay we paddled past a 13 foot crocodile sunning itself near a branch. We snapped a quick picture but then left the big guy to do his thing.
During our kayak we joined another Ranger-led program. The park offers this free kayaking tour of Florida Bay almost every afternoon, and it books up immediately each morning. Luckily they let us tag along since we had our Botēs.
We learned about the mangroves that line much of south Florida, about the history of the town of Flamingo, and more about the osprey. From the water we had a great vantage point to watch the osprey defend their nest from marauding crows who were after the eggs nestled within the nest.
We spent one day here watching the rain fall and the clouds roll over. While the weather prevented us from kayaking or biking, it didn’t stop Steve from putting in 19 miles in preparation for his next marathon.
We’re back to the Keys next!