After our Christmas festivities at Casey Key, we headed into Everglades National Park where we didn’t really have a plan.
The government was shutdown, and we were unsure of the status of the National Park campgrounds. And unfortunately, all of the KOA and state park sites were full for the weekend, so we drove to Big Cypress Campground (within the park) to try our luck.
We pulled into the campground, and after a brief chat with the campground host we were told we could stay for free, but… at our own risk (due to the shutdown).
The campground was fairly remote and we didn’t have cell service but we still opted to set up camp for the night. After getting settled, we walked around the pond and saw a handful of alligators lurking around.
Being tired from the long drive, we cranked out a quick workout we headed to bed.
The next day we explored the Big Cypress Boardwalk where we saw more gators, a small snake (that definitely looked poisonous) and a variety of birds.
Dolphins in the Everglades
We then made the last minute decision (and correct decision, I might add) to take a boat tour out of Everglade City through the Ten Thousand Islands. It was a hot and humid day in southern Florida so being out on the water provided a nice cool breeze.
On the boat we saw more birds and a bunch of dolphins.
The highlight was seeing a baby dolphin in the wild and watching them up close play in the wake of the boat.
That night we decided to try a campground a little further down the road that supposedly had cell service.
We pulled into a pretty crowded place called the Midway Campground around 7pm and nabbed another free camping spot.
One thing that surprised us here was the magnificent night sky. It was so dark and you could see so many stars and even the Milky Way! We later found out that this was one of the few National dark sky areas in the US.
Cell service was decent, but not spectacular so we opted to drive 45 minutes into Naples to work from a Starbucks on Sunday.
Airboats and Crazy Gators
We knew we wanted to take an airboat tour so we found a place near town, Corey Billie’s Airboats and were able to get a campsite at the state park nearby.
Since the state park campground was close to town we were able to work from our campsite until our airboat ride the next day.
Oh boy, the airboat ride was a fun! And a great way to see some of the swamp and a bunch of gators up close and personal! One gator actually swam right into the side of our boat! It must have been in a diabetic coma from all of the marshmallows the boat drivers were feeding it…
Now that we had spent three days in and around Everglades National Park we each were covered in bug bites. It looked like we had an outbreak of chicken pox, and they were so so itchy. It was our first experience with no-see-ums. Not our favorite.
We drove over to the eastern side of the park just outside of Homestead and camped at Long Pine Key Campground for two nights, ringing in the New Year with the other campers.
Because these days fell during our work week we didn’t get to make it down to explore Flamingo. I think with the combination of bug bites and humidity we were both ready to leave the swamp.
The Everglades National Park was expansive and provided an astounding variety of flora and fauna, and the number of birds and other animals we saw was far greater than any other stop, which made it pretty spectacular!