Exploring the everglades for a couple of days
September 24, 2011 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Where should we stay for a night or two to explore the Everglades? Not camping.

My wife and I are taking a trip to Florida next week. We are flying to Naples and renting a car. Our rough plan is to spend a night or two in the vicinity of the Everglades, then drive to the Keys. In the Everglades, we are mostly interested in hiking, and maybe a non-hokey boat tour if such a thing exists.

Where should we stay? Homestead? Somewhere further west? Also, any tips on what to do and see in the Everglades?
posted by Maximian to Travel & Transportation around Everglades, FL (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've never stayed here, but I've heard good things about Everglades Hostel and it is near a very good Mexican restaurant.

If you take 41 across the state instead of I-75, you'll see lots of Airboat rides advertised. I can't help you pick one.

I must say, I'm an inveterate Florida camper, and most parts of the Everglades are really buggy until it cools down. Bring long sleeves, hats, closed toed shoes, and pack 98% DEET, that offwoods stuff is pretty much useless down there until January.
posted by bilabial at 2:24 PM on September 24, 2011

Oh, rent a canoe! You can see so much more. Yes, the bug will eat you alive, but it is so worth it. It's like Disneyland jungle cruise: around every bend is this weirdly static tableau of animals -- Alligators! Avocets! Manatees! Scarlet Ibis! -- that barely notice you gliding past.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 3:56 PM on September 24, 2011

Ok, if you're going to rent a canoe, you can do that at the Flamingo concession. There are other concessions, but you want to be able to read charts if you're renting from those. And you need to be able to put a canoe on your car.

I will tell a story about the customer service at the Flamingo place. I took a canoe out overnight with a friend not too far back. We paid for a 24 hour rental with a written down in the paperwork explanation that we'd return it by closing time the next day (5 or 6pm, I can't remember), instead of at 2pm.

So. We have lots of fun. Because the weather was awful we broke up our camp at 5am and headed back east. We hauled ass through the rain and storminess and got back to the concession around noon, desperate for hot showers and hot beverages.

The guy who rented us the canoe said, "hey, I was just about to call the coast guard to look for you guys!" And I thought that was a terrible thing to joke about! So I said, "What?" And he said, "You're late!" And I said, "What?!?!"

And he replied, in a tone of voice I usually reserve for puppies that don't understand English, "Ya'll were due back last night at 5 o'clock. I was starting to get worried about you!"

That is when my head exploded. Not because I paid for 24 hours, and not because he was so condescending. But because, holy hell! They were just thinking about calling the coast guard after 17 hours? If I'm 17 hours overdue in a canoe in the Everglades, I'm probably dead or dying. And I have the potential to be a whole hell of a lot harder to find.

So. I probably won't rent from them again, and I'm doubly glad that I filed my trip plan with my coast guard helicopter pilot friend's WIFE. Thankfully, she would call the station if I didn't call her when I'm supposed to.

I would have been even more pissed if they'd actually launched the bird to look for me. That shit is expensive! Which brings me to the more infuriating part of my story about that concession. They hadn't called yet because they didn't have my paperwork. So they didn't know my name, or what I looked like. Or which car we had come in. Or, well....funny thing. WHAT TIME I WAS DUE BACK. Can you imagine making that call to a government agency? "We need you to look for people. We don't know anything about them, but they're late."
posted by bilabial at 4:53 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just for perspective, Miami Beach is pretty much exactly one hour's drive from the entrance to the Miami side of the Everglades. Heh. So if you want a night of luxury.... (Though that puts you an extra hour to the end of the Keys, of course.)

If you're coming out of the park on the East side, the best Mexican food in the world (okay, best Mexican in South Florida) is right here: Moreno's, in Florida City, on West Palm Drive, just east of NW 5th Ave. They have tamales behind the counter.

Also, you surely know this, but don't take 75 across Florida from Naples if you're interested in the Everglades, it's hideous, take the Tamiami trail road.

Also, as you're on the way down to the Keys, take Card Sound Road, instead of 1.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:02 AM on September 25, 2011

Also instead of staying by the Everglades, you could stay in Key Largo, and rent a little boat at Pennekamp; great skin-diving on the reefs.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:03 AM on September 25, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions so far. Pennekamp looks interesting but unfortunately I have a crippling fear of deep water, so diving is out. Since we want to hike some of the trails in the Everglades, and maybe rent a canoe or something, preferably with a guide or group. In any case, it looks like Florida City might be the best option?

We've been to Miami Beach, and it's not really our kind of place. Luxurious, perhaps, but very expensive, and there's no place to park. We were staying in Miami for several days last year, and one day I went to pick up my sister who was living in Miami Beach. We had planned to walk around a bit, but there was literally no place to park the car. After driving around in Miami Beach bumper-to-bumper traffic, looking for a space, for an hour (!) we gave up and went back to the mainland. Not doing that again.
posted by Maximian at 12:01 PM on September 25, 2011

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