The Everglades is a huge swamp land area with part of it immediately to the west of Miami, a drive of perhaps 20 minutes or so on US 41 (SW 8th Street), the main highway out of Miami going west. The Everglades once covered almost 11,000 square miles. However, today it is half the size it was only a century ago because of development, drainage for agriculture, and flood control. Called the “River of Grass”, the Everglades is made up of sawgrass marshes, prairies, forested uplands, and fresh water and salt water ponds that support a community of plants and wildlife including endangered species such as the Florida panther and American crocodile.

You can take that SW 8th Street directly from downtown Miami and, if you choose, stop at Little Havana. The Versailles restaurant has excellent Cuban food and is a Miami landmark and popular with tourists as well as locals.

On US 41 you will also find a PIT BBQ where you can try fried alligator and frog legs. There is also an outdoor restaurant where you can get a good Cuban pork sandwich and drink coconut juice right from a coconut.

Approximately 30 miles west on US 41 is the Miccosukee Indian Village, where you can learn about the people of the Everglades and see a wildlife and alligator show as well as view a small museum and a gift shop with Native American items. Perhaps you’d like to take an air boat ride, which is only $10.00 per person for a 30 minute ride and about $20.00 to $25.00 for an hour’s ride.

The Everglades National Park, designated as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, is the third largest United States national park. It encompasses 1.5 million acres of the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. If you want to enjoy this as a side trip for a day or several, there are campgrounds, three visitor centers, picnic areas, observation towers, boat tours, and canoe and bike rentals. The wildlife includes crocodiles, alligators, dolphins, manatees, heron, egrets, bald eagles, and other species. Fishing from channels, shallow water flats, and mangrove keys includes bass, snapper, sea trout, bluegill, and other fresh water and salt water fish. Note that fishing requires a separate Florida fishing license for each type of water fishing. You are allowed to collect one quart of non-occupied sea shells, but you cannot collect such things as orchids, seahorses, starfish, tropical fish, sponges, coral, and driftwood.

The Everglades Safari Park has a fleet of airboats of all sizes that can hold anywhere from singles up to large groups. Tour guides will describe the ecosystem and wildlife, and many tours add to their airboat rides with an alligator and wildlife show and a walking trail. The dense foliage reminds a person of the Amazon. Indentations every so often are alligator dens. Birds are predominant in the Everglades. You might also see an iguana in a tree, and they can grow up to about six feet. Usually they have been released by pet owners over the years.