When Miamians have had their fill of city life, they head south to Everglades National Park. But of the park’s 2,400 square miles, I send my guests first to the Ernest S. Coe Visitor Center, just about an hour’s drive away from the city.
Open 365 days per year, the center is a great way to familiarize yourself with the Everglades’ diverse wildlife. Named after the man who fought to preserve the land and its animals from extinction, the center brims with dioramas of land and underwater life, interactive exhibits and films.
Only a short drive from the center, there are two easy hikes that cross flat sawgrass prairies: the Anhinga Trail, a .8-mile loop that overlooks a waterway, and the Gumbo Limbo Trail, almost half a mile, that winds through a jungle forest. Along the way, expect to spot alligators, crocodiles, turtles and snakes, or birds such as hawks and herons.
If you’re visiting between November and August, stop by the Robert Is Here Fruit Stand, located near the park entrance. That’s where Robert, a local farmer, sells veggies, a variety of jellies, relishes and honeys, as well as tropical fruits like mangoes, Asian guavas and dragon fruit. Or, choose from about two-dozen juice shakes with flavors like key lime or guanabana.
Trust me, there’s no sweeter way to enjoy the Everglades.
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