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in     by Bill Yates 25-09-2014
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Visitors to south Florida have two options for making a day trip to the Everglades. To the west, Big Cypress National Preserve offers camping, hiking and guided tours. South of Fort Lauderdale, Everglades National Park also provides hiking and biking trails, camping spots and guided tours.

Though the Everglades runs to more than 700,000 acres, it’s mostly swamp. Big Cypress National Preserve is in southwest Florida, near the town of Everglades City. Everglades National Park, about 50 miles south of Big Cypress, lies on Florida Bay near the bottom of mainland Florida.

Big Cypress National Preserve

The western route to the Everglades takes you out Alligator Alley (I-75) to Big Cypress National Preserve. Head south on Florida Route 29 about 15 minutes to the Preserve visitor’s center. The 100-mile drive from Quality Inns & Suites Hollywood lasts about 90 minutes.

There are eight campgrounds in the Preserve. Travelers can stroll the boardwalk the runs from the visitor’s center, take ranger-guided canoe trips, or enjoy 45-minute evening programs. The park also offers astronomy events once each month from December through March.

More adventurous travelers can hike a portion of the Florida Scenic Trail that runs through the Everglades. One hike, north to I-75 runs eight miles, while another hike, from I-75 to the Tamiami Trail runs 28 miles. To hike or camp in the backcountry, you’ll need a permit.

Entry into the Preserve is free. Other opportunities to explore Big Cypress National Preserve include:

          Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tour. The first airboat company in southwest Florida, this airboat-tour operator also offers swamp buggy rides. Each tour takes about 30 minutes. Airboat cost: $28/adults, $20 kids aged 4-12, $3 infants.

           Everglades Adventure Tours. See the Everglades up-close-and-personal with guided tours via pole boat, canoe or kayak. Swamp hikes and all-day tours also available. Two-hour tour cost: Between $69-$89, based on which vessel you choose.

            Big Cypress Gallery. Run by famous wildlife photographer and Everglades resident Clyde Butcher, this art house offers 90-minute swamp hikes guided by the famous naturalist. Cost: $50/adults, $35 kids under 18.

Driving directions to Big Cypress National Preserve from Quality Inns & Suites Hollywood.

Everglades National Park

To reach Everglades National Park from Quality Inns & Suites Hollywood, you drive south on the Florida Turnpike. Once the Turnpike ends at Homestead, it’s about 15 minutes to the park. The 60-mile drive to the park takes about one hour, door to door.

You can slog through the swamp on a guided tour, take a driving tour of Loop Road, or slip your boat into Florida Bay for a cruise. You’ll see birds, alligators, cypress domes and mangrove forests. Tour the park on your own, or join in with a ranger for a guided tour. Campsites are available if you want to spend the night.

Everglades National Park is isolated, out in the swamp at the bottom of the state. About halfway through your drive there, you’ll cross Tamiami Trail (US Route 41). The Trail runs west to Big Cypress National Preserve, the other park in the Everglades. Opportunities to explore the Everglades via Tamiami Trail include:

            Shark Valley Tram Tours. Take a two-hour guided tour of the Everglades on a tram, which is like a super-sized golf cart. Cost: $22/adults, $19/seniors, $13 kids aged 3-12. If you’re going after Christmas, make reservations.

            Buffalo Tiger’s Airboat Rides. Operated by a former Miccosukee chairman, this firm offers 45-minute airboat tours of the Everglades. Includes a visit to a Miccosukee camp. Cost: $28/adults, $18 kids aged 6-10.

            Coopertown Airboats.Working the Trail since 1945, this outfit offers guided
airboat tours that cover about nine miles of swampy Everglades. Cost: $23/adult, $11 kids aged 7-11. The complex also contains a restaurant and a
gift shop.

Driving directions to Everglades National Park from Quality Inns & Suites Hollywood.

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