Everglades National Park In One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Ready to plan your trip to see Florida’s famous swamps and alligators?

After spending months exploring Florida’s beaches and blue waters, we honestly weren’t sure what to expect from the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere.

As full-time RVers, we spend 365 days a year traveling between North America’s best parks and admittedly have pretty high standards…but the Florida Everglades did not disappoint!

We are sharing everything you need to know about how to spend one day in Everglades National Park, from the best trails for hiking, where to see the most wildlife, and how to get the most out of a short trip to this large park!

Let’s dive in:

About Everglades National Park

Two kayaks with four people paddling through the Florida Bay in Everglades National Park

Sitting in southwest Florida, Everglades National Park is the perfect addition to your beach vacation, Florida Keys RV getaway, or road trip!

One of three Florida National Parks, Everglades National Park has a much different feel than the remote islands of Dry Tortugas National Park or the vast blue waters of Biscayne National Park.

It is a large park, with 3 main areas to visit. Shark Valley in the northwest nearest Everglades City, the area around the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in the southeast closest to Homestead and Miami, and the Flamingo area in the remote bottom southwest corner of the park:

While you might have to battle some mosquitos and face your fears of gators, there is so much fun to be had at Everglades National Park – even in just one day.

What To Know Before You Go

Yearly Visitors: 1 million

Airports near Everglades National Park:

  • Miami International Airport: 1 hour
  • Fort Lauderdale International Airport: 1.5 hours
  • Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers area): 1.5 hours
  • Tampa International Airport: 3.5 hours

Best Time of Year to Visit: The best time to visit Everglades National Park is during the dry season between November and April (this is the park’s peak season)

How Many Days To Spend In The Park: With it being such a large park, 3 days is probably the ideal amount of time to fully experience the park. With a bit of driving and crafty planning, you can still see many of the park’s best spots in just one day!

Entrance Fees: $35/vehicle for a 7-day pass. National Park Passes accepted (the best value if you plan to visit 3 or more parks in a year)

Getting Around: You will need a vehicle to explore Everglades National Park, there is no shuttle system through the park

Accommodations: With it being such a large park, there are technically multiple cities you could stay in while visiting including Miami, Homestead, Key Largo, and Everglades City

We also highly recommend staying inside the park by camping in Everglades National Park!

Best Things To Do During A Day Trip To The Everglades

If you only have one day to explore Everglades National Park, there are still plenty of things you will want to try to squeeze in!

These are our top contenders for what you might want to include in your day trip to the Everglades (followed by how we would plan it all out in the perfect 1-day itinerary):

Check Out A Visitor Center

Pink Guy Bradley Visitor Center building sitting on the water's edge in Everglades National Park
Guy Bradley Visitor Center

Heading to a visitor center is the best way to learn about the park and plan out your visit. Here you can know what wildlife to look out for, find out about any trail or road closures, and find out just how bad the mosquito activity is during your visit.

Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in the United States. Covering so much ground, the park offers several visitor centers and entrances:

There are a few main Everglades National Park entrances that are most used:

  • North Entrances (Shark Valley, Gulf Coast)
  • South Entrances (Royal Palm – Ernest F. Coe & Flamingo Visitor Centers)

Visitor Centers:

  • Guy Bradley Visitors Center (Flamingo Visitor Center)
  • Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
  • Shark Valley Visitor Center
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center
  • Oasis Visitor Center (Big Cypress National Preserve)

With only 1 day in the park, we recommend planning to hit one of the following visitor centers: Guy Bradley in the Flamingo area, Ernest F. Coe closest to Homestead, or the Shark Valley Visitor Center.

Hiking in Everglades National Park

A boardwalk trail leading out from the wetland and over the water in Everglades National Park

In our opinion, no trip to a National Park would be complete without getting out onto a trail!

Everglades has several miles of trails, with a few great options that will allow you to get a great feel for the wonderful diversity that this park protects.

Check out one or multiple of these short trails in the park:

Explore Shark Valley

One of the best places to see wildlife in Everglades National Park is in Shark Valley.

This also means that Shark Valley is one of the busiest and most popular spots in the park!

There are a few ways you can experience Shark Valley:

Bike or enjoy a guided tram ride at Shark Valley and climb to the top of the Shark Valley Lookout/Observation Tower

We brought our own bikes and had a blast riding alongside all of the alligators and birds. E-bikes are allowed on the path, which is shared by the tram.

Take An Airboat Ride

Right near Shark Valley, you will find the only airboat tours that operate inside the National Park.

You can take an airboat ride with one of the 3 airboat tour operators inside Everglades National Park

There are also local airboat tour operators that offer tours outside of the National Park boundaries that you can consider as well.

Visit The Flamingo Area

A small boat with two fishermen in the blue waters along the edge of the wetlands in Everglades National Park

Flamingo is the southernmost tip of Everglades National Park and is completely worth the long drive it takes to reach it.

Here you can camp in a super remote section of the park (or stay in the park’s glamping tents, houseboats, or upscale lodge), take a boat ride or kayak tour from the local marina, see the friendly manatees, and keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles.

The Flamingo Area also has a restaurant, camp store, several trails, and some great fishing spots overlooking the Florida Bay with views of the Florida Keys in the distance.

Wildlife Viewing

There are several species of wildlife to see in the park, including endangered species!

Whether you are along the waterways or in a lush forest, keep your eyes open for the following animals found in the Everglades:

  • American crocodiles, alligators, bald eagles, Florida panthers, manatees, alligators, 300+ species of birds, snakes (including the invasive pythons), and more!

Stop At Robert Is Here

A trip to Everglades National Park would not be complete without stopping for a fresh fruit milkshake at Robert Is Here (we highly recommend the strawberry!)

Recommended to us by locals in the Florida Keys, this quirky place is a can’t miss for your Everglades Itinerary.

See the parrots and tortoises, enjoy a delicious shake or smoothie (or even a Cuban sandwich), and purchase some unique fruits.

This might seem like a whole bunch of things to try to fit into just one day in Everglades National Park. While it will be a full and busy day, there is definitely a way to fit it all in!

Here is how we would design an Everglades National Park itinerary if you have just one day in the park:

Everglades National Park Itinerary

The number one thing to know about visiting the Everglades National Park in one day is that you can expect to do a fair amount of driving in order to visit all of the main attractions of the park.

To give you an idea of driving distances:

  • It is a 40-mile drive from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to the Flamingo Marina.
  • It is roughly a 2 hour (not scenic or special) drive between the Flamingo Marina and the Shark Valley Visitor Center and 1.5 hours from the Anhinga Trail to Shark Valley

Accounting for multiple hours of driving, here is how we recommend planning out your day in Everglades in National Park:

Note: Due to the popular nature of Shark Valley and long wait times for parking (which can be well over an hour), we highly recommend making this your first stop of the day to cut down on wait time, no matter which side of the park you are staying on. This said, if you want to do a tram tour and have a later slot be sure to arrive around 1.5 hours in advance.


Start by heading straight to Shark Valley for a guided tram tour (2 hours) or self-tour of the 15-mile paved trail lined with wildlife and a climb up the observation tower to see over the park.

Tram tours start at 9 am during the busy season between December and April and you must arrive at least 1 hour in advance.

Even for a self-guided tour, we recommend arriving at the Shark Valley lot by 730 or 8 am to limit time waiting in line for parking.

Mid Day:

After getting up close and personal with the gators in Shark Valley, head 15 or so minutes down the road for an airboat ride.

Airboat rides are offered on a rolling basis and no advanced reservations are required. Most tours are 30-40 minutes in length and include a fun journey gliding over the swamps, as long as a slow-speed safari where your captain will help you spot birds and alligators.

After Shark Valley and your airboat tour, it’ll be time for lunch!

At this point in the day, it is also time to head south to explore the other section of the park.

Along the way consider stopping for a bite to eat at:


For the afternoon, stop by the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and hike the nearby Anhinga Trail.

Next, start the long drive down to the Flamingo Marina, stopping at any of the other short trails along the way if you have time. There is one road in and out of the Flamingo area, and you will pass several trailheads just off the main roadway.

When you arrive at the Flamingo Marina, walk around looking for crocodiles and manatees, walk the Guy Bradley Trail along the Florida Bay, and check out the newly renovated Guy Bradley Visitor Center.

After this, you will have had a full day in Everglades National Park and managed to see many of the main attractions of the park in one day!


Where to stay:

What to pack:

  • Bug Spray
  • Mosquito Headnet (this was a lifesaver)
  • Long pants and layers
  • Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
  • Waterproof hiking shoes
  • Binoculars
  • *If you will be camping in the park we recommend stocking up on groceries and supplies first, as you are far away from conveniences

Tours to explore:

Ready to explore more East Coast National Parks?

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