I’ve spent several winters in south Florida and Nikki has lived here since early 2016.
The Homestead entrance to the Everglades National Park is only 20 minutes away but neither Nikki nor I have been there.
Misael was born and raised in south Florida. As a child, his family took an airboat tour and visited the Ernest F Coe Visitor Center but there’s much more he wants to explore.
Tip: If you want to know who Nikki, Misael or any of the regular’s mentioned in my blog are, check out the Who’s Who and What’s What section at the bottom of my About page.
The Price Of Admission…
The Ernest F Coe Visitor Center is the first place to stop. This center is free to visit. There’s an exhibit, a deck overlooking a marsh, a Gift Shop and helpful staff armed with information.
The rest of the humongous Everglades park costs $30 per car for a week long pass.
Being local’s, Nikki and Misael bought an annual pass for $55 (which they bought the day before our adventure).
As We Approach The Entry Gate To The Paid Portion Of The Park…
The entry gate reminds me of my Jekyll Island adventure.
The friendly Attendant talks to us as Nikki scrolls through her phone to find her pass.
The Attendant scans the QR code from Nikki’s phone, hands us a map and we gain entry to the park.
A Hop Skip And A Jump Down The Road…
We find a front row parking spot, gather our things and start walking towards the Royal Palm Visitors Center.
Just beyond the Visitor Center is the trail head.
Before Reaching The Trail Head…
The first signs of wildlife appear.
Out of nowhere, a couple critters run right towards me, chattering as they hippity-hop. In the distance, an elder critter utters a sharp sound of disapproval and the young critters instantly veer away.
There are elementary school kids everywhere. There are so many of these little critters scurrying about that I couldn’t count them if I wanted to!
It must be a Florida school field trip day. There are several groups, each wearing their school uniform. My best guess is they are 4th graders.
All critters, I mean kids and adults, are wearing black shorts or black pants. Most have an easily identifiable red top and a smaller group adorns a purple top (my favorite color!).
At The Trail Head…
The Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails are side-by-side. They are the first trails in the paid portion of the park.
Today, we explore Anhinga Trail.
The Anhinga trail is just shy of a mile long with a level, paved path leading to a boardwalk that leads into the swamp and circles back around to the paved pathway.
The Everglades National Park is huge with many trails and sights to see. There are 3 entrances to the park with each entrance being in a different city. The Homestead Florida section of the Everglades follows State Hwy 9336. This section of the Glades ends in Flamingo FL. From the park entrance, it takes about 45 minutes get to Flamingo if you drive straight through and don’t stop to walk any of the trails or see any of the sights. Once you reach Flamingo, the only way out is the way you came in.
On The Trail…
The first stretch of the trail is an asphalt pathway with a wooden rail along the left side of the path. I assume the railing prevents people from falling into the swamp that runs right beside the path.
We encounter some duck like birds standing on the other side of the railing.
We are so close to these birds we could touch them (but we don’t).
These birds are definitely used to people.
An Alligator, Oh My!…
You don’t have to walk far to see something interesting!
A short ways further, we see the first (of many) alligators chillin’ in the Everglades water.
This is the first time I’ve seen an alligator in the wild.
Questioning if the alligator is real, I intently watch for signs of life.
Once signs of life are confirmed, we continue down the trail.
Stopping For The Little Things…
We stop along the way to enjoy the little critters as well as the big ones.
Butterflies and dragon flies abound in the Everglades.
Spotting Some Turtles On A Log…
If Misael wasn’t with with us I’d have missed a lot!
Being Florida born and raised and an avid reader, learner and expert (at a previous job), Misael saw things that, to me, blended in to the landscape.
Do you see the turtles?
Spotting An Anhinga…
Stopping on a bridge, we notice something gracefully swimming under the water.
It stops here and there to munch on something.
It’s head looks like a snake but it’s body looks like a bird.
The critter surfaces and we determine it’s an Anhinga.
The Anhinga almost blends in with the scenery. I supposed that’s how nature intended it.
There Are Shaded Rest Areas Throughout The Anhinga Trail…
The weather is a perfect 80ish degrees with lower than normal humidity, an occasional cloud and a once in a while breeze.
Even with perfect weather, the south Florida sun is quite strong. Shade is a welcomed and necessary amenity.
After A Quick Shade Break…
We enter the boardwalk.
The boardwalk sits a couple feet or so above the freshwater sawgrass marsh of the south Florida Everglades.
The boardwalk allows us to safely explore the marshland and swamp.
The Everglades is not entirely a swamp. Parts of it are a swamp and parts are a marsh. I do not know where the swamp ends and the marsh begins so please forgive me if I use the wrong term.
From The Safety Of The Boardwalk…
We gaze out over the Everglades.
Each spot offers a different type of view.
Some views include birds in the distance, searching for tasty treats in the tall grassy marsh…
Other views include lily pad covered waters filled with fish and, most likely, critters hidden in the landscape.
There Are 2 Overlooks On The Anhinga Trail…
The overlooks veer off the trail and lead to a viewing deck. To get back to the trail, you need to backtrack.
Nikki and Misael want to check out the first overlook but I’m in need of another shade break.
I decide to head to the next rest area while Nikki and Misael explore the viewing deck.
Before Reaching The Rest Area…
I pause to check out birds perched on a tree, surrounded by thick lily pads, growing out of the swamp.
Suddenly, a commotion comes from the rest area just up ahead.
I quickly walk over to see what’s up.
A group of super excited students watch an alligator swim right below their feet – under the boardwalk!
The alligator stays near the boardwalk for a bit, swimming and wiggling in the water, as if to put on a show.
Several minutes later, the alligator went on it’s merry way out into the swamp.
An Unexpected Lesson About The Everglades…
From the comfort of the shade, I listen as the teacher calls her students to the edge of the boardwalk and shares her knowledge about the swamp.
From her handy dandy bag, the teacher pulls out a bottle with a long string attached.
She asks her students what color they think the swamp water is.
Some students blurt out “It’s brown, it’s brown!” while other’s say “No, no… it’s green!”.
A lone child timidly states the water is clear. I admire his courage to go against the grain.
In my northwest Illinois born and raised head, I think to myself… “The water is tinted brown with little flecks of stuff floating around”.
The teacher seems to take forever to retrieve the bottle filled with water.
Finally, as if it were a trophy, the teacher holds the bottle in the air… displaying the clear Everglades water.
You can see right through the water!
I listen intently as the teacher explains how the Everglades ecosystem is a natural aquafer that filters the water.
She also disclaims that, due to bacteria, we shouldn’t drink it without further filtration.
Everglades Plant Life…
The wildlife is spectacular to see but so is the plant life.
There’s lots of greenery… mixed with brown… occasionally sprinkled with color.
We continue to walk the remaining trail… stopping to view the critters and landscape along the way.
There’s so much to see on the Anhinga trail. I’m sure it changes from day to day and repeat visits are worth considering.
At The End Of The Trail…
We pause to look over the marshland as a dragon fly lands on a stalk a few feet in front of us.
Throughout our walk, we saw lots of dragon flies.
I didn’t realize there were so many colors of dragon flies.
A Few Things To Note If You Visit The Anhinga Trail…
- Bring something to protect your skin and eyes from the sun. Other than the shaded rest areas, you will be in direct sun most, if not all, of the time.
- The Royal Palm visitor’s center has limited water and snacks. Your safest bet is to bring your own.
- We did not use bug spray and didn’t have any trouble – but this could be due to the time of year.
- The almost 1 mile trail is level with several rest areas.
- Don’t count on having a cell signal. Be sure to grab a map at the entrance because you may not be able to look anything up on your phone.
After Anhinga, we drove the entire route to Flamingo. The further we went into the Everglades, the less reliable the cell signal became. We were glad we had a map and the additional info it provided.
Walking the almost mile long trail wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. My biggest problem was my MCS reactions from people wearing sunscreen, perfume and/or laundry fumes spewing from their clothes.
Some of my rest stops were to prevent a worse reaction and to let the people with gawd-awful laundry fumes get ahead of me. Some laundry products are brutal and the fumes emanate long after the laundry is done!
Nikki can’t use sun screen due to allergies. As many Floridians do, Nikki brought an umbrella for extra protection from the sun. She still got a little sunburnt but the umbrella spared her additional agony.
I can’t use sun screen either (allergies and sensitivities). Aloe Vera 100% Gel (by Fruit of the Earth – purchased at Walmart) is part of my safe-for-me-to-use arsenal.
I’d never used the gel for sun protection but, on a whim, I decided to apply some gel before our Anhinga Trail adventure.
During our walk, I did not use an umbrella and I did not burn.
It’s quite possible the gel helped prevent me from burning.
- More information about the Anhinga Trail
- More information about the Everglades National Park
2 thoughts on “Florida Everglades National Park – Anhinga Trail”
I read lots of blogs and watch lots of YouTube and with all the folks that go to Florida for the winter not one has mentioned visiting this wonderful place!
Thanks for sharing.
Now that you mention it, the blogs/vlogs I follow don’t post about it either. Maybe it’s not their thing. On the other hand, there’s so much to explore in the Everglades!