Everglades National Park – Royal Palm Entrance

Everglades National Park in South Florida has three entrances — near Chokoloskee, Shark Valley and the Royal Palm entrance near Homestead.  This post talks about (and shows photos of) the Royal Palm area.

(There will be other posts for the other entrances.)

The Florida Everglades

The park is big — it takes up pretty much the entire tip of South Florida.  But if you want to think of the Everglades as a whole, you’ll have to think of everything south of Lake Okeechobee!  However, a lot of that total area has been taken over by commercial farms, roads, cities — you get the idea.  What’s left is an outlier, but what an amazing place it is!

Inland, the Everglades is mostly a sea of grass, with little islands of trees (called “hammocks”)  here and there.  Near the coast, though, there is grass, hammocks, canals, canoe trails, ponds and of course Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The ‘Glades (as we in South Florida seem to call it) is the third largest National Park in the lower 48 states, with roughly 1.5 million acres.  It’s also the only subtropical National Park.

Entering the Park

To get to the Royal Palm entrance, head south of Miami on 997 (Krome Avenue) or US 1.  You’ll connect up with 9336, which leads to the park entrance.  (Not to worry, it’s well-marked.)

Just so you know, there is a fee for entering the park.

Once in the park, you’ll see the Royal Palm visitor center on your right.

The photo to the right is one of the two trails at the visitor center – the Gumbo Limbo Trail, named for the tree that practically defines the hardwood hammocks.

The gumbo limbo is often called the “tourist tree” because it’s bark is reddish and the top layer peels off….much like a sunburn on people!

There’s a gift shop, snack stand, restrooms and such at the visitor center.  But this is just the start of the ‘Glades.

Deeper into the Everglades National Park, Royal Palm Entrance

Get back in/on your vehicle and travel west, farther into the park.  There are quite a few turn-offs on the road, going to various trails, both foot and canoe.  Although there are more than I have listed, some of the most well-known are:

  • Long Pine Key — Foot trail and camping
  • Pa-hay-okee Overlook — this is where you can start to imagine the immense sea of grass that is the Everglades.
  • Paurotis Pond — This is a small area that is known primarily for bird-watching.  The photo you see to the right is a photo taken at this area — one bird floating, the other “end up” looking for underwater munchies.
  • Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail — Self-explanatory, LOL.  🙂
  • Hells Bay Canoe Trail — again, self-explanatory.
  • West Lake — a nice canoe trail, but there are also restrooms, a boat ramp and a short self-guided nature trail.
  • Snake Bight Trail — this one is for foot traffic.

This brings you down to Flamingo, and the visitor center here.  It’s the “end of the road” for most people.  Well, it’s the end of the paved road in any case.

Flamingo Visitor Center

Here’s where you see another view of the Everglades — the view out into Florida Bay.  This is a popular boating area, for both paddle-powered and motor, and it does have a ramp.  When David and I were there in early April, there was a tour boat; I don’t know if it’s there all year around, because of something that is the bane of everyone’s existence in the summer (mosquitoes).

At the visitor center, there are restrooms, a small restaurant, lookout areas, gift shop and a small self-guided museum of sorts.  Camping is available in Flamingo, but probably only in the winter months — again, because of the summer mosquitoes.

The photo is from the visitor center, looking out into Florida Bay.  I took a photo that included some mangrove islands, because otherwise, its just water and sky!

At the center there was also a pair of osprey nesting atop one of the antennae above the building.  The photo isn’t great, but we saw the birds flying nearby as well.

There are some telescope/binoculars at the center, and you can see out into the bay.  There was a sandbar when we were there, with lots of birds resting or walking around on it — you can see them well through the telescope/binoculars.

This has been a long post, so I will leave you with a few more photos, and look forward to seeing you at the post for the Shark River entrance!

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