I’m fresh off my very first trip to the Everglades, and I picked up a few pointers along the way. You may find them useful, too.
1. To enter Everglades National Park from Homestead costs $10 per vehicle. But on the Gulf Coast side, there’s no entry fee.
2. My husband and I usually eat dinner around 9 p.m. -- so I was shocked to discover that the tiny grocery store in Everglades City, Right Choice Supermarket, closes at 7 p.m. Plan accordingly. For a late-night pick-me-up, head to Sweet Mayberry’s Cafe and Gifts, a charming-yet-trendy spot that sells coffee beverages, gelato, pastries and local art.
3. More time management advice: Boat tours can range from an hour-long airboat ride to a half-day kayaking trip. When booking your tour, be sure to ask how long you’ll be on the water.
4. If you’ll be communing with nature for longer than a few hours, you’ll want sustenance. Many boat tours allow you to bring your own food (and adult beverages). Or for a price, some restaurants or hotels will provide a box lunch. Island Cafe and Ivey House B&B both offer that option.
5. Find the free. Stop by the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for a rundown of what you can do without spending a dime. For starters, drive along dusty Turner River Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. Gators galore.
To see more images of my trip to the Everglades, including a video of an airboat tour and a photo of the nation’s smallest post office, check out my Instagram account @daliacolon. And for more time- and money-saving vacation tips, visit my Smart Travel page. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.