Where to start:
Logistically we found it a bit tricky to follow the route we
did. There was no one-way car rental possible from Miami Airport
to either Flamingo, the settlement in the southern part of the
Park, or to Everglades City, the town bordering the northern
part of the Park. At arrival in Miami, we took a shuttle van to
Key Largo, paddled from there all the way to Marco Island,
collapsed the boat and took a taxi to Naples Regional Airport
(about 18 km north of Marco), where we rented a car, which we
returned at the Miami Airport. An easier way would be to do a
loop, starting in Flamingo, then paddling the inland route north
to Everglades City, then south along the coast back to Flamingo.
The only challenge is getting from Miami to Flamingo. There is
no public bus or van service. If you don’t have your own car,
there seem to be only a few choices: Take the Greyhound from
Miami to Homestead, then a cab to Flamingo, or pay someone on a
fishing boat to take you from Key Largo or Islamorada to
Flamingo. That way, you would at least get a scenic tour of
When to go: December
through April (the dry season) is the best time for paddling the
Everglades. Days are usually clear, average highs range from
about 20o C to 27o C, the hurricane season
is (officially) over, and the bugs are fewer. But of course,
these are all averages. The cold front that stormed down from
the north at the end of our kayak trip pushed the nighttime
temperature down to about 8o C! (That felt cold –
but it froze the bugs!) Before we arrived, Florida had
experienced unseasonably warm weather, which explained why the
insects were still fierce when we got there. Perhaps it was the
bugs, or the fact that we arrived shortly before the busy
tourist season (around Christmas) that we had most of the
campsites to ourselves.
you’re not bringing your own boat, Florida Bay Outfitters
in Key Largo rents canoes and kayaks and sells paddling
equipment, nautical charts and guide books, and they offer
guided tours from half a day to a week. We spent an hour talking
to the owner, who provided us with valuable information about
the route. In Everglades City, North American Canoe Tours
rents boats and gear. Of the few paddlers we met or caught sight
of during our trip, most were in canoes, but for paddling the
coast we definitely prefer a kayak.
camp in Everglades National Park, a backcountry permit is
required. The permit is US $10 and can be obtained at the Park
Visitor’s Center in either Flamingo or Everglades City, or, as
we found out, can be arranged via phone if you’re entering the
Park from the east (Key Largo or one of the towns on the Keys).
You have to write up a float plan, which specifies where you are
camping each night, and your total stay in the backcountry must
not exceed 14 days (In our case, Parks personnel in Everglades
City graciously allowed us to complete our 17-day trip on one
permit.) At some campsites (mainly the chickees), you are only
allowed to stay for one or two nights. On others, such as the
beach sites along Cape Sable, you can hang out for up to a week.
To follow the route we did, you need three nautical charts: #33E
(Florida Bay), #39 (Lostmans River to Whitewater Bay), and #41
(Everglades & Ten Thousand Islands). Another good source of
information about the route and each campsite is A Paddler’s
Guide to Everglades National Park by Johnny Molloy,
University Press of Florida, 2000.
- Unless you want to drown your body in
DEET daily, bring a bug shirt with a head net.
- If you’d like to supplement your
dinners with fresh fish, bring a spincast (we had only
moderate success trolling with hand-lines.) Fishing licence:
US $32 obtainable at marine supply stores.
- Since there is no freshwater available
along the entire route, make sure you’ve filled up before
you leave (we found that 3 litres per person per day worked
well for us, although outfitters and guide books recommended a
gallon per person/day.)
- If you’d like to take advantage of
favourable winds, bring a golf umbrella.
- Alligators: Don’t believe other
people’s horror stories. Most alligators are very skittish
– we only saw one or two during our entire kayak trip.