The Florida National Parks are some of our favorites. Everglades National park was the very first National Park we visited when we first hit the road. It holds a place in our hearts because of this, but it is also a place that you can really immerse yourselves in and explore. The national parks in Florida include Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, & Dry Tortugas National Park. On top of these three, there’s also a national forest to explore called Big Cypress.
What is the best time of year to visit the Florida National Parks?
The Florida National Parks are all located in southern Florida. This makes them extremely hot in the summer months. The best time of year to visit the Florida National Parks is in the winter months. I would suggest going any time after the hurricane season ends which is the end of November through the beginning of April. This does happen to be the busiest time of the year for the Everglades National Park, due to the reasons I outlined above, but it is big enough that we never felt crowded by people.
Florida National Parks – Everglades National Park
In our opinion, Everglades National Park is the highlight of the Florida National Park system. Its vast history, overall size, and abundance of wildlife make it a thrill for all ages. The majority of the popular hikes are handicap accessible. They have built boardwalk-type trails through areas of the park to allow anyone to visit safely.
If you have limited time, I highly recommend you complete the Aningha Trail. This trail is quick, approximately 1 mile long, but worth it. We have seen plenty of alligators, unique birds (including Aningha’s!), and even a large soft-shelled turtle. We have done this trail many times and find it’s best to do it when it is sunny. The wildlife seems to come alive with the sun!
Aside from the Anhinga Trail, we recommend you rent a kayak or canoe and take a trip through the Everglades by water. This makes for a relaxing afternoon and a different perspective of the Everglades. From Flamingo Marina, you can also take a guided boat tour. This tour is family-friendly and very informative.
History At Everglades National Park
If you’re a homeschooling family like ours, or if you just love history, you’ll love the history lessons available at the Everglades National Park. During the Cuban missile crisis, a section of the national park was used to house two missile silos. These silos were ready to go just in case the crisis escalated. Today, you can still visit the missile silos and entrench yourselves in the history around them. You’ll find signs noting that the area is restricted for government use. The National Park system maintains this area and has a ranger on hand ready to answer any questions. In our opinion, it is a must-see part of the park.
Where to Camp at Everglades National Park
We love the campgrounds within the Everglades National Park. There are two and they both have their negatives and positives.
Flamingo Campground is the furthest campground in the National Park. It is near a lot of the main attractions, including the marina, and offers both dry camping and electric-only RV sites. The sites are huge, bigger than anything you’d find at a private campground, and the campground is beautiful. There are water and dump stations located conveniently in the center of the campground. For cell service, the only carrier that works at Flamingo is ATT. There are a couple of bathhouses but only one has heated water. I found the cold showers to be refreshing, but others may not. The mosquitoes are quite bad in the warmer months so bring bug spray and prepare to be indoors in the evening hours. The biggest drawback, which may be a positive for some, is it is 45 minutes into the park which means the near grocery store is about an hour away.
Long Pine Key Campground is the first campground you encounter in the National Park. The sites are much smaller than you’ll find at Flamingo, but it does have more shade. For what it’s worth, we did see many large rigs in Long Pine Key Campground but they were not parked on the paved pads and they did not have much of their site left to relax in. It is all dry camping but the bathhouses provide warm showers. It is right at the entrance of the Everglades which makes it easy to visit Biscayne National Park from here. Biscayne National Park is approximately 40 minutes from the Long Pine Key campground.
Biscayne National Park – Florida National Parks
Biscayne National Park is unique in that it is 95% underwater. This makes it fun to visit if you enjoy being in or on the water. It is difficult to visit with small children and get the whole experience. It is recommended that you rent a kayak or canoe to really get to explore the national park.
A very popular thing to do in Biscayne National Park is to go snorkeling. While snorkeling, you can explore the vibrant coral reefs and even see some shipwrecks. Since we did not get an opportunity to do either of these, we will update this guide when we do.
As a family with small children, we found it challenging to get the experience of this park. We stuck to the shore and had our kids learn through the visitor center and by speaking with a ranger.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Due to the extremely high cost for our family, we have opted not to visit this park until our children are older. This park is one of the most expensive parks to visit for a family. Tickets for the ferry to the island are currently $190 per adult and $135 per child over the age of 4. This ticket includes your entrance to the park. We will update this with a guide when we go to the park in a few years!
Dry Tortugas National Park is home to the largest masonry structure in the United States. Fort Jefferson is made up of over 19 million bricks. It was in use from 1861 to 1869 but was neglected due to frequent hurricanes and yellow fever epidemics. Since then, many attempts were made to utilize the fort for other purposes but the frequent tropical storms and hurricanes caused it to be abandoned in 1901. For more information about the history of the fort, check out this Wikipedia page.
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