One of the best ways to explore the Everglades is by traveling the scenic Tamiami Trail, otherwise known as U.S. Highway 41. If you’re looking for a picturesque drive that will bring you close to wildlife, and you have time to make some stops, you discover why this trail offers the best glimpse of South Florida.
10 Reasons to Discover the Scenic Tamiami Trail
Part of what makes South Florida so wonderful is all the incredible wildlife in the area. By traveling this trail, you’ll be able to glimpse alligators, various types of wading birds, and other animals unique to the area. Make a stop at Shark Valley, where you can walk or bike into the Everglades National Park, or take a tram down the 15-mile road to observe the variety of wildlife, including alligators, that call South Florida home.
There are many places along the trail with opportunities to view wildlife, and Shark Valley is just the first one. It costs $35 to enter the National Park, so if you’d rather not spend the money, head to one of the other places mentioned here to see alligators, wading birds, and more. Of course, while there’s no guarantee that you’ll see animals at any one place, there are so many options you’re sure to find one with wildlife present.
The Miccosukee Indian Village and Gift Shop
A little bit west of Shark Valley, you’ll come across The Miccosukee Indian Village and Gift Shop, where you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant on the north side of the street and shop for some souvenirs at the extremely popular gift shop. You can also visit the on-site museum to learn about the culture and traditions of the Miccosukee tribe. View handmade art, jewelry, and crafts and watch an alligator wrestling demonstration.
If you have a couple of hours to spare, Loop Road is a fantastic way to spend them. You’ll discover Pinecrest, a town that was once home to bootleggers, brothels, and bars in the 1920s. This was truly Florida’s version of the Wild West, as the nearest authority was in Key West, which is over four hours away by today’s measurements. People who wanted to get away from civilization flocked here, but not all were innocent. Enjoy the stories!
Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery
The gallery of black-and-white photographer Clyde Butcher is located a few miles west of the entrance to Loop Road. Often referred to as the next Ansel Adams, Butcher’s art strives to put the viewer into his photographs. His work consists of photographs from all over the country, including the gorgeous Everglades. This is an ideal place to purchase a souvenir of your journey on the trail that will instantly bring you back to the moment.
Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center
While on Loop Road, you are actually in Big Cypress National Preserve, so you might want to stop at the Visitor Center before you leave the preserve. You’ll find exhibits, a short film, and a boardwalk that attracts alligators during the winter. National Park staff can answer questions you have about the area, and rangers will frequently give talks about the history of, and flora and fauna in the preserve. A 1.5-mile hike through dwarf cypress trees is also available.
Kirby Storter Boardwalk and Picnic Area
A short distance from the Big Cypress National Preserve exit, you’ll come across the Kirby Storter roadside park, a nice place to stop if you want a rest, to eat lunch, or just to stretch your legs by strolling along the half-mile boardwalk. The park is named for Kirby Storter, who was responsible for the construction of many roads in South Florida, including U.S. 41 (the trail). This is also an excellent opportunity to explore a mature cypress tree stand.
H.P. Williams Picnic Area
If you’d rather wait a few more miles before you get out of your car to stretch or grab a bite to eat, you can head west until you reach H.P. Williams Picnic Area. There are picnic tables and a boardwalk available where you might see wading birds, turtles, and alligators make an appearance. You’ll find this park where Turner River Road turns north. It is named for Homer P. Williams, an engineer who oversaw the trail’s construction.
Turner River Road
Of all the places along the trail that you’ll possibly spot some South Florida wildlife, Turner River Road is likely your best bet on a consistent basis. This 17-mile back-country road will take you past open prairies and canals that are packed with great blue herons, other types of herons, egrets, storks, turtles, and, of course, alligators. You’ll also get an up-close look at the diverse tree species that call the Everglades home, such as pines, palms, and cypress.
Turner River Canoe Access Site
The Turner River Canoe Access site is a destination of its own, with thousands of people coming here to drop their canoe in the water and enjoy the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife as they paddle their way to Chokoloskee and Everglades City. You’ll find a number of canoe tour companies operating out of this location, so if you didn’t bring a canoe, you can certainly rent one.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll also come across the country’s smallest post office in downtown Ochopee; Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe, where you can eat frog legs, alligator, catfish, blue crab, and other seafood delicacies; Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk and its 2,000-foot long boardwalk that will allow you to walk through old-growth cypress stands; and Collier Seminole State Park, a wonderful place for hiking and paddling, and the location of the 1924 Bay City Walking Dredge.
South Florida is a place of wonder, with gorgeous natural parks and breathtaking views, many of which can be experienced on this famous trail through the Everglades. If you’re making the trip with your RV, or you’re looking for a modern place to camp for a few days, you’ll discover Shady Acres RV Travel Park is the gateway to this trail. Call Shady Acres and reserve your RV spot today!