Exploring Everglades National Park in Your Bowlus®
Located in south Florida, Everglades National Park is the third largest park in the lower 48 states and it’s the largest subtropical wilderness in the US. It’s also a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. This unique ecosystem is truly an amazing place for an RVer to camp, explore, and see wildlife. In short, it belongs on your bucket list!
Covering 24,000 square miles of the southern tip of Florida, west and south of Miami, the park is accessible via three different entrances. There is a National Park Service (NPS) visitor center at each entrance, but it’s important to note that there are no direct roads connecting them. The Homestead Entrance is the main entrance to the park and is home to the Flamingo visitor center and the Ernest F. Coe visitor center. You can also enter near Miami and the Shark Valley visitor center, or Everglades City near the Gulf Coast visitor center. The region is also home to Big Cypress National Preserve and a number of other state wildlife management areas. Because of the sheer size of the region, you’ll want to do some planning ahead of time. Also, some of the area’s sites are closed during the summer wet season, so the fall or winter may be the best time to plan your visit, depending on what you want to see and do.
Things to Do in Everglades National Park
Wildlife viewing is one of the biggest draws of the Everglades region. With freshwater, saltwater, and brackish water found throughout the park, there are numerous wildlife species to see in their natural habitat. Perhaps best known as the home of American crocodiles and alligators, the area also plays host to endangered manatees, dolphins, and turtles. There are more than 350 species of birds in the area as well, including bald eagles, blue herons, and roseate spoonbills. If you’re looking to photograph a specific species, a park ranger will gladly tell you where wildlife has recently been seen.
Because it’s a subtropical region, there’s also a thriving population of mosquitos. Make sure you pack your bug repellant and appropriate clothing. Other than when you open and close the door to your Bowlus, you won’t have to worry about those pesky critters finding their way inside. Expertly hand-crafted by artisans, our gleaming aluminum travel trailers are designed to keep the bugs and the critters on the outside.
Hiking is another popular activity for those looking for an adventure in the Everglades. The Anhinga Trail is a short hike known for wildlife sightings. Slough slogging is also popular. Join a ranger-led guided walk through the River of Grass to see a cypress dome, but be ready to get your feet wet on this off-trail hike.
Most of Everglades National Park is accessible only by water, which is perfect for RVers who are also boaters, kayakers, or canoers. There are a number of short waterway trails in the park such as Nine Mile Pond or Sandly Island Loop. If you’re up for a longer paddle, and perhaps an up-close encounter with a manatee, you can travel the entire 99 miles of the Wilderness Waterway in your canoe or kayak. If you don’t own a boat, there are a number of commercial tour companies operating in the area that allow you to safely view wildlife. Hitch a ride on a swamp buggy, or hit the water with one of the canoe, kayak, airboat, or flat boat tours run by sanctioned operators. Explore Shark Valley with Tram Tours, located near the Shark Valley visitor center. Or take a 90-minute cruise through the mangrove islands on the Ten-Thousand Islands Cruise, near the Gulf Coast visitor center.
After a long day in the park, you’ll be able to take a refreshing shower in your Bowlus. Each luxurious unit has a full shower with instant hot water. If you’ve been really adventurous, you can extend the showerhead through a hatch in the side of the unit, making cleaning up quick and easy before you head inside.
Without a doubt, the natural wonders of the region are the star of the Everglades show. But the National Park also offers a Cold War relic for history buffs to explore. “Alpha Battery” is a Nike Hercules missile site built just after the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was designed to protect the US against air attacks from the south. Decommissioned in 1979, the site now hosts Ranger-guided tours between early December and late March.
Big Cypress National Preserve
If you’re in the Everglades region, you don’t want to miss Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s more accessible than the neighboring National Park, and is home to diverse wildlife including the elusive Florida panther. With over 729,000 acres, this vast swamp is a designated International Dark Sky site. The area is protected from light pollution and is known for its amazing starry nights. With Bowlus’ unique storage design, you’ll have room to bring your telescope along so you can do a little stargazing.
Like Everglades National Park, you can see much of Big Cypress from the water as you paddle your way through the preserve. There are also two popular scenic drives that allow you to explore the wilderness from the comfort of your car. Loop Road is a 27-mile journey through some of the preserve’s most popular landscapes. The 17-mile Turner River / Wagonwheel / Birdon Roads Loop drive offers wet prairies and a chance to see wading birds.
Camping Near Everglades National Park
There are two established campgrounds in Everglades National Park, both accessible from the Homestead entrance. Long Pine Key campground is located near the park entrance, the Flamingo Visitor Center, and several of the park’s hiking trails. With 108 sites, the campground accommodates both tents and RVs on a first-come first-served basis. The campground is seasonal and closes at the beginning of May to avoid challenging conditions during the wet season.
Flamingo Campground is located deeper in the park and is the more popular of the two campgrounds. Sites must be reserved ahead of time. Only a handful of Flamingo’s campsites offer electrical hookups, but you won’t need one when you’re in a Bowlus. While your fellow RVers may not be able to last long without plugging in or running their generator, you’ll be set for up to two weeks with the Bowlus’ best-in-class lithium ion phosphate battery. Run the air conditioner for up to two overnights, and when you add in solar panels you can extend your off-grid stay at this campground for even longer. Leave the sites with electric hookups to the less sophisticated motorhomes, fifth wheels, and generic travel trailers.
There are even more camping opportunities in Big Cypress National Preserve. Burns Lake and Monument Lake are both smaller seasonal campgrounds that offer primitive camping experiences in which your Bowlus will thrive. Midway campground has 26 RV sites and is open year-round, though the length of your stay is limited to between 10-14 days, based on the time of year. If you’re looking for something a little bit more luxurious, Trail Lakes Campground is located outside of the park and offers full hookups.
If you’re in a Bowlus, you may be looking for Boondocking opportunities in the area, but they’re limited for RVers. There are a number of off-grid sites in both Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve for tent campers (many are accessible by water only), but you’ll need to head a little further afield to boondock in your RV. The South Florida Water Management District has some locations just north of the region. Make sure to call ahead as some may require a permit or a free reservation.