Update, Nov. 14, 2017: Ivey House has reopened after being hit by the eye of Hurricane Irma Sept. 9-10. The historic wing (the lodge) is badly damaged and won’t reopen soon — if ever. The new section, built higher and to strong building codes, was not much damaged.
Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island sustained 8 to 10 feet of storm surge but many hotel and restaurants have reopened.
Smallwoods Store is open again, as is Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery and most restaurants in Everglades City.
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center of Everglades National Park is closed and may move to temporary quarters in order to reopen this winter.
The Shark Valley loop in the Everglades is closed due to continued flooding.
The Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City is closed.
Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center is open, but the unpaved section of Loop Road is closed due to fallen trees.
If you’re visiting the Gulf Coast side of Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands, there is a bed and breakfast that caters specifically to kayakers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts – the Ivey House Bed and Breakfast in Everglades City.
We’ve stayed here twice, once in the historic wing (the Lodge), which has a fascinating story, and once is the new wing (the Inn), with modern conveniences and pool-side rooms.
Both sections share the attractive screened pool, an excellent buffet breakfast and easy access to outdoors activities.
Ivey House actually is an outgrowth of a successful canoe and kayak outfitting company and is the base for EvergladesAdventures.com, which offers guided trips, equipment rental, livery service and lots of good information. For example, if you’ve dreamt of paddling the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway from Flamingo to Everglades City (a five- to nine-day trip), Everglades Adventures can provide the transportation between those locales that makes it possible. Or, if you’ve read Florida Rambler’s article on kayaking the Turner River but don’t own a kayak, these folks can help you do it.
The complex is located near the Barron River in Everglades City, walking distance to three popular restaurants. (Two are seafood houses that are among the most popular places to get stone crabs —Triad Seafood and City Seafood – and the third is Camellia Street Grill, with a more varied menu that does include stone crabs and seafood too.)
The most affordable rates are at the Lodge, where bathrooms are shared. (Men’s and women’s are separate.) Rooms are $89 to $99 (plus tax.)
The Inn, which has spacious hotel-like rooms with private baths, has rates that start at $99 off season with January to April rates from $169 to $179 (plus taxes.)
A breakfast buffet is served in the dining room and it offers lots of choices — tasty hot foods, fresh fruits and yogurt, hot and cold cereals, rolls and muffins and a choice of sliced cheeses in the style of B&Bs in Europe.
Rooms in both wings are comfortable and the staff goes out of its way to help you have a great experience in the area. The white board in the lobby lists local wildlife sightings, for example, and when we told the desk clerk we were going to kayak the Turner River, he pulled out maps and information about it.
Calling this a B&B might set the wrong expectations. I think of B&Bs as smaller scale operations with individually decorated rooms. The atmosphere is more like a park lodge and based on the conversations and accents heard at breakfast, Ivey House appeals to an international clientele.
The history of the Ivey House
The Tamiami Trail (pronounced tammy-ammy and standing for Tampa-Miami) is the southern-most link between the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This road through the swampy, buggy, alligator-filled Everglades was not easy to build. While begun in 1915, the project was delayed by a world war, hurricanes and a land bust. Eventually, it took real estate developer Barron Collier’s funding to get the road built and it was completed in 1928.
Everglades City was the center of the huge road project and Barron Collier had a recreation building constructed for the workers, offering a bowling alley and pool hall. That recreation building is now the lodge portion of the Ivey House.
After the road opened, Earl Ivey, who had operated the huge dredge that dug the Tamiami Trail, and his wife Agnes, ran a boarding house in the building – until she died in 1974!
For a few years after that, the building was the Beckett Academy, a school for troubled children that offered a program of wilderness activities.
Men who stay in the historic lodge will see evidence of the building’s use as a school — the curious men’s bathroom with stalls built more at a child’s scale.
In 1978, the current owners bought the school and the Ivey House began its transformation to a bed and breakfast and eco-tour provider. In 2001, the inn with its swimming pool and the lodge lobby and dining room were completed.
Reservations via Hotels.com
Things to do in Everglades City area
We love visiting Everglades City, a small fishing village with fresh seafood and historic buildings and proximity to so many outdoors adventures.
- Our favorite Everglades kayak trail is the Turner River, eight miles from Everglades City.
- A great saltwater kayak trail nearby is Sandfly Loop, which gives you a taste of the Ten Thousand Island. For this, you launch from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for Everglades National Park, which is five minutes from Ivey House.
- Halfway Creek is another kayak trail quite close to the Turner River. (It’s where we kayaked the time water was too low in the Turner River.)
- There are two good boat tours offered at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center.
- If you’re interested in the building of the Tamiami Trail, visit nearby Collier-Seminole State Park, which has the historic Bay City walking dredge, the last of its kind in existence. It’s a huge machine that was operated by Earl Ivey of Ivey House. The park also has good hiking and kayaking.
- Everglades City is the base for many stone-crab fishermen, so it’s a good place to indulge in the seasonal seafood. Here’s where to eat stone crabs in Everglades City plus general background on the city.
- Visit one of our favorite, off-the-beaten-track stops, historic Smallwood Store on Chokoloskee, just four miles away. (Its docks are a lovely place to watch the sunset.)
- Our guide to the scenic drive across Florida via Tamiami Trail is full of good places to hike, picnic and explore nearby.
- Nearby Ochopee Post Office on the Tamiami Trail is the smallest in the US. And so cute.
- Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park: Excellent trail for bicycling and wildlife viewing in Everglades National Park.
- Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery: It’s always a thrill to view his large-format black-and-white photos of Florida’s wilds.
- Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk: This is a beautiful spot worth a short walk. One of the prettiest boardwalks in the Everglades region, and it’s free!
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park