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Flamingo Lodge, a new hotel, elevates Everglades National Park outpost

At last, visitors have a place to stay in Flamingo that is worthy of its location at the end of the road on Florida Bay in Everglades National Park.

An impressive new 24-room lodge opened in November, 2023 and now a bar and restaurant in the complex has opened too.

The new Flamingo Lodge is built on stilts to make it hurricane resilient. The main building has a restaurant opening in December. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The new Flamingo Lodge is built on stilts to make it hurricane resilient. The main building has a restaurant opening in December. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Flamingo Lodge is unlike any other you’ve seen in a national park, or really anywhere else. It’s built out of repurposed shipping containers and is elevated on stilts. This makes it resilient in the face of hurricanes, which destroyed the old lodge in 2005, but it also is a striking design that allows every room to have a balcony and view of Florida Bay.

Around the same time as the lodge welcomed its first guests, a terrific visitor center re-opened in the updated (and very pink) mid-century modern administrative building built in 1958.

With big picture windows on its second story, you could spend hours here gazing at the changing skies and birds. The exhibits are excellent, designed specifically to complement your Flamingo visit, covering the history of the one-time fishing village there and some of the wildlife, such as crocodiles, manatees and common birds.

The Guy Bradley Visitor Center at Flamingo re-opened in fall 2023 in the mid-century-modern building. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The Guy Bradley Visitor Center at Flamingo re-opened in fall 2023 in the mid-century-modern building. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The two buildings are a short walk apart and together they elevate the experience at Flamingo. Now if it rains during your stay (as it did for ours), you can go to visitor center and view the bay and its wildlife through the windows and spend time reading the exhibits.

With the restaurant and full-service bar, also overlooking Florida Bay, you can have a beer with a view at sunset.

Weekend visitors will be able to arrive on Friday night, get up for the 8:30 a.m. birding walk with a ranger, rent kayaks or go on a boat tour, take a hike or visit other sites at this end of the park, and then enjoy dinner and a drink at the restaurant on Saturday night.

Flamingo Lodge flamingo lodge balcony Flamingo Lodge, a new hotel, elevates Everglades National Park outpost
The patios for each room are among my favorite things about the Flamingo Lodge. But you need TWO chairs; only one was provided. We asked and second chair appeared while we were out kayaking. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Staying at the new Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park

My husband and I stayed for two nights in December, 2023 in a studio room in the lodge, which goes for $259 in winter and $159 off season. No, it’s not cheap, but no lodging in a national park is inexpensive. The one-bedroom is $309 and two-bedroom units are $399.

The Flamingo Lodge has four buildings with 24 rooms, which are a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units, all featuring kitchenettes, balconies, and fabulous views. The rooms are on stilts, meaning you must walk up a tall staircase to reach them unless you arrange to get one of the few rooms for the handicapped, the only ones that can be accessed by the lone elevator.

The studio unit is well-designed to pack alot into 300 square feet, including the kitchenette you see here. Not the metal corrugated ceiling -- one of the few signs this started as a shipping container. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The one bedroom unit is well-designed and packs a lot into 420 square feet, including the kitchenette. Note the metal corrugated ceiling — one of the few signs from the interior that this started as a shipping container. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

We were impressed with its size of the one-bedroom unit, 420 square feet. There is a well-designed kitchenette, an eating area, a living room space, a balcony and a separate bedroom. Studio units, at 300 square feet, are bigger than a typical hotel room. The two-bedroom is 640 square feet.

The kitchenette has a full refrigerator, a two-burner cooktop, a microwave and a dishwasher. It comes with dishes, a few basic pans and serving dishes. If you shopped before coming and brought supplies, it would not be difficult to prepare meals here for a short stay.

The Flamingo Lodge complex has a few grills and picnic tables adjoining the buildings.

Much of the art on the walls is specific to Flamingo, including historic images. The lodge is served by wifi. While it’s not the most powerful signal, it’s very helpful as the only cell service is limited to AT&T.

Most of the parking for the lodge is under the buildings, protected and shaded.

The hotel complex includes a restaurant open 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to guests as well as the public. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its menu ranges from big fruity smoothies to sandwiches, wraps, burgers, empanadas and kid’s choices. It has outdoor seating overlooking Florida Bay and a full bar.

The bedroom in the studio unit at Flamingo Lodge has a great view too. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The bedroom in Flamingo Lodge has a great view too. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Pros and cons of staying at Flamingo Lodge

Pros:

  • The units are big, well equipped and furnished in a practical, useful way.
  • The view from the rooms is excellent.
  • The lodge is a short walk to the visitor center and wildlife-filled marina, which are the hub of activities.
  • The restaurant allows for a more gracious experience than every meal being a picnic.
  • The lodge provides the only accommodations in Flamingo that are not adversely affected by weather, as the eco-tents and camping certainly would be.
Between two of the buildings in the lodge comples, there is a grill and picnic table for guest use. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Between buildings in the Flamingo Lodge complex, there is a grill and picnic table for guest use. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Cons:

  • Sound carries in these metal boxes; we could hear our neighbors.
  • The balcony came with one chair; who sits on a balcony at sunset alone? However, when I mentioned it at the front desk, the staff immediately brought us a second chair. The balconies, incidentally are not terribly private; you will be quite close to balconies from adjoining rooms.
  • Some will miss having a TV, and the wifi is not strong enough for streaming.
  • During a rain storm, the water in the gutters clattered so loudly I thought something was banging against the building.
  • The two-night minimum in winter will price lots of people out of the experience. A drive into Flamingo and a one-night stay would be fine for many people’s schedule and budget, but the two-night minimum will prevent that.
Manatee exhibit at Flamingo visitor center at Everglades National Park.
The manatee exhibit at Flamingo visitor center at Everglades National Park complements a visit to Flamingo, where you are likely to see manatees. Note the big windows with the sweeping view. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Things to do at Flamingo in Everglades National Park

I have two favorite things about visiting Flamingo– the remarkable wildlife and kayaking in Florida Bay.

I am always amazed when I get to the Flamingo Marina area and see how much one can experience right there.

Every winter for several years, we have seen manatees bobbing around. On a recent day when there had been some rain, fresh water trickled into the basin from a drain pipe, attracting two manatees who pushed their funny faces upward to catch every drop.

Two manatees at the Flamingo Marina position themselves under a drain that was dripping fresh water, which manatees need and seek out. Visitors were delighted to stand at the seawall and watch them six feet below. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Two manatees at the Flamingo Marina position themselves under a drain that was dripping fresh water, which manatees need and seek. Visitors were delighted to stand at the seawall and watch them six feet below. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Similarly, a pair of osprey have built a nest in the marina right next to the kayak concession, providing an excellent view of them and, in spring, their chicks.

This is also one of the only places in the United States to see crocodiles in the wild, and they’re generally hanging around the marina. We’ve seen a croc with its toothy mouth gaping open as it sunned on the boat ramp in the marina. Don’t get too close to them and they won’t get too close to you.

Right next to the kayak rentals at the Flamingo Marina, an osprey couple inhabit this nest every winter. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Right next to the kayak rentals at the Flamingo Marina, an osprey couple inhabit this nest every winter. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

In winter, flocks of birds come here. From our balcony overlooking Florida Bay we watched white pelicans, among the largest birds in North America, swoop by and fish. (This will probably not be repeated, but our visit in December 2023 coincided with a rare flamingo being viewed for one day from the Flamingo visitor center!)

As for the kayaking, there are several options.

My favorite is to paddle along the shore of Florida Bay to see birds, especially into Snake Bight when the tide is right. If the tide is too low (don’t get stuck on a mudflat) or too high (the wading birds can’t wade) or the bay is too windy, there is an alternative: kayak the Buttonwood Canal just off the marina, where the water level is controlled.

A little blue heron in the late afternoon on a kayak trip into Florida Bay from Flamingo. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
A little blue heron in the late afternoon on a kayak trip into Florida Bay from Flamingo. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

There are also boat tours offered by the concessionaire both into Florida Bay and up the Buttonwood Canal.

There are a few hiking trails in the area, though this isn’t an area known for great hiking. (The trails are known for mosquitoes.)

Ranger programs at Flamingo

Flamingo also has some excellent ranger programs. In winter 2024, the schedule until March 31 includes:

  • Every day at 8:30 a.m. a ranger leads a free birding walk at a nearby location where something interesting has been seen. Check at the visitor center for details.
  • At 8:30 a.m., every day but Thursday, a ranger leads a three-hour kayak trip into Florida Bay. It’s free and kayaks are provided. (Register in advance; these will fill up. They are also weather dependent.)
  • At 1 p.m., a ranger presents “Curious About Critters,” where the ranger chats about animals that are present in the marina area and answers questions.
The osprey in the nest in Flamingo Marina was probably sitting on eggs during our December visit. The mate was out hunting, returning with a fish. (Photo: David Blasco)
This osprey in Flamingo Marina was probably sitting on eggs during our December visit. The mate was out hunting and returned with a fish. (Photo: David Blasco)

Here’s the full schedule of Flamingo ranger programs offered Dec. 15, 2023 to March 31, 2024

Florida Rambler has a complete story on things to do in the Flamingo area.

The restaurant at Flamingo has a large elevated patio as well as an indoor space. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The restaurant at Flamingo Lodge has a large elevated patio as well as an indoor space. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Resources for planning your Flamingo visit

  • Admission to Everglades National Park is $35 per car with a pass good for seven days. The entrance gate takes only credit cards. As soon as you turn 62, get a senior pass. For $80, it offers lifetime admission to all national parks. Also: Take advantage of these free days in national parks. The entrance gate takes only credit cards.
  • Do not rely on cell phones for critical communication while visiting the park. This is a large wilderness area and most cell phones won’t have service, even along the main roads. AT&T has a tower at Flamingo and service is good for their customers.
  • The Everglades National Park website
  • Camping in the Everglades from Florida Rambler
  • Everglades National Park map. (Be sure to check for updates and closed areas.)
  • The Anhinga Trail
  • Shark Valley entrance, with its 15 mile trail and trams ride, from Florida Rambler. It’s a long way from Flamingo, but worth a separate outing.

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Martin Shields

Sunday 17th of December 2023

They keep pushing the opening date of the Restaurant . It was advertised as November then early December and now " Late December". I hope they firm this up.

Bonnie Gross

Sunday 17th of December 2023

Yes! Absolutely true. They're really hoping to open for the big Christmas to New Year's week 2023. The place looked pretty good last week. I understand there's one more inspection to go. The lodge itself and the visitor center were about a year behind early projections. They were supposed to open for the 75th anniversary in December 2022.

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