Skip to Content

Everglades City Rod and Gun Club is a historic treasure that lets you visit its glory days

The best reason to stay at the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club is to step back in time to Everglades City’s glory days. This relic has been hosting visitors to this small town at the end of the road since the 1890s and it is remarkably unchanged.

The Everglades Rod and Gun Club has seen more than a century of history, including five presidents and plenty of other notables, including, Ernest Hemingway and, weirdly, Mick Jagger.

The historic Everglades City Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City as seen from the Barron River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The historic Everglades City Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City as seen from the Barron River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

I’ve always wanted to stay here, and I’m glad I did – not for the service or amenities, but to experience this funky old piece of history.

The five-acre complex, which is located on a beautiful stretch of the Barron River in the heart of this fishing town, has been owned by the same family since the late 1960s.

The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club lobby has classic hunting lodge décor: All gleaming wood and stuffed animals. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club lobby has classic hunting lodge décor: All gleaming wood and stuffed animals. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The grand old hotel’s lobby and dining rooms are in beautiful shape – all polished wood with stuffed animals on every wall and surface — alligators, a panther, an otter, deer, all kinds of fish, even a sad looking flamingo. Most of these items go back to the founding of the hotel and are more than 80 years old.

The reception desk has an antique cash register and a classic “ring for service” bell right next to the curving wooden staircase to the upstairs rooms. Tucked into the curving stairway is a beautiful old wooden phone booth.

The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club lobby: Note the phone booth tucked inside the stairway. (Photo: David Blasco)
The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club lobby: Note the phone booth tucked inside the stairway. (Photo: David Blasco)

The original rooms are no longer rented because they are not up to date. There are 17 rooms for rent in cottages on the grounds, however, and they’re air conditioned and offer modern bathrooms.

All the atmosphere and ambiance of the place is in the lobby, restaurant and bar area of the hotel, and there’s plenty of authentic-feeling history to the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club.

The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club on the Barron River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club on the Barron River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

For example, we took a drink from the bar into the lobby and found a nook that held a beautiful old pecky-cypress bar where bar service was not being offered. It’s a gem. (When we went to the Museum of the Everglades, we saw a picture of the bar from its heyday; it looks exactly the same.)

All rooms at the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club are in the cabins on the grounds. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
All rooms at the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club are in the cabins on the grounds. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

In fact, if you find a way to spend some time in the lobby, you’ve experienced the best the Rod and Gun Club has to offer, even if you don’t stay overnight.

Dining at the Rod and Gun Club

You can soak up all the ambiance if you have lunch or dinner in the beautiful dining room or on the expansive screened porch overlooking the river.

The restaurant used to be THE place to dine in Southwest Florida with a chef from Europe who gained widespread acclaim during the lodge’s heyday.

The pecky cypress bar off the lobby of the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club wasn't open for business, but we brought our drink in there to enjoy its ambiance anyway. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The pecky cypress bar off the lobby of the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club wasn’t open for business, but we brought our drink from the bar in here to enjoy its ambiance anyway. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Reviews of the restaurant have been up and down in recent decades, but I was pleased to have dinner there in April 2024 and discover the food and services was very good. A friendly group at the next table of vacationers from the Northeast thought they had discovered a hidden gem. They raved about the food and ambiance.

The menu had fresh local fish ($28) that was excellent and came with salad, choice of potato and a side. There are steaks ($35) and various steak-and-seafood combos ($39). The menu also offered fish sandwiches and baskets of fried fish or shrimp or froglegs ($19). We didn’t try it, but there’s key lime pie, of course ($8).

The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club has a large screened porch off the dining room that has a wonderful view overlooking the Barron River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The Everglades City Rod and Gun Club has a large screened porch off the dining room that has a wonderful view overlooking the Barron River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The dining room once was a top place on the Gulf Coast to dine. When Everglades National Park opened in 1947, the celebratory luncheon with President Harry S Truman took place here. The menu, which is on display at the Museum of the Everglades, shows they served the Florida classics, including stone crabs, hearts of palm salad and key lime pie.

The cabins at Everglades City Rod and Gun Club are comfortable hotel rooms (no kitchens; not even in-room coffee makers.) (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The cabins at Everglades City Rod and Gun Club are comfortable hotel rooms (no kitchens; not even in-room coffee makers.) (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The man behind the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club – and the Tamiami Trail

Barron Collier built Everglades City as a company town to serve as the hub for construction of the Tamiami Trail, the first road across South Florida.

Collier made his money with a brilliant observation. All these newly urbanized people were riding streetcars in the city, and this was a great place to put advertising. With a fortune earned this way, he bought a million acres of Florida land and built a road across the untamed Everglades, something many thought couldn’t be done. In exchange for that, he got the county named after him with a county seat in Everglades City, which was HIS town.

Collier established the Rod and Gun Club in 1922 by adding on to a residence that had served as an inn since the 1890s. It was a classy spot, befitting Collier’s status and the cronies he entertained there.  And if you visit, you’ll feel  — just for a moment — like a VIP from another century.

Since 1968, the Rod and Gun Club has been operated by a private family. A few years ago, it was listed as for sale, but the hotel did not change hands.

Everglades City was built around a circular road, with the Run and Gun Club one side and this neo-classical city hall (formerly the county building) on another. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Everglades City was built around a circular road, with the Run and Gun Club on one side and this neo-classical city hall (formerly the county building) on another. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

A few quirks of staying at the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club

There aren’t that many places to stay in Everglades City, and the Rod and Gun Club gets by with some distinctly unusual practices.

First, you cannot book a room online. In fact, you can’t call the front desk to do that either. You leave a message and someone calls you back. In our case, it was two days later. By the time I got the return call, it was the day before I had hoped to check in.

Secondly, they don’t take credit cards. It’s strictly cash or checks, and that includes the restaurant.

Third, the rooms are not cheap ($195 for two the night we stayed) but are pretty basic. Don’t expect an in-room coffee maker, for example. And the hotel restaurant is not open for breakfast or coffee in the morning either.

In fact, the lobby is not open in the morning , so if you want to spend some time reading all the yellowing newspaper clippings on the wall (which we enjoyed a great deal) you need to do it in the afternoon or evening.

One nice thing about the cottages (where all the room are located) is that they wide screen porches with chairs that would’ve been splendid places to sit on a rainy day or to enjoy a glass of wine at sunset.

My bottom line: My husband loves the place; I consider it an acceptable place to stay if you set your expectations correctly. But for most people, having lunch, dinner or a drink in the bar and walking around the lobby is enough to soak up the experience.

Exploring Everglades City

The well-done Museum of the Everglades is free. It’s located in what was a laundry building. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The well-done Museum of the Everglades is free. It’s located in what was a laundry building. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Collier’s impact is everywhere in Everglades City. The streets around the Rod and Gun Club are filled with his historic buildings from the city’s early days. The handsome neo-classical City Hall was the original county courthouse. (It was badly damaged in 2005 in Hurricane Wilma.)

Across the traffic circle from the Rod and Gun Club is the Museum of the Everglades, a well-executed professional museum operated by Collier County – and it’s free.  It is located in what was the laundry building for Everglades City when it was the company town for the men building the Tamiami Trail.

If you walk a block or two north through the city you pass some charming houses, several of which look like they might have been here since Collier’s day.

The well-done Museum of the Everglades is free. It’s located in what was a laundry building. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The well-done Museum of the Everglades is free. It’s located in what was a laundry building. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

There are many open lots, the result of devastating hurricanes that walloped Everglades City every few decades. It was Hurricane Donna in 1960 that caused the bank, Collier’s company AND the county seat to move to Naples. That was the end of Everglades City’s glory days – until the 1980s.

In 1983, federal agents arrested more than 100 people from Everglades City and nearby Chokoloskee in a huge marijuana-smuggling bust. Dozens of fishermen and their boats were involved with ferrying bales of marijuana from Colombia through the maze of mangrove islands of the 10,000 Islands. Eventually, many of the accused informed on friends and many in Everglades City went to prison.

Today, like its heyday as a pioneer town, Everglades City’s smuggling days are history. With fewer than 500 residents, it’s pretty darn quiet. Restaurants close early and the town is far enough from metro areas that night skies are dark and full of sparkling stars.

It’s hard to picture any reason why Everglades City would ever be more than a historic town surrounded by the wilds of the Everglades. Thank goodness.

Everglades City Rod and Gun Club

200 Riverside Dr, Everglades City, FL 34139

(239) 695-2101

Note: Credit cards are NOT accepted

Things to do in Everglades City

We love visiting Everglades City for its proximity to so many outdoors adventures.

Nearby Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge offers impressive birding and wildlife viewing. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Nearby Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge offers impressive birding and wildlife viewing. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
  • Our favorite Everglades kayak trail is the Turner River, eight miles from Everglades City.
  • Halfway Creek is another kayak trail close to Everglades City.
Historic Smallwoods Store in Chokoloskee. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Historic Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

We love visiting Everglades City for its proximity to so many outdoors adventures.


All articles on FloridaRambler.com are original, produced exclusively for our readers and protected by U.S. Copyright law. Any use or re-publication without written permission is against the law. Read more: floridarambler.com/licensing

This page may contain affiliate links from which Florida Rambler may earn a small commission if a purchase is made. This revenue supports our mission to produce quality journalism about authentic Florida at no cost to our readers.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Maureen Sullivan-Hartung

Friday 6th of March 2020

Hello! I have a question, not an actual comment. Would it be possible for me to "borrow" with your photo credit given, several images from the annual Everglades City Seafood Festival to include in my book that will be out in Nov 2020?

Thx for your consideration. Maureen Sullivan-Hartung 6 March 2020

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.