As you plan your Florida travels, here are seven towns that I’ve found make great bases for exploring. Each puts you in the center of outstanding places to hike, bike, kayak and explore history. Each is surrounded by natural beauty.
Big Cypress National Preserve offers excellent Everglades experiences. It’s adjacent to the famous national park, is free and has some spectacular scenery.
NEWS ALERT: Shark Valley has reopened after flooding kept it closed since November. This entrance to Everglades National Park has one trail, but it’s so special that Shark Valley is hard to top. It’s an especially great place to bicycle.
Stone crab season starts Oct. 15 and Everglades City, a small, isolated fishing village south of Naples, is a place to feast on this Florida favorite in an authenic Old Florida atmosphere.
I’ve paddled a lot of trails in the Everglades, but so far, the Turner River is my favorite. It goes from pristine cypress swamp, through mangrove tunnels to sawgrass marsh, and it teems with birds, gators and fish. It’s everything the Everglades offers in one trip.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park — the biggest state park in Florida — is a vast, wild place near Everglades City. Year after year, we drove right past, but there are three great reasons to spend time here. We’re glad we did.
Smallwood Store is an exceptional slice of Florida history at an end-of-the-road site overlooking Chokoloskee Bay near Everglades City.
You can explore the wilderness of the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s Gulf Coast with this short kayak trail to an uninhabited island full of history. It’s the perfect “starter” kayak trail for an area full of paddling possibilities.
Vast and remote, the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s southwest coast seems challenging to visit, a labyrinth of twisting channels through thousands of remote mangrove islands.
The Tamiami Trail, linking Miami and Florida’s west coast, gets you close to alligators, cypress swamps and Everglades scenery. It also offers outstanding stops along the way, particularly the Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park.