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Orlando to Everglades National Park

Orlando to Everglades National Park

Escape the traffic and city lights of Orlando and head to Everglades National Park (link Everglades National Park destination page) where stars brighten the night sky and the biggest bottleneck is waiting out an alligator crossing. Made up of islands, mangrove forests, and sawgrass prairies, the Everglades are home to hundreds of species of birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles. Embark on an adventure of a lifetime by booking an Escape Campervan in Orlando to explore the diverse and plentiful environment of Everglades National Park.

Check out our Orlando to Everglades National Park itinerary for an unforgettable four day trip down the Florida coast.

Travel Time from Orlando to Everglades National Park

The distance from Escape Camper Vans in Orlando to Everglades National Park’s southwest entrance is 267 miles. This is via the inland route, entering near the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center near the town of Homestead. This is the largest and most popular park entrance.

Driving the inland route via U.S. Route 98 is the most scenic option, and you’ll avoid driving through the city traffic of Miami.

The distance from Orlando to Shark Valley, the northern park entrance, is 245 miles and takes about 4 hours.

All main routes from Orlando to Everglades National Park require toll roads. To avoid extra fees purchase a Florida SunPass Toll Card. This is a $15 extra, available at our Orlando Escape Campervan depot.

Best Time of Year for an Orlando to Everglades National Park Road Trip

Everglades National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, however, at different times of year, the park offers different opportunities.

Dry Season – November to April

The best time of year to road trip from Orlando to Everglades National Park is during the dry season from November through April. The weather is comfortable and the humidity is low. Rain is minimal meaning fewer mosquitos.

Wildlife sightings are more common in the winter months when temperatures are cool. If you can’t make it in the winter, late fall and early spring are still a great time to visit. While early fall can be a bit warm it’s a beautiful season to visit because the grass prairies are lush and green following summer monsoons.

Both fall and spring are also a great time to visit Key West. With perfect temperatures for a beach visit, a road trip from Everglades to Key West is a great option!

Rainy Season – May to October

The rainy season brings bugs, heat, and intense humidity. Sometimes highs hit above 100. Most travelers do not prefer vacationing in a campervan at Everglades National Park during the rainy season because nighttime temperatures are too hot to sleep.

Summer does mean the fewest crowds so if you’re able to bear the heat and bugs and you’re down to hike early, then maybe that’s for you. But prepare to wear a bug shirt and pack lots of bug spray!

Preparation for an Orlando to Everglades National Park Trip

A little preparation and planning go a long way in planning an Everglades National Park trip. Here are a few tips to explore the remote park of Southern Florida.

Book Your Campsites

If you’re traveling during the busy season from November through April it’s recommended to book your campsites ahead. Book campsites within the park at least 2 weeks ahead. Book privately run campgrounds at least a couple of months out. If you’re traveling during the off-season you should have no problem getting a walk-up site.

Stock Up on Food

There are very minimal services in and around Everglades National Park. Plan to cook all of your meals. Other than a new restaurant that will soon open in Flamingo, there are no options to purchase food in the park. There are grocery stores in the town of Homestead just outside the park.

Reserve Your SunPass Toll Card

When traveling through Florida you’re almost guaranteed to end up on a toll road. If you have a SunPass Toll Card you’ll avoid pricey fees when going through tolls. A SunPass is available as an extra at the Orlando Escape Campervan location. 

Fill Up Your Tank

There are no gas stations in Everglades National Park and parts of the drive are remote. The most remote road in the park leads to Flamingo. It is a 50-mile one-way drive from Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center.

Download Maps

It’s always a good idea to download offline maps before entering a national park. There is cell coverage throughout most of the Everglades but it’s sometimes unreliable. When you enter Everglades National Park you’ll also receive a paper map at the entrance kiosk.

Buy a Rechargeable Battery Pack

If you’re taking a lot of photos, it’s always nice to keep your devices charged. A rechargeable battery pack is a great option especially if you’re on your phone in the evening and can’t charge your devices without the van running.

Check Park Updates

Before heading out on your trip, check the Everglades National Park website for up-to-date information about park conditions and closures. Any notable weather information and park closures are posted as a headline at the top of the page.

Escape Finals

Everglades National Park Areas

Everglades National Park has four main areas; Royal Palms, Flamingo, Shark Valley, and Gulf Coast. There is limited road access in the park so don’t expect roads to connect.

Royal Palms and Flamingo are both accessed via the southeast entrance near the town of Homestead at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. The Shark Valley entrance is located at the north of the park along Highway 41. The Gulf Coast area is located in Everglades City. Beyond Everglades City, the Gulf Coast area of Everglades National Park is made up of islands and is only accessible via boat.

Orlando to Everglades National Park Itinerary Stops

The four main areas of Everglades National Park make up the unique and diverse environment across the ecosystem. From grasses and marshes to islands and mangroves, there is an abundance of places to explore.

Some park areas have more services, trails, and amenities, while others are limited. Spend at least two or three days exploring Royal Palms and Flamingo, and leave a day to explore the Shark Valley area on your way out.

Cooking inside Escape campervan

Days 1 – 2: Royal Palms, Everglades National Park

Royal Palms is located in the southeastern part of Everglades National Park. It’s a great place to start your trip. There’s a campsite a few miles past the park entrance, two visitor centers, and a variety of walking trails. It’s also located near the town of Homestead in case you need to grab things at the grocery store or want to dine out.

Things to do in Royal Palms

Anhinga Trail

The Anhinga Trail is a 0.8-mile round-trip boardwalk trail above the marshes and grasses of Everglades National Park. It’s a great walk to spot alligators, turtles, and a variety of bird wildlife. The Anhinga Trail starts 4 miles past the Homestead Park entrance at the Royal Palm Visitor Center.

Gumbo Limbo Trail

Starting from the same parking lot as the Anhinga Trail, the Gumbo Limbo Trail is a 0.4-mile loop through the dense forest of Everglades. You’ll walk among many Gumbo limbo trees, notable for their flakey bark and as one of the fastest-growing native trees in Florida.

Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

Visit the Everglades’ largest visitor center, the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, to learn all about the environment, wildlife, and history of Everglades National Park. Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center sits right at the Homestead Entrance, making it a great first stop to plan your trip itinerary after talking to a park ranger.

Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower

The Pa-Hay-Okee overlook lookout tower is a raised observation platform where visitors look out on the “valley of grass”. The boardwalk and platform are flat, handicap accessible, and only 0.16 miles round trip.

Restaurants near Royal Palms

La Cruzada Restaurant

If you plan to dine in Homestead then stop by the La Cruzada Restaurant for traditional counter-served Mexican dishes. Classic breakfast meals, guacamole, ceviches, tortas, fajitas, and more!

Miami Brewing Company

Miami Brewing Company is a great spot to grab a tasty local craft beer alongside some traditional American eats. With cornhole, pool tables, and a tap room to explore, there is plenty of space for friends and families to spread out and enjoy their time.

White Lion Cafe

The White Lion Cafe is a quaint, old-fashioned cottage that serves classic American dishes. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, and chef specials, including local seafood entrees. 

Camping in Royal Palms

Lone Pine Key Campground

Lone Pine Key Campground is located about 6 miles past the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. It offers 108 campsites with flushing toilets, free hot showers, potable water, and cell reception. Lone Pine Key Campground is open seasonally from November through May. Book reservations at least 2 weeks in advance. The remaining sites are first come, first served.

Days 2 – 3: Flamingo, Everglades National Park

The Flamingo area of Everglades National Park is the most remote road-accessible part of the park. It’s a 50-mile drive from Homestead. The road dead ends here and you cannot access the western part of the park from here by vehicle. In Flamingo there is a visitor center, many walking trails, a campground, and a newly established lodge and restaurant.

Things To Do in Flamingo

Guy Bradley Visitor Center

Formerly known as the Flamingo Visitor Center, the Guy Bradley Visitor Center is the newest visitor center in Everglades. While smaller than the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, it still has plenty of information, educational displays, and facilities. Pop in to chat with a ranger about how to explore the Flamingo area.

Guy Bradley Trail at Flamingo Beach

The Guy Bradley Trail is a 1-mile, one-way trail that strolls along the shoreline of the Florida Bay at Flamingo Beach. The trail is wheelchair accessible. Flamingo Beach is also a great spot to hang out and picnic on the beach.

Coastal Prairie Trail

If you’re looking to take a long stroll along the coast of Everglades National Park then check out the Coastal Prairie Trail. It’s 15 miles round-trip if you hike all the way to the Clubhouse Beach backcountry camp but you can walk just a couple miles of it too. Along the way, you’ll wander along an old road previously used by cotton pickers and fishermen. The trail showcases many coastal prairies with a variety of plant life.

**The Coastal Prairie Trail is currently open but it is not maintained as park staff are evaluating how to manage an endangered flower species.

Camping in Flamingo

Flamingo Campground

Flamingo Campground is the second of the two drive-in campgrounds in Everglades National Park. It has 274 sites, cell reception, flushing toilets, potable water, and free hot showers. There is a camp store nearby that sells ice and firewood.

Flamingo Campground is open year-round. During the high season, from December through April, reserve your campsite online at least 2 weeks in advance. The remaining sites are first come, first served.

Restaurants

Flamingo Restaurant

The Flamingo Restaurant is located next to the new Guy Bradley Visitor Center and will be the first and only restaurant in the park. It was announced in October 2023 and is expected to open very soon, at some point during the 2024 busy season. From finger foods to sandwiches to the local catch there’s something for everyone on the menu.

Ukiah Oregon

Days 3 – 4: Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

The Shark Valley area is located at the north of Everglades National Park along Highway 41. It’s known for its grassy prairies and alligator airboat tours. Shark Valley is also adjacent to Big Cypress National Preserve, more famous for its wetland environment. Spend the last day of your trip exploring Shark Valley before driving back to Orlando. There are no restaurants along Highway 41 and services are very limited until you reach Everglade City. There are a couple of campsites near Shark Valley.

Things To Do in Shark Valley

Shark Valley Observation Tower

The Shark Valley Observation Tower is a high-elevation tower that provides expansive views of Everglades National Park. At 70 feet in elevation, it’s the highest point you can reach in the park. On clear days, you can see as far as 20 miles, offering views of diverse landscapes. The tower is accessible 24 hours a day.

Shark Valley Loop Tram Tour

The Shark Valley Loop is a 15-mile loop through the “river of grasses”. Look for a variety of wildlife, especially birds. The Shark Valley Loop is commonly explored on a 2-hour, narrated tram tour or you can rent a bike or bring your own to explore the loop.

Airboat Tour

An airboat tour that gets visitors up close and personal with alligators, birds, and other wildlife is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Everglades National Park acknowledges three professional, authorized airboat businesses. Check out Coopertown Airboats, Everglades Safari Park, or Gator Park Airboat Tours to reserve your spot! All three businesses are located along US Highway 41 near Shark Valley.

Kirby Storter Roadside Park – Big Cypress National Preserve

Located about 26 miles west of the Shark Valley Observation Tower is Kirby Storter Roadside Park. From here you can walk a boardwalk among the large cypress trees of Big Cypress National Preserve. This area is an especially unique stop because Big Cypress National Preserve is far swampier than Everglades, so you’ll see the varying diversity of Southern Florida landscapes.

Camping near Shark Valley

Midway Campground

Midway Campground is a small campground located in Big Cypress National Preserve along Highway 41 near the Shark Valley Entrance. It’s open year-round and has bathrooms and drinking water. During the busy season from November to April reserve your site a few months in advance.

Trail Lakes Campground

Trail Lakes Campground is located off Highway 41 in the town of Ochopee between Shark Valley and Everglades City. It’s a family-owned and operated campground offering tent sites, RV sites, cabins, and chickee huts. Chickee huts are native-built cottages often sitting on stilts, popular in the Everglades area. Book your site a few months out during the busy season to guarantee a spot.

Gulf Coast, Everglades National Park

The Gulf Coast area of Everglades National Park has a boat launching point from Everglades City. This area of the park is made up of many small islands and mangrove forests. The park is only accessible by boat here.

Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Ian in 2022, the Gulf Coast Visitor Center was severely damaged as well as the national park boat operating tours. At this point, to access the remote area of the Gulf Coast you must do so via personal watercraft using the boat launch which remains open. There is no expected date for when national park services will reopen here. Stay up to date by checking the Everglades National Park page.

Why Rent a Camper Van for an Orlando to Everglades National Park trip?

Renting an Escape Campervan is the perfect way to road trip from Orlando to Everglades National Park. For one, you can sleep in a comfy bed rather than set up a tent every night. Escape Camper Vans also have other luxuries like a place to cook, space to organize your belongings, and a spot to relax with views.

A campervan rental is far better than renting an RV because campervans are more mobile, compact, and easy to use. You’ll have no need for electric or sewer hookups, which saves money and doesn’t restrict you to specific campsites.

Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for your Orlando to Everglades National Park Trip

You now have all the information you need for a road trip from Orlando to Everglades National Park! (Link Everglades National Park page). So what are you waiting for? It’s time to book your flights and embark on this bucket list road trip. There’s nothing better than traveling with comfort and ease and with an Escape Campervan as your temporary road trip home, you’re sure to experience that!

Book My Everglades Trip

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