The bizarre Everglades and Marco Island

A few hours south (about 200 miles) on 1-75 will get you to Everglades City (take Route 29, the first exit after the toll booth), gateway to Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands.

The town lies about 20 miles south of the interstate.

From the ranger station, you can catch a tour boat year-round; in the winter, check out the canoe tour and other interesting ranger-led programs. You’ll see alligators, manatees, dolphins, and birds by the flock.

The 100-mile Wilderness Waterway trail begins here and travels through the mangrove wilderness of Ten Thousand Islands to connect to Flamingo.

Canoeists who follow the trail can camp at covered platforms called chickee huts.

Stop at Rod & Gun Club alligator tail and other Southern-style meals in Everglades City. Nearby, Museum of the Everglades gives a history lesson on the region. Outfitters and charters in the area can take you canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or airboating.


Three miles south of Everglades city, across the causeway on Chokoloskee Island, visit Smallwood Museum, an erstwhile Indian trading post.

Backtrack north about 8 miles to Highway 41, and head west.

There’s boardwalk access to Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, famous for its native orchids, about 7 miles west of Route 29. Collier-Seminole State Park, photo below, ¬†another 8 miles northwest on Highway 41, provides friendly access to Everglades ecology with hiking trails and boat tours.

Just west of the entrance to the state park, turn on Route 92 and head to Marco Island, the largest of Ten Thousand Islands. Turn left as soon as you cross the bridge to visit the time-stilled fishing village of Goodland.

This is the place to sit down to a fresh seafood meal in a friendly neighborhood fish house.

Route 92 continues on to Collier Boulevard, the gulfside drag.

There’s one public beach access to the south of the intersection and another, called Tigertail Beach, at the north end of town with more facilities. Off Collier, take a left on Bald Eagle Drive to reach marinas for fishing and boating excursions, including day trips to Key West.

Olde Marco, at the end of Bald Eagle, holds some historic structures and good restaurants, known for their seafood. Collier Boulevard leaves the island via the north bridge. About 4 miles from the bridge, turn left to get to Briggs Nature Center, a Conservancy of Southwest Florida facility where you can hike in and learn about local mangrove ecology.

This tour: about 245 miles, a Cool Guide to South Beach.

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