Now that you have rented your car from Miami discount car rentals,  you might want to drive outside of Greater Miami and see some of Florida’s less populated points of interest.  What beckons to an adventurous traveler more than alligators and the famous Florida Everglades?

Taking over 6 million years to evolve, the Everglades are unlike any other place on earth.  It is a huge system of shallow rivers, wetlands, and swamps which serves to transport water from the Kissimmee River northwest of Miami to Florida Bay.  It may take a year or more for the water to complete this journey.

This interesting ecosystem offers features not seen anywhere else on the planet.  The Everglades are home to at least 45 varieties of plants not found anywhere else.  On top of this, over 350 types of birds, dozens of different reptiles and mammals, and at least 500 different types of fish also call the Everglades home.

Although the Everglades seem large and unapproachable, there are a variety of pleasant ways to drive through and see the Everglades on your own.  These are broken up into the Northern section and the Southern section.

The Northern Section:
Probably the most popular day trip from Miami to the Everglades is to Shark Valley.  Shark Valley is only 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike.  The best way to reach it is to take highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) westward out of Miami.  It will take you about one hour to reach the starting point of Shark Valley from Miami.  Shark Valley is a 15 mile, paved loop which takes you through the northern end of the Everglades National Park. 

You can stop and visit the observation tower in the middle of the loop for an amazing view of this teeming swampland.  Shark Valley also offers a variety of fun and interesting road side stops.   

There is a tram tour which departs from the Shark Valley Visitor Center which ventures deep into the park.  The Miccosukee Indian Village also offers an alligator farm and swamp boat rides for the adventurous.

The Everglades via Alligator Alley (I-75). Interstate I-75 is a toll road with features two lanes in each direction.  This route will not immerse you in the swampy Everglades but is the fastest and cleanest route through the northern end of the Everglades. 

Not only is Alligator Alley the fastest route through the Everglades, it also offers amazing views of the ecosystem and offers several nice stops along the route.  Among these stops is the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve.  Fakahatchee is home to the native Royal Palm and a wide variety of other unique plant life. 

You stay out of the wet via a system of wooden boardwalks making the viewing clean and pleasurable.  Please remember to stay on the boardwalks.

The Everglades via Tamiami Trail (Route 41).  This route cuts through the north end of the Everglades (but is south of I-75) and links the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.  Tamiami is short hand for Tampa Bay to Miami. 

You can get on highway 41 at the south end of Miami and you will reach the northern end of the Everglades (and the start of Shark Valley) in about an hour.  Highway 41 is a pre-turnpike, two lane road which offers a variety of interesting sites and stops. 

Shark Valley (mentioned above) is the first point of interest.  About 10 miles after Shark Valley, you will come to Big Cypress National Preserve.  The vast stretches of green pine and cypress trees make for impressive site-seeing.   

Big Cypress Swamp is a shallow wetland basin which is home to hundreds of different species of animals including the Florida Panther.  If you are an adventurous eater, The Swamp Water Café on the Big Cypress Reservation offers alligator tail nuggets, catfish filets, and frog legs among other things. 

If you take the Tamiami Trail to the end, you will pass through the town of Ochopee and eventually reach the gulf coast and it’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center.

The Southern Section:
The southern route is less scenic but makes for a quick and easy way to see the Everglades.  From Miami, go west on I-395 to S.R. 821 heading South (this is the Florida Turnpike)  which will you’re your straight to Florida City. 

Head southeast out of Florida City on S.R. 9336 to find the southern entrance to the Everglades National Park. 

This route will bring you directly to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. 

The trip from Miami to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center should take you about an hour and a half.  At the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center you can get all kinds of information here about tours, boat rentals, wildlife and the trail systems.  Four miles beyond the EFC Visitor Center, you will find the Royal Palm Visitor Center. 

This is the starting point for several popular trail systems including the Gumbo Limbo and Anhinga trails.  An amazing variety of plants and wildlife can be seen from these trail systems.   Thirteen miles to the west of the Ernest F. Coe Visitor center along S.R. 9336, you will find the Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail. 

Here, visitors frequently venture across the wooden boardwalk system to reach the observation tower which provides amazing scenic views and frequent sightings of vultures and hawks.