Truth be told, you can have too much of a good thing. Such is the case with Miami and its endless sensory overload. Don’t get us wrong, it’s an incredible city. But it can also be overwhelming. From the moment you wake up, you can expect to be waiting in lines and shoving for space everywhere from the breakfast buffet to the beaches to the clubs.
When you’re tapped out on the whole Miami scene, the secret is to recharge before diving back in. That means a peaceful retreat beyond the city proper to restore your faculties. If that’s your aim, you’re in luck. Because not far from the sleekly designed hotels and all night dancing, you’ll find the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States – about 1.5 million acres of it.
Everglades National Park is home to rare and endangered animal species and endless miles of adventure. As conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas said in her book, The Everglades: River of Grass: “There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known.”
So, take a break from popping bottles to spend some time getting to know this special place. Here’s the best way to spend 24 hours out of Miami and immersed in the tropics of “The ‘Glades.”
The Ride: A 4×4
First, you’re going to need to rent a car for the trip. Conventional car rental businesses are all over Miami, but if you’re looking for a less painful experience try Turo — which is a little like an AirBnb of cars — allowing private owners to rent out their vehicles when they aren’t being used. There are plenty of options, just remember you’ll likely be cruising down the strip, along the beach, and then through the Everglades. So you need versatility.
We went with a Jeep for the old-school adventure vibes.
First Stop: Milam’s Market
Before you jump onto US Highway 41 through the Everglades, you want to make sure you have the right kind of snacks for the trip. Drop by Milam’s Market, a family-owned grocer that has a great selection of tasty, local eats. Since you’ll be on the move quite a bit and your lodging for the night is charmingly simple, err towards healthy-yet-filling non-perishables, like trail mixes.
Second Stop: Miccosukee Village
Once part of the Seminole nation, the Miccosukee set up this village along the Tamiami Trail — which runs along US Highway 41. Here you can interact with the tribe and learn about their history. They also put on regular demonstrations (no “wrestling”) with alligators, performing traditional rituals that have been handed down for generations.
Third Stop: Big Cypress Gallery
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“Movies have made swamps a place of horror. I hope my photographs help people to see the beauty.” @clydebutcher 📷 @randolph.333 . . . . #clydebutcher #explorebigcypress #evergladesnationalpark #bigcypress #pnwwonderland #wanderlust #welivetoexplore #wildernessculture #fineartphotography
At this point, now that you’ve experienced a little of the region’s Indigenous culture and filled up on way too many road trip snacks, it’s time to feed your artistic side.
Nobody is spreading the beauty of the Everglades more than Clyde Butcher is through is his photographs. Spending a few hours in the swamp with this sage gentlemen and his crew will do your soul well. Look forward to picking up a photography tip or two while there.
Fourth Stop: Everglades Nature Tours
The point of this trip is to get away from the crowds, so the last thing that we want you to do is pile onto a crowded airboat, where you have to throw elbows to get your photos. Check out Everglades Nature Tours. They offer private and semi-private tours at a very reasonable rate. They’re also insanely knowledgeable; with all of the tour guides being trained by US Coast Guard Captains.
Fifth Stop: Kirby Storter Roadside Park
Quick stop at the halfway point across the Big Cypress along US Highway 41, this park has a boardwalk that allows you to enjoy the wetlands without getting your feet damp. The stroll here is about one mile in length, making it an easy jaunt to break up the time in the car and provide photo opportunities.
Sixth Stop: Camellia Street Grill
Because no man (or woman) can survive on trailmix alone, pull over for some proper comfort food served with waterfront views and down-home vibes. Camellia Street Grill is the perfect place to replace those calories that you spent hiking all over the Everglades. Check out their fresh seafood dishes and the salads made with produce from their garden.
Base Camp: Everglades Chickee Cottages
This itinerary is all about interacting with nature while getting a little serenity. There is no lodging better suited to do that than these enchanting cottages set in the center of The Everglades. There’s no running water in the structures, but there are campsite facilities a stone’s throw away. This isn’t about amenities, you’ll be getting that back in Miami, this is about getting back to basics. Influenced by structures originally constructed by Seminole Indians in the area, these thatched-roof huts are as charming to look at, as they are to sleep in.
The next morning you should be feeling restored and refreshed, ready to return to the excitement of Miami. Or having just spent a gorgeous 24 hours, you could just keep driving west and experience more of the wilderness. You can’t go wrong either way.