You used to be able to stay inside Everglades National Park by booking a cabin or room at the Flamingo Lodge; however, damage from hurricanes in 2005 and 2006 has shut down the Flamingo indefinitely, leaving a tent or a chickee as your only choice for staying within the park’s boundaries. However, there is a small handful of options right on the edge of the park, in Everglades City to the west or Homestead to the east.
There are two campgrounds within Everglades National Park, and both welcome tent campers and RVs.
In the eastern part of the park, Long Pine Key Campground (about six miles from the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, sites available on a first-come, first-served basis) has 108 drive-up sites and one group site; restrooms, water, and RV dump stations are available, but there are no showers.
Flamingo Campground (877/444-6777 for reservations) is to the southwest near the Flamingo Visitor Center and has 234 drive-up sites, 40 walk-up single sites, and 3 walk-up group sites. This campground is quite popular, with showers in addition to standard amenities.
Fees at both campgrounds are the same, $16 per single site and $30 per group site. During the summer rainy season, the National Park Service typically allows camping for free, but be advised that the sites quickly get waterlogged.
There are also 47 backcountry campsites, ranging from chickees and beach sites to standard ground sites, almost all of which are only accessible by boat. The three beach sites at Cape Sable are the largest, accommodating around 150 people. They are beautiful and rustic and are often uncrowded. Wilderness permits are required for all backcountry camping ($10 processing fee plus $2 per person per day camping fee).
All of the accommodations in Everglades City evoke the atmosphere of a classic fish camp. While the Rod and Gun Club (200 Riverside Dr., 239/695-2101, www.evergladesrodandgun.com, from $110 d) is the nicest of the bunch—with more of a relaxed hunting-lodge vibe—it’s still far from fancy.
The rustic cabins and cottages at Ivey House (107 Camellia St., 239/695-3299, from $115 d) are even less glamorous, but the staff are remarkably friendly and quite helpful, and the on-site charter and rental service make it something of a one-stop shop for those embarking on a backcountry adventure.
There are a handful of decent and inexpensive hotels in downtown Homestead that provide relatively quick access to the Everglades. The Redland Hotel (5 S. Flagler Ave., 305/246-1904, from $99 d) and the Everglades Motel (605 S. Krome Ave., 305/247-4117, from $75 d) are the best. The Redland is situated in a beautiful historic building and feels more like a bed-and-breakfast than a typical hotel, while the Everglades, as the name implies, is a fairly standard, clean, and comfortable motel. There are also a number of budget motel chains with locations in the area.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition