Biking -- The relatively flat, 38-mile paved Main Park Road is great for biking because of the multitude of hardwood hammocks (treelike islands or dense stands of hardwood trees that grow only a few inches above land) and a dwarf cypress forest (stunted and thinly distributed cypress trees, which grow in poor soil on drier land).
Shark Valley, however, is the best biking trail by far. If the park isn't flooded from excess rain (which it often is, especially in spring), this is South Florida's most scenic bicycle trail. Many locals haul their bikes out to the 'Glades for a relaxing day of wilderness-trail riding. You'll share the flat, paved road only with other bikers, trams, and a menagerie of wildlife. (Don't be surprised to see a gator lounging in the sun or a deer munching on some grass. Otters, turtles, alligators, and snakes are common companions in the Shark Valley area.) There are no shortcuts, so if you become tired or are unable to complete the entire 15-mile trip, turn around and return on the same road. Allow 2 to 3 hours to bike the entire loop.
Those who love to mountain-bike and who prefer solitude might check out the Southern Glades Trail, a 14-mile unpaved trail lined with native trees and teeming with wildlife, such as deer, alligators, and the occasional snake. The remote trail runs along the C-111 canal, off S.R. 9336 and SW 217th Street.
Bicycles are available from Shark Valley Tram Tours, at the park's Shark Valley entrance (tel. 305/221-8455; www.sharkvalleytramtours.com), for $7.25 per hour; rentals can be picked up anytime between 8:30am and 3pm and must be returned by 4pm.
Bird-Watching -- More than 350 species of birds make their home in the Everglades. Tropical birds from the Caribbean and temperate species from North America can be found here, along with exotics that have flown in from more distant regions. Eco and Mrazek ponds, located near Flamingo, are two of the best places for birding, especially in early morning or late afternoon in the dry winter months. Pick up a free birding checklist from one of the visitor centers and inquire about what's been spotted in recent days. In late 2009, a survey revealed that there were over 77,000 nests in the Everglades. In fact, the endangered woo stork increased its nesting activity 1,776 percent from the previous year. For a guided birding tour, consider Everglades Area Tours (tel. 239/695-9107; www.evergladesareatours.com) National Park and Grand Heritage Birding Tour, a comprehensive, 6- to 7-hour naturalist-led tour with multiple forms of transportation -- power boats, kayaks, and even a beach walk, so you don't miss any of the spectacular feathered (among others) species who call the park home. Tour is $179 per person and limited to six per tour.
Canoeing -- Canoeing through the Everglades may be one of the most serene, surprisingly diverse adventures you'll ever have. From a canoe (where you're incredibly close to the water level), your vantage point is priceless. Canoers in the 'Glades can coexist with the gators and birds in a way no one else can; the creatures behave as if you're part of the ecosystem -- something that won't happen on an airboat. A ranger-guided boat tour is your best bet and oftentimes they are either free or very inexpensive at around $7 to $12 per person. As always, a ranger will help you understand the surroundings and what you're seeing. They don't take reservations, but for more information on the various boat tours, call tel. 239/695-3311.
Everglades National Park's longest "trails" are designed for boat and canoe travel, and many are marked as clearly as walking trails. The Noble Hammock Canoe Trail, a 2-mile loop, takes 1 to 2 hours and is recommended for beginners. The Hell's Bay Canoe Trail, a 3- to 6-mile course for hardier paddlers, takes 2 to 6 hours, depending on how far you choose to go. Fans of this trail like to say, "It's hell to get in and hell to get out." Park rangers can recommend other trails that best suit your abilities, time limitations, and interests.
You can rent a canoe at the Ivey House B&B (tel. 877/577-0679; www.evergladesadventures.com) for $50 for 24 hours, $35 per full day (any 8-hr. period), or for $25 per half-day (1-5pm only). Kayaks and tandem kayaks are also available. The rental agent will shuttle your party to the trail head of your choice and pick you up afterward. Rental facilities are open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Overnight canoe rentals are available for $50 to $60. During ideal weather conditions (stay away during bug season!), you can paddle right out to the Gulf and camp on the beach. However, Gulf waters at beach sites can be extremely rough, and people in small watercraft such as a canoe should exercise caution.
You can also take a canoe tour from the Parks Docks on Chokoloskee Causeway on S.R. 29, 1/2 mile south of the traffic circle at the ranger station in Everglades City. Call Everglades National Park Boat Tours (tel. 800/445-7724) for information. And for an eco-tour of the 'Glades, Everglades Area Tours (tel. 239/695-9107; www.evergladesareatours.com) not only offers guided kayak fishing, but also guided half-day kayak eco-tours, customized bird-watching expeditions, full-moon paddling, as well as bicycle and aerial tours of the Everglades. Captain Charles Wright can put six kayaks and six passengers into the Yak Attack shuttle motorboat for the trip out to the Wilderness Waterway, deep within Everglades National Park's Ten Thousand Islands, where you will paddle in the absolute wilderness, spotting birds, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and perhaps even the elusive American crocodile. The shuttle then brings you back to Everglades City. The trip costs $169 per angler and includes transportation, guide services, outfitted kayaks, and all safety equipment.
Fishing -- About a third of Everglades National Park is open water. Freshwater fishing is popular in brackish Nine-Mile Pond (25 miles from the main entrance) and other spots along the Main Park Road, but because of the high mercury levels found in the Everglades, freshwater fishers are warned not to eat their catch. Before casting, check in at a visitor center, as many of the park's lakes are preserved for observation only. Fishing licenses are required.
Saltwater anglers will find snapper and sea trout plentiful. For an expertly guided fishing trip through the backcountry, Adventures in Backwater Fishing (tel. 239/643-1261), will send you out with Captain Dave Harding and Captain George LeClair who promise unique fishing -- fly fishing, spin casting, among other things -- without breaking the bank. Six-hour trips will set you back around $385. A great list of charters and guides can be found at the Flamingo Marina .
Motorboating -- Motorboating around the Everglades seems like a great way to see plants and animals in remote habitats, and, indeed, it's an interesting and fulfilling experience as you throttle into nature. However, environmentalists are taking stock of the damage inflicted by motorboats (especially airboats) on the delicate ecosystem. If you choose to motor, remember that most of the areas near land are "no wake" zones and that, for the protection of nesting birds, landing is prohibited on most of the little mangrove islands. Motorboating is allowed in certain areas, such as Florida Bay, the backcountry toward Everglades City, and the Ten Thousand Islands area. In all the freshwater lakes, however, motorboats are prohibited if they're above 5 horsepower. There's a long list of restrictions and restricted areas, so get a copy of the park's boating rules from Park Headquarters before setting out.
The Everglades' only marina -- accommodating about 50 boats with electric and water hookups -- is Flamingo Marina, 1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy., Everglades City (tel. 239/695-3101). The marina is the only remnant of the now demolished Flamingo Lodge, which suffered terrible damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. Word is that if enough funds can be rounded up, it'll be replaced with a hurricane-resistant lodging complex featuring a small hotel, cottages, and eco-tents. As of this writing, the marina was still renting boats, but only from May through October. The well-marked channel to the Flamingo is accessible to boats with a maximum 4-foot draft and is open year-round. Reservations can be made through the marina store (tel. 239/695-3101). 17-foot skiffs with 15-horsepower motors are available for rent. These low-power boats cost $80 for 2 hours, $150 for 4 hours, and $190 for an entire day. A $100 deposit is required.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.