Courtesy of Evergaldes National Park

Wildlife up-close in Florida’s famed wetlands.

Travel + Leisure
April 05, 2012

The so-called River of Grass, the Everglades, is a short drive from Miami’s skyscrapers but feels like a distant backwater. The 38-mile trip to Flamingo into the deep south of the park is dotted with trail signposts and leads to marshland teeming with endangered species like the American crocodile, the Florida panther, and the southern bald eagle. Depending on how close you want to be to the wildlife, explore the marshland on foot (there are numerous walking trails), by airboat, or aboard a canoe.

Robert Is Here

Do not leave Homestead without stocking up on tropical fruits like papayas, star fruit, lychees, atemoyas, or monstera deliciosa (which tastes like pineapple-banana) at the Robert Is Here fruit stand—where Robert Moehling has been peddling exotic fruit since 1960.

Gulf Coast Visitor Center

Rent kayaks to paddle through the mangrove swamps for less than $20.

Anhinga

Home to many species of wildlife, this 0.8-mile trail through the Everglades begins at the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The path runs over the sawgrass marsh known as Taylor Slough, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wildlife visible in the vicinity of the trail includes alligators, turtles, egrets, and the trail’s namesake anhinga, a variety of large water bird. The abundance of wildlife has made the Anhinga one of the most popular trails in the Everglades, and winter is the best time to catch a glimpse of these creatures.

Hell's Bay Canoe Trail

The Hell's Bay Canoe Trail runs through a complex mangrove ecosystem in the Everglades. So named because it was once considered “hell to get into, hell to get out of,” the trail takes paddlers through several small ponds and bays. It also passes two backcountry chickees and a ground site; camping is allowed with a backcountry permit. It takes approximately six to eight hours to explore the entire trail, which runs 5.5 miles one way. Parts of the trail can be buggy, so insect repellent is recommended in addition to sunscreen and water.

Rosita's

This unassuming, family-owned restaurant is easily recognizable by its green awning, Mexican murals, and large red, white, and green sign on the outside of the building. Rosita’s is no-frills, but it serves what is, arguably, the most authentic and flavorful Mexican food in the area. The dining room is filled with modest Formica tables, and the menu includes such classic dishes as chicken enchiladas with green sauce and beef chimichangas. Beans and rice are the standard accompaniments, and salsa and pickled jalapeños add an extra kick to any dish. A take-out counter is available for quick service.

Redland Hotel

Rebuilt in 1914 after a fire, the Redland Hotel was Homestead's first hotel and one of its most important structures. Restored to its pre-fire, 1904 architecture, the property now boasts modern conveniences like Wi-Fi. At the top of the original Dade County pine staircase, all 13 guest roomseach named after Homestead's pioneersare furnished with antiques, cherrywood armoires, and private bathrooms. The hotel also boasts parlors, conference facilities, and The Library pub (the hotel housed the city's first library). Located near the entrance to the Everglades, these accommodations provide easy access to the Homestead area’s parks and recreational activities.

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