Into the Wild – Paddling the Everglades

Florida is full of beaches, amusement parks, and shopping. But, when was the last time you went into the wild and saw a different side of Florida? When was the last time you experienced something that left you in total amazement? My family and I had the privilege to do both this past weekend on a 3 hour kayaking tour in the everglades. I will show you how you can do this too and give yourself and/or your family a wild adventure to remember.

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 How to get to the Everglades

You have several options to see the Everglades.  You can go to the Southern Entrance in Florida City. Or you can head to the Northern Entrances of either Shark Valley or Everglades City. We chose to drive 1 ½ hours North to Everglades City to see the area on the southern Gulf Coast near Naples.  An area known best for what it does not have. No high-rises, no malls, no traffic lights and no beaches.

So what is there to do or see here you ask?

You get to see the real Florida. Mangroves, swamp, gators, birds, hiking trails, and all around the perfect water and nature centric playground.  Welcome to the real Florida – or so the welcome sign at Everglades City reads.

How to see the Everglades

You have many ways to enjoy the Everglades. You can hike the trails. Or take a speed air-boat. Or you can do as we did and paddle your way through it on a 3 hour Mangrove tour.

We chose Shurr Adventures to guide us on this unforgettable trip through the Everglades. And we are so glad that we did. Alli  (the owner) booked the tour for us and took the time to go over the different options and help me select the perfect one for our family. She kept in contact via email and phone to provide important information. Advising on where to meet, what to bring and who our guide would be. She even provided suggestions on accommodations and restaurants in the area. And once our tour date approached she kept us informed on the weather.

Another thing I loved about Shurr Adventures is they only do small group tours which makes this a very personalized experience. Our guide Jason was exceptional. He provided a great wealth of information about the Everglades and the creatures and plants around us. And made it fun and entertaining for our girls. His passion for the area and what he does is very apparent and this made the trip even more enjoyable.

Starting Point

We met our guide Jason at the Everglades City Chamber of Commerce. After getting acquainted with him and a lovely couple that would be on the tour with us we were transported by van to the launching point.

Jason got our kayaks set up, outfitted us in life jackets, and provided some simple kayaking instructions. Then we launched from a small beach area into the dark waters of the Everglades.

Here is a short video at the beginning of the day

It was not long before we saw the alligators swimming around us.  It is quite a thrill to see these creatures out in the wild swimming right along the kayaks. We kept our distance but just knowing we were in the same vicinity as these creatures was quite an experience.

 

Our wonderful guide Jason from Shurr Adventures

However, my poor older daughter did not share in my excitement. She was so scared I thought she would not enjoy the trip at all. But Jason reassured her and after she realized the gators wanted nothing to do with our Kayaks she calmed down enough to enjoy the rest of the scenery around her.

The tour has a nice leisurely pace which was perfect for a family, or those who simply want to enjoy their surroundings while kayaking. You really do not need much experience to enjoy it and we never felt rushed.

We made several stops along the way to learn about the animals we saw, the vegetation, and the wonder that is the Everglades and the surrounding area.

The Mangrove Tunnels

During the tour we navigated our Kayaks through three different Mangrove tunnels each varying in level of difficulty. We learned the difference between the three types of Mangroves and were able to see two different varieties of them during our tour.

Being inside the Mangrove is a very neat experience. It is pretty tight quarters in some of them and we had to concentrate on not getting stuck.  But with a 9 year old copilot I seemed to be playing bumper kayaks quite often. And if those poor mangroves could talk they were probably yelling insults at us.

Inside the Mangroves we only encountered one alligator (which scared my eldest to death) and we very slowly maneuvered our way around it without incident (much to my youngest dismay).

Ending Point

The tour is round trip and we navigated back to the starting point the same way we went out. During the entire trip Alli (the owner) had been in contact with Jason (our tour guide) regarding a system that was brewing and heading our way. So we headed back a bit early to try to beat the rain.

Nature is truly unpredictable and the rain that was supposed to arrive after sunset came right before it. It was a refreshing shower that blessed our return trip with a beautiful rainbow on one side. While on the other side the sky lit up in orange from the setting sun. It was a beautiful sight to see and all during our return paddle you could hear and see the many birds flying back to their nests for the night.

Have I convinced you to visit the Everglades? Are you ready to Kayak amongst the alligators? Then here are some important things you may want to know.

When to Go

December through April is considered dry season. Although rain showers can happen. During this time you also have mild weather and most importantly less mosquitoes. Wildlife is also at its peak. And aside from Alligators you will have the opportunity to see many birds that have migrated from the north.

What to Bring

No matter the season two essentials are bug spray and sunblock. Other good to have items are sunglasses, hats, poncho, light breathable clothing (I prefer to wear long sleeves and long pants to help keep the sun off and protect from insect bites) and comfortable shoes and/or water shoes. And do not forget your camera.

Where to Eat  

A few places that were recommended to us by Ally and some other locals are:

  • Havana Cafe for Cuban sandwiches, coffee and some seafood plates.
  • Island Cafe – for burgers, pizza and seafood.
  • Triad Seafood Market seafood baskets, sandwiches, salads and stone crabs (this was our choice place for lunch)
  • Everglades City Seafood wraps and baskets

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Have you visited the Everglades? Would love to hear about your experience. Drop me a note in the comments or let’s get social on Instagram or Facebook.

Disclaimer: I did not receive  compensation from Shurr Adventures in exchange for this review.  This review is my own personal opinion and is based on my own experience. Your experience and opinion may vary from mine.

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30 Comments

  1. Joella. I commend you for your trip to the Everglades. Your Dad watching from up high is proud. Your pictures are beautiful and your simple prose makes anyone, maybe even scardy cat me want to go

    1. Daddy would have loved this trip. The only thing that would have made it better for him would have been camping and fishing added into it. If Alana was able to do it you could do it as well. But somehow I feel your trip to Spain is better suited. Love you.

  2. I lived in Tampa for a while and always wanted to do this! Sadly I never did because I was so afraid of the alligators. But after reading this post, I feel like I need to head back and give it a try 🙂

    1. Hi Candy – if you are ever back you should definitely give it a try. This company is top notch and I promise the experience is worth it. Even my daughter managed to overcome her fears. I know you would as well.

  3. Ahh cool Jo, sounds like you all had a great time…I hope your eldest is OK!! I wish we could’ve done the Everglades while in Florida, we just didn’t have the time ( the bayous were still pretty cool though). Great post my friend 🙂

    1. Hi Priti – you will have to experience it next time. You can’t see it all in one trip and you accomplished so much in the tim you were here. Glad you enjoyed the post my friend.

  4. This would be a great way for me to conquer my fear of GATORS!I would have such an irrational fear the entire time my kayak would capsize and I would be ingested by a gator the entire time BUT after when I walk away unharmed I would probably love the experience. This is just making me realize there are so many more places in the US we need to travel to.

    1. Hi Megan – my daughter was so scared but once we got started she realized it could be fun. It is definitely a great way to step outside your comfort zone. I promise you will love the experience.

  5. I loved the Everglades. We did the airboat rather than kayaks but this is definitely up my street. I would be more worried about crocodiles. Maybe you don’t get them in saltwater?

    1. Hi Anne – The airboat tours can be thrilling in a different way. We have done those in the past. This time we chose a more chil way to see the Everglades and so glad we did. Maybe next time you are in the area of should give this a try.

  6. I wander what would have happened if an alligator came close to the kayaks while you were passing through the mangrove tunnels, so no way to run somewhere. Did you get survival lessons at the begining of your tour or somth like that?

    1. Actually we did encounter a gator in the mangrove but we passed by with no incident. They normally leave you alone. It is such a fun adventure and highly recommend it.

  7. We lived in Fort Myers Florida for about a year and a half and LOVED kayaking through the everglades – mind you we did so in an inflatable canoe, and everytime I would see low lying mangroves or an alligator in the water I would freak about popping a hole LOL – definitely added a sense of adventure. For those who don’t live locally, Shurr Adventures sounds great!

    1. Megan – I think I would have been scared to do this in an inflatable boat of any kind. Glad Shurr Adventures provided all the equipment and it was all first class. A terrific adventure for the entire family.

  8. Everglades looks really enchanting. Kayaking in its serene environs must indeed have been a prized experience.Of course, not to ignore the presence of the lurking alligator in the water. All in all a great adventure for the entire family.

    1. It was a great adventure for the entire family and the company really made sure to make it so. They did a great job catering to our kids so they could enjoy the trip as much as we did.

  9. You have convinced me to visit the Everglades! I want to go through the Mangrove Tunnel and see an alligator. I would also love to take this tour because it sounds like a great experience. And I’m sure bug spray is a must!

    1. Stella you are so right bug spray is a must although not many mosquitoes were out yet. Hope you get the opportunity to try this out.

  10. Paddling for 3 hours amidst mangroves sounds so lovely. I would love to do that though my sense of direction on a kayak/boat is awful and I will probably be stuck in mangroves all the time haha. I love the rainbow at the end point – soooo pretty.

    1. Hi Jo, we were lucky to have a great guide so no getting lost for us. It could get very confusing without him and I recommend using a guide.

  11. I lived in Florida as a kid and was always way more afraid of the giant insects than the gators. I’ll admit I’ve never kayaked alongside one, though. It’s a bit disconcerting!

  12. Wow, you are so brave to do this. I’m from Florida, and never in a million years would I ever do this. I an terrified of the gators! Saw enough in my backyard and heard enough horror stories to steer clear of the Everglades! That being said, the canoeing looks fun!

    1. I have to say it felt safe the entire time. We had an experienced guide and the gators did not come close enough to bother us. There are many ways to experience the everglades and if Kayaking is to close to them you can always go by airboat. That is usually a thrilling fast ride. But I honestly believe that Kayaking was safe and a perfect way to see the Everglades.

  13. Our family (myself, hubby, and our boys aged 17 and 15) did the same tour last year. An experience we’ll never forget! Even our 15 year old who was going through a “I’m too cool for this” stage enjoyed himself. Shurr Adventures is definitely a class act! And we had an amazing lunch at Havana Cafe afterwards.

    1. Michelle – thanks so much for sharing this. We want to go back for another tour and will have to check out Havana cafe. The menu seems amazing. So glad you also loved the tour and Shurr Adventures. They are truly great people and it makes the trip an experience to remember. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Thanks Marija, it was a great day out with the family and I highly recommend seeing the Everglades if you ever come to Florida.

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