A few months ago if you asked me my expectations about the Florida Everglades a few thoughts might have danced around in my mind:
Mosquitos. Alligators. Swamp. Heat.
Not exactly a pretty picture! In fact, we had no real plans to go there because nothing about it sounded appealing.
However, we needed a place to stop before crossing to Key West (if you haven’t checked out my Island Hopping post yet, you can see it HERE.) Most Loopers who go to the Keys stop in Marco or Naples.
But, you know me…I’m always looking for an outside the box adventure! Not to mention, we love visiting National Parks.
The Everglades seemed like a no-brainer stop.
Until we started researching it. We quickly learned why not a lot of other boats go there-it’s super shallow! The depth in the channel is only about 5-6 feet at high tide. We draft 4-feet which doesn’t leave much room for error. And that’s in best case scenario, high tide.
Brent and I tossed around a safer option, consulted a friend who took his boat there (thanks for the encouragement Lower Place!), and ultimately decided to go for it.
Best decision ever. We loved everything about the Everglades!
Although, I will admit that we made a HUGE mistake.
As advised, we arrived just before high tide. As we navigated our way into the Everglades, we kept seeing the depth gage go down. It went down way further than we expected.
We went from having 3 feet under our boat, to less than 1.
It didn’t take us long to realize that we’d looked up the wrong date for the tide schedule. In fact, not only was in NOT high tide, but it was only an hour before low tide!
We had some decisions to make, but we had to make them immediately since every passing minute was costing us water under our boat.
There were really only two options: try to turn around or proceed.
Neither of us loved the idea of grounding our boat for the first time. However, the idea of missing out on the Everglades didn’t sit well with us either.
Without time to properly weigh our options, we decided the worst thing that could go wrong would be us getting stuck for several hours.
If we ran aground slow enough, it shouldn’t do any damage to our props. And, the tide would eventually rise again- freeing our boat. There were a few other things we should have considered (like the need to turn off our generator if we were sitting on sand)…but we forged ahead.
I’ll admit, it was a tad stressful knowing we could run aground at any minute. However, it was hard not to appreciate the beauty surrounding us!
Eventually we emerged from the pure, untouched nature into a very small waterside town- Everglade City and we made our way to the marina- Everglade Isle.
It was in the first 5 minutes at Everglade Isle Marina that I declared it my favorite stop on the Loop.
Here are a few reasons we loved it:
- It’s where gorgeous nature meets small town amenities. We loved being in the middle of nowhere and still having the convenience of good cell signals. There are also several restaurants and a tiny grocery store in town.
- The marina is a true resort. I was honestly not expecting much knowing that we were going to be staying in the center of a National Park. But this place is gorgeous! It’s full of amenities like a pool, movie theatre, billiards room, and bar. The grounds are gated and stunning. We were extremely impressed!
- You are IN the Everglades. Most people who know me know that I’m not a big camper. I love the idea of camping in a National Park…but not the actual experience. But when you do it on your boat, it’s a whole different ballgame. We were able to see and do things on our boat that other people were coming and paying a lot of money to experience on someone else’s boat for an hour.
Our few days in the Everglades were spent alternating between being total bums at the pool and exploring the National Park.
A major highlight was the stars at night. They were incredible! Adding to the experience: we happened to be there during the “Christmas Star” phenomenon. And the icing on the cake was when all the power in Everglade City mysteriously went out.
There was ZERO light for miles!
(I will forever speculate that the 7 hour power failure was done on purpose. I mean, it can’t be a coincidence that it happened on the same night Jupiter and Saturn aligned! Truly an unforgettable experience.)
Another major highlight was getting our official stamp in our National Park Passport book. This is something we’ve always enjoyed doing when we travel (read more about that HERE) and it’s been fun to add stamps during our Loop!
Also worth noting: we were able to exit the Everglades at high tide.
This was not only convenient for our Key West crossing, but also made for much less stressful boating! For those paying close attention to our route, this was a stop among all of our island stops that I wrote about in my last post.
As always, thanks for keeping up with our adventures! You might also enjoy reading:
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