The Tamiami Trail is the southernmost 275 miles of Highway 41 in Florida constructed in 1928. It is known for air boats and alligators amongst other things. It goes from Miami to Tampa with a little over 160 miles that covers the east west road from Homestead to Naples. We covered that area as we drove from Homestead to Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples.
Homestead is a suburb of Miami and a major agricultural center. Heading to and from Flamingo in the Everglades National Park we passed through Homestead with all of its agricultural fields, fruit stands, food trucks, and charm.
As we drove along the Tamiami Trail we could not help but notice all the air boat businesses along the way. Each business looked quite busy with the parking lots full of cars. The below is just a few of them.
As we continued further west we passed the Shark Alley portion of The Everglades National Park and cars were parked along the Tamiami because the main parking area was full with signs notifying visitors of delays. WOW, what crowds everywhere!! Eventually we came across the Oasis Visitor Center of Big Cypress National Preserve which we had visited during other trips.
It is a perfect place to park for a lunch stop and to view the alligators, lots and lots of gators. There is a boardwalk viewing platform next to the Visitor Center along with a parking lot and a grass parking area in the back perfect for motorhomes.
We lost count of the number of gators we saw and love seeing their eyes peek above the water (as long as we are NOT in the water)!
As usual for a national establishment, no drones are allowed. BUT what did we see flying around……some people!!!
It is a great place to stop for a break and watch the wildlife.
Burns Lake Campground
Next up is Burns Lake Campground, a small national forest campground in Big Cypress. It offers 8 pull thru dry camping RV sites and 6 primitive campsites for tenting. We originally had reservations at this campground but changed them to get closer to Naples for some family events. We decided to drive through the campground and see what we missed. It is about a mile off the main road and seemed quiet and peaceful. It is a cute little campground on a lake and is an ideal spot to stay while touring Big Cypress. Maybe some other time.
Big Cypress National Preserve
We enjoy driving the quiet off-the-beaten track roads of areas looking for wildlife. So we drove the loop from Birdon Rd to Turner River Rd stopping along the way to view the birds and alligators. We even saw a few swamp buggies!!! I want one!!!
Everglades City, with an elevation of 3 feet and a population of about 400 people, is the gateway to the western part of the Everglades National Park Gulf Coast in the Ten Thousand Islands. It is a small town with a bit of charm and a few swamp buggies.
From Everglades City we headed south over a small causeway to our favorite island, Chokoloskee. We stayed here years ago and absolutely love this place. Why? We love the quaintness, the charm, the solitude, the peacefulness, and the history. It feels like you have stepped back in time 50 years.
A must while visiting here is Smallwood’s Store and Museum.
The museum has all sorts of artifacts from the early 1900s that many people will recognize and has a small gift shop with some interesting books regaling stories about the area a hundred years ago from the bird plumage trade, to drug smuggling, to alligator hunting, and more. There are a few DVDs you can watch about an extremely interesting man and his life, Totch Brown, and his life in the Everglades. His documentaries are also available on You Tube. As you sit and watch the movie you can look out the back screen door and imagine life back a hundred years ago in this remote paradise. Well worth the time!!
Outside of Smallwood’s there is a food truck and seating area along with boat tours. We enjoyed the most wonderful fish soup there!!
The island itself is quite small with a few roads you can drive around and get a feel for the area and the housing. Like I said, it is quaint and full of charm. A nice peaceful place to spend the day!
The Tamiami Trail is full of sights and activities that are sure to keep you busy for a number of days!