3 Easy National Park Day Trips from Miami

3 Easy National Park Day Trips from Miami

¡Bienvenidos a Miami! We love to visit cities with the kids, particularly fascinating and diverse ones like Miami. But if you’ve been following us on 2TravelDads for long, you know that we’re all about exploring beyond the concrete jungle. That’s why we’ve plotted out our favorite easy day trips and weekend getaways outside of Miami’s South Beach and Calle Ocho (even though both are awesome). Don’t worry, you can always add beach time into any of our suggestions with a little planning.

Whether you’re taking a day trip out of Miami or heading out on a weekend getaway, pick up your rental car at Miami International Airport to start your adventure. All our suggestions here can be done as single day adventures OR weekend escapes, so use our ideas to plot and plan the most fun possible, and maybe cross off some of your wildlife viewing bucket-list.

Because we travel with kids, we know that if we’re driving more than two hours to get someplace, that’s a trip we need to do as an overnight. Having said that, these three ideas are some of the coolest and the easiest day trips from Miami. And all of them are sure to please the nature lover in anyone.

Big Cypress National Preserve

We didn’t initially plan to visit Big Cypress National Preserve, but we did and now we want to go back and do all all the boardwalk hikes possible. Located on the northern border of Everglades National Park, Big Cypress is one big, beautiful, epic swamp. That may sound unappealing, but it’s really magical and unique.

From the enormous cypress trees creating an otherworldly atmosphere to alligators and even crocodiles below and around the boardwalks, Big Cypress National Preserve is an easy and worthwhile stop in southern Florida. You can experience it just by stopping into one of the two visitor centers off the Tamiami Trail (Florida Highway 41), or you can be fully immersed in the cypress swamp while on one of many hikes through the preserve (from a few hundred yards to two miles).  

Tip: Wear a light, long-sleeved shirt and light pants. Just like us, mosquitoes are also big fans of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida Alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida

Easy day trip plan: Visit Big Cypress from Naples on a morning trip or stop off on the drive to or from Miami (it’s the halfway point). Driving the Tamiami Trail instead of Alligator Alley will take you right through the fringe of the Everglades and Big Cypress, allowing for quick stops in this unique part of the state. If you can’t dedicate a full day trip to visiting Big Cypress, it’s an easy addition to a planned drive between Miami and the Gulf Coast towns.

Travel time:  1 to 1.5 hours depending on your destination within Big Cypress National Preserve (same from Miami or Naples)

Cypress Strand, Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida Cypress Strand, Big Cypress National Preserve, South Florida


Everglades National Park

While the northern side of Everglades National Park is quite marshy and full of alligators (just like Big Cypress Preserve), the other accessible areas are navigable by boat when going out of Everglades City or Homestead, Florida. It’s an easy drive to the Flamingo Visitors Center (1.5 hours from Miami), which is the easternmost station and the gateway to winding boardwalks through the low mangrove forests and marshes with transient (you guessed it) flamingos. Boat tours from Flamingo (1.5 hours from Homestead) are available for access to the more secluded parts of the southern Everglades.

Note: The flamingos are wild, so they’re never a guaranteed sight, just like moose or bear in Yellowstone. They’re around, but not a guarantee.

Another way to do an easy day trip to Everglades National Park is to take the shorter drive to the Gulf Coast Visitors Center on the western side of the park. Here you’ll find nature trails and LOTS of birds of prey. You can also hop on the Thousand Islands tour to explore the grass islands and inlets of the Everglades. Dolphins, manatees and more are commonly seen out of the Gulf Coast area, so if you want to cross those unique Florida residents off your wildlife list, make the day trip to the west side.

Tip:  Book your boat tour through the approved National Parks concessionaire as soon as you know you’ll be visiting Everglades National Park

The third way to really get a feel for the Everglades is to take an airboat ride. Now, you can’t explore within the national park via airboat, but the surrounding areas are open to public access and tours. Head west from the Shark Valley Visitors Center to find many Everglades airboat options. Most accept same-day reservations (for you non-planners), but all of them will gladly book your tour in advance to make sure you get the quintessential Florida airboat experience.

Tip for small kids: Airboats are fun for nearly any age, but we found that our youngest needed his eyes sheltered for most of the tour due to the speed and wind. Bring goggles or check if the guide has them available if you have little ones.

Easy day trip plan:  Pick one of the three visitors centers (Flamingo, Shark Valley or Gulf Coast) and secure a tour into the Everglades in advance. Fill in the time around the scheduled tour with easy hiking and enjoying local foods (like gator or all things fried from the Island Cafe in Everglades City) along the Tamiami Trail.

Travel time:  1.5 to 2 hours depending on your destination within Everglades National Park

Mangrove tunnel in Everglades National Park, Everglades City, Florida Mangrove tunnel in Everglades National Park, Everglades City, Florida


Biscayne National Park

Just as the Everglades offer an unusual collection of habitats and wildlife, the same goes for Biscayne National Park. Both parks are pristine examples of unique Florida ecosystems, with Biscayne being the closest option for an easy day trip from Miami.

While much of the Everglades is composed of grass islands that you can explore along boardwalks, Biscayne National Park is best toured by boat. Ninety-five percent of Biscayne is underwater (score for the divers in the crowd!), but the sites above the surface are cool, too. From the mangrove coastline to Stiltsville out in the Bay of Biscayne, to the lighthouse out on Boca Chita Key, there’s a lot to see and do. Our kids particularly loved the jetty trail leading out to the bird refuge, which is accessible from the Dante Fascell Visitors Center.

Easy day trip plan: For Biscayne boat tours, confirm with the visitors center what days and times the ranger-led tours go out. It’s a cool place to visit for the afternoon on the shore and in the shallows, but getting out on the water gives you the most thorough experience.

Travel time:  45 minutes to the Dante Fascell Visitors Center of Biscayne National Park

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About the Author

2TravelDads is an energetic pair of dads, Rob and Chris Taylor. Sharing their stories and travel tips while raising their two kids, 2TravelDads have plenty of miles under their belts. Their travel blog comes from the viewpoint of parenting, being a part of the LGBT community, being immersed in nature and wanting to teach their kids the value of cultures from around the world.