How to Plan an Everglades National Park Stargazing Trip (2023)
Everglades National Park, a sanctuary of unparalleled natural beauty and biodiversity in Florida, transforms into a celestial wonderland as the sun dips below the horizon. Like many national parks, it is the park’s own natural qualities – remoteness, lack of development, geology – that make it a great place for stargazing.
Stargazing in this pristine environment offers a mesmerizing escape from the distractions of modern life, as the night sky reveals an awe-inspiring tapestry of constellations, planets, and celestial phenomena. Far from the glare of city lights, the park’s unspoiled darkness provides an exceptional stage for the celestial ballet that unfolds above.
Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or a casual stargazer, the Everglades will leave you spellbound as you explore the infinite cosmos from the heart of one of America’s most cherished and unique ecosystems.
In this post, I promote traveling to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Calusa, Seminole, Taíno, Miccosukee, and Mascogo peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
How to Get to Everglades National Park
Learning how to get to Everglades National Park is the first item on the list you have to address to organize your Everglades stargazing trip.
The easiest way to get to the Everglades National Park is by car. In the first place, because the park governs 1,509,000 acres – I know, it’s huge – and there’s no public transportation that travels within the park. So you need a car to move.
Back to the ways in which you can reach Everglades, the park has three entrances in three different cities:
- The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Homestead
- The Shark Valley Visitor Center in Miami
- The Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City
Note that these entrances are not connected.
If you are flying into the area, the closest airport is the Miami International Airport – it’s only 34 miles from the main entrance to the Everglades. From there, you can rent a car or take a taxi to get to the park.
Where to Go Stargazing in Everglades National Park
The vast wilderness and minimal light pollution make Everglades National Park a stunning place for stargazing. Here are some of the best spots for stargazing in Everglades National Park:
Shark Valley Trails & Observatory Tower
The Shark Valley Trails are right in the heart of the Everglades and are a well-known area for stargazing due to its open sky views and its little light pollution. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance of hiking to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower. This is the highest elevation you can reach by foot in the entire park (70 feet high), meaning you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Everglades and the starry sky.
Mahogany Hammock is another popular spot for stargazing. It’s located on the park’s main road and has a boardwalk that takes you through a dense hammock forest. The park’s website suggests the parking lot as the best place to spot the Space Station and the beauty of the universe.
Gulf Coast District
Located on the west coast of Florida, the Gulf Coast District is one of the most isolated areas in the park. It has very little light pollution, making it a great spot for stargazing. Here you’ll find the Flamingo Campground and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, two good places to start.
Flamingo Visitor Center
The Flamingo Visitor Center sits on the southern end of the park and has a large parking lot where stargazers get together to look at the stars. You can catch the Milky Way from here, too! It’s open 24 hours a day, but beware that driving at night can be tricky as the road is very dark.
The Tamiami Trail runs through the northern part of the park and provides access to several great stargazing spots. You can simply drive and pull off the road in a spot that seems dark enough. Don’t be shy and ask the park rangers where you can find good stargazing spots. They usually have the best kept secrets!
Where to Stay Near Everglades National Park
So you know how to get to the park and what the best spots to go stargazing are. Now it’s time to tackle another elemental part of your Everglades stargazing adventure: where to stay.
Hotels near Everglades National Park
For those who prefer the comfort of a good bed, there are several hotels and accommodations located near Everglades National Park. Here are some options:
- The Inn at Pelican Bay: Located in Naples, The Inn at Pelican Bay sits about an hour and a half drive from the park. It’s a pretty good alternative if you want a luxurious stay. It features a pool and spa, and is located near numerous beaches.
- The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa: If you like to play it safe, book a room at The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa. It’s located on Marco Island, about two hours drive from the park. Like most Hilton hotels, it has astounding amenities, from multiple pools to restaurants to a spa.
- The Courtyard by Marriott Miami Homestead: This one is great if you want to be as close as possible to the park. It’s located just outside the park in Homestead and features an outdoor pool, fitness center, and an on-site restaurant.
- The Ivey House Everglades: Located in Everglades City, The Ivey House isa quirky hotel about a 30-minute drive from the park. One of the perks of staying here is that it offers airboat tours of the Everglades.
Camping in Everglades National Park
If you want the complete wilderness experience, Everglades National Park offers numerous camping options for stargazers. Here are some of the camping options:
- Long Pine Key Campground: Open seasonally from November through May, Long Pine Key is run by the “Flamingo Adventures” concession. The campground features 108 sites, showers, restrooms, and a picnic area.
- Flamingo Campground: This is the park’s largest campground and is located at the southern end of the park. It has 234 sites, including 41 with electrical hookups, showers, restrooms, and a dump station.
- Wilderness Camping: The park also offers backcountry camping in designated ground sites, beach sites, and elevated camping platforms. You must obtain a permit in advance and follow the park’s guidelines for backcountry camping. Permits for backcountry camping can be obtained at the park’s visitor centers.
What to See & Do During the Day in Everglades National Park
At 1,509,000 acres, there’s no shortage of fun things in Everglades National Park to fill your day. Here are some of the top things to see and do during the day in the park:
- Take an Airboat Tour: The best, and probably the only way, to explore most of the Everglades is on a boat. There are many tours that leave from Flamingo and the Gulf Coast. It’s also a great chance to see wildlife up close in their natural habitat.
- Bird Watching: The park’s sawgrass marsh is home to a stunning diversity of birds. Bring your binoculars and off delight yourself with the beautiful wildlife.
- Kayak or Canoe the Wilderness Waterway: The Wilderness Waterway is a 99-mile route that takes you through the park’s diverse ecosystems. It takes around seven days to complete it, but there are shorter routes you can take. Keep your eyes peeled to spot an alligator!
- Visit the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center: if you’re interested in the park’s history and ecology, pay a visit to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. It is located near the park’s main entrance and offers exhibits, films, and ranger-led programs.
- Take a Ranger-Led Program: The best way to learn about the park is by participating the ranger-led activities. You can choose from a variety of ranger-led programs, including guided hikes, talks, and educational programs for all ages.
Other FAQ About Stargazing in Everglades National Park
Have more questions about stargazing in Everglades? Look no further. Below you’ll find the answers to all your doubts.
When is the best time to go stargazing in Everglades?
According to astronomy experts, there’s no specific observing period to stargaze in Everglades. However, if you can be picky, plan your Everglades stargazing trip during the high season months, April and September. The weather will allow you to get the best views of the night sky.
Can you see the Milky Way while stargazing in Everglades? When?
You bet! And with the naked eye. The Milky Way is easily spottable year round in Everglades National Park– though the best time is summer season. You can catch it each month around the time of the new moon.
Is Everglades National Park open at night?
Yes, the park is open at night but only at the Main Entrance in Homestead. The Shark Valley entrance is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.
Are there guided night tours in Everglades?
The park offers ranger-led stargazing programs throughout the year. They all require reservations, so make sure you book them in advance.
Is there a dark sky festival in Everglades?
Unfortunately, no. There’s no dark sky festival in Everglades.
Have any other questions about planning your Everglades National Park stargazing trip? Let me know in the comments below.