Miami is a well-known tourist town where millions of people live and visit every year. Just between Biscayne Bay and the Everglades, the city in southeastern Florida is surrounded by water and wildlife with plenty of fun things to do in between. Visit the Miami Seaquarium on Hobie Island just five miles to the southeast of Downtown Miami. You’ll see penguins, manatees, stingrays, as well as sea lion and dolphin shows. If you want to see some land animals, head over to Jungle Island on Watson Island about five miles to the northeast. Not only can you see all kinds of animals like lemurs and sloths, but they also have a climbing wall, escape rooms, playgrounds, and much more.
If you want to get wet, Grapeland Water Park is another fun adventure for the whole family just five miles to the west. Escape into the water on Shipwreck Island, take the plunge on Pirate’s Plunge, or relax at Captain’s Lagoon. If you would rather hit the beach for some water fun, there are plenty of those in Miami. From the popular and well-known Miami Beach to the more cozy spots like Brickell Key Park off Brickell Key Drive or Maurice A. Ferre’ Park at the corner of I-395 and US-1. Then head on to your next adventure.
Only 32 miles along US-41 to the west, the Everglades Safari Park is tucked into the mangroves and swamps. The large park has a variety of ways to enjoy the magic of the Everglades. You and the family can get acquainted with some wild critters at the 10-acre Jungle Walking Trail and observation platforms. Keep your camera in your hand to get some shots of the many colorful birds and other animals along the way. Don’t miss Gator Island, where the gators are sunning as they swim in their own space.
Check out one of the nature shows and get a selfie with Snappy, a small gator that you can hold if you are brave enough. Take an airboat tour with an experienced naturalist who knows all about the critters living in the glades. Glide through the middle of the Everglades National Park and through the swamplands where you can see all kinds of wildlife just hanging out and doing their thing. Grab some food at the Safari Restaurant and stop by the gift shop for some souvenirs before getting back in the motorhome.
Another hour up US-41 to the northwest and you will reach the majestic Big Cypress National Preserve. With 729,000 acres of freshwater swampland, this is some of the most rugged terrain in the state. Which means there is a plethora of flora and fauna to be found in the park. First of all, if you didn’t get the chance to take an airboat tour at the safari park, make sure you do it here. This is an experience that should not be missed while you are in the Everglades. If that is too much for you to handle, try a canoe or kayak trail. You can do this on your own. But don’t feed the gators.
For those who would rather explore on land, you can take a walking tour either on your own or with a tour guide. There are hundreds of miles of trails here including the 275-mile Tamiami Trail that goes from Miami to Tampa. Be sure to bring some bug spray. Rather ride a bike? You can do that here too, even if you didn’t bring your own. Take a two-hour bike tour with an expert guide who can show you all the places to find the flora and fauna you want to see. Another exciting way to tour the glades on land is on top of a Swamp Buggy. This 3.5-hour tour puts you and the family in the high seats so you can see the animals without having to worry about the mud, bushes, and critters on the ground. Now, on to your final destination.
It’s less than 30 miles to Marco Island from the park so you won’t have a long drive. Marco Island is the biggest of the Ten Thousand Islands just south of Naples. Depending on where you are heading on the island, there are dozens of beaches, shops, restaurants, and even some museums nearby. Otter Mound Preserve at the southern end of the island is a small but informative and beautiful natural space where you can enjoy an easy hike and see how many birds and other wildlife you can spot. Don’t forget the camera. And the bug spray.
At the other end of the island, you’ll find the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. This park is a huge 110,000-acre protected space full of mangroves, streams, lakes, and rivers. With over 150 types of birds, you are sure to see a variety while visiting. Get a guided boat tour or fishing tour, rent a kayak or canoe, or check out the Environmental Learning Center to learn more about the area.
If you will be needing a place to camp in the RV while you are there, make a reservation at the Naples / Marco Island KOA. Over 150 of these have full hookups and the other 10 have water and electricity. The length limit is 72 feet, so you should not have any trouble fitting in. You’ll also find a pool, spa, dog walking area, and a playgroundfor the kids. Of course, there are many other campgrounds around, but this one is nearby and has everything you need and then some.