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Trip 4: The Florida National Parks - Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas


For our fourth national park trip, we visited all three national parks in Florida. This trip could start from virtually any point in Florida. We began our trip with visits to family in Bradenton and Winter Haven (south and east of Tampa, respectively) and had a reasonable four-hour trip down the west coast of Florida and across Highway 41. For the map, I show Naples as the starting point, as you'll want to be sure to drive across the state on Highway 41, the original Alligator Alley. Unlike traveling on I-75 (which is now commonly referred to as Alligator Alley), Highway 41 provides better opportunities to spot wildlife as well as stop at various visitor centers and take short hikes along the way as the road runs through the Big Cypress National Preserve and into the Everglades. We opted to stay in Homestead, Florida, for the first part of the trip, which provided easy access to both Biscayne National Park and the Everglades.

For the second part of the trip, we stayed on Marathon Key, even though the ferry for the Dry Tortugas National Park leaves from Key West. (Hotels in Marathon were much less expensive than in Key West and this also gave us an opportunity to explore more of the keys; we also have been to Key West several times already.) A trip to the Dry Tortugas typically requires planning several months in advance to ensure availability of tickets for the Yankee Freedom Ferry. For a flight home from this area, there are two major airports nearby in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, providing lots of flight options. (We went through Fort Lauderdale airport as flights to our destination were less expensive from there; for other destinations, Miami airport may provide a better option.)


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