When I think of exploring the Everglades, my mind immediately goes to an airboat tour, so when we started planning this southern Florida road trip, I knew that we’d be exploring the Everglades by airboat. I poured over every single website for airboat operators in South Florida before deciding on Everglades Airboat Expedition. This small, family-run company offers small tours of the Florida Everglades with boats that seat up to 12.
Everglades Airboat Expedition offers semi-private and private tours. The semi-private tours are 1-hour long and currently depart at 8am, 10am, 12pm, and 2pm daily. Private tours are available in 1-hour, 1.5-hour, and 2-hour increments and offer greater flexibility in terms of departure times. They also offer private sunrise or sunset tours in the same tour length increments.
We opted to do the 2-hour Sunset Tour, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since sunset photography is one of my favorites! After booking our tour, I received coordinates to the boat ramp, and then we met up with Captain Moe at the ramp on the evening of our tour.
This was our first time on an airboat, and oh my gosh, it was such a fun experience! Airboats have a flat bottom and a caged propeller on the back (rather than an underwater propeller engine), allowing them to navigate the shallow waters in the Everglades.
Even with temps close to 90º, it was nice and cool as we sped along. We stopped at an alligator hole, and while we didn’t spot any gators, we did see lots of Halloween Pennant Dragonflies.
The water was super still and reflective, and really not at all how I’d pictured the Everglades. In my head, the Everglades was a hot and swampy place, and while we did go through some swampy areas, I was surprised by the beauty of our surroundings.
Finally, we spotted our first alligator! The airboat operators typically do the same routes day in and day out, so they get to know the gators in the area, and the gators get to know the boats.
So they’ll swim up to investigate, which means you get a great view!
The kids loved seeing the gators up close and personal from the safety of the boat. While our captain said they’ve never had a gator attack someone on the boat, they are still wild animals, so it’s important to be aware of where your hands and feet are, just in case.
She absolutely LOVED seeing the gators circling around us!
As we continued on, the sun started to dip lower, and the canals of the Everglades were bathed in this gorgeous golden light.
We spotted two more alligators, so the Captain parked the boat for a bit so we could watch them. They came over to check us out before continuing on their way.
Alligators and sunbursts – that’s my kind of evening!
As the sun dipped closer to the horizon line, the clouds (and their reflections!) turned an orangey-pink hue, and it was BEAUTIFUL!
Check out that baby gator swimming through the water. Our guide estimated that this one was about two years old and roughly 2 feet long.
This purple gallinule – one of the most vividly colored birds in North America – hopped onto the boat looking for a snack.
Even now, close to a month later, I still cannot get over how amazing the sky looked that night! There was rain in the forecast, so I was initially worried that our sunset would be rained out, but luckily it held off until after our tour.
I was initially concerned that a 2-hour tour would be too long for Ellie, but she was a champ and stayed interested the whole time. Captain Moe did a great job making the tour (little) kid-friendly, which helped to keep her engaged.
Annnnnd, as luck would have it, right before sunset, my camera lens stopped working(!), so I finished the tour with just my iPhone.
After sunset, we sped back to the boat ramp. It was a high-speed, thrilling end to a fantastic tour of the Florida Everglades. We all really enjoyed our tour with Everglades Airboat Expedition, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. I think next time we’re in town, I’d like to check out one of their sunrise tours!
THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR AN EVERGLADES AIRBOAT TOUR
- There are MANY options at a variety of price points, so there’s something for everyone.
- Three companies operate within the boundaries of Everglades National Park: Coopertown, Everglades Safari Park, and Gator Park. I felt like all three were a bit more commercialized, only offered shorter tours, and didn’t have private tours/distancing for COVID that I was comfortable with. BUT, I’ve never visited any of those options, so they may be great choices!
- Given the tours’ outdoor nature, bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, especially if you’re going mid-day.
- Mosquitos were not a problem with our October tour, though I could see them being an issue earlier in the year.
Have you been to the Everglades before?? Have you been on an airboat either in the Everglades or somewhere else??