Shark Valley is the Everglades North entrance to the National Park, despite its name, this is not where you come to see sharks, you are actually in the valley of the Shark River Slough.
This is one of our favorite sections. It is easy to get to, and this is certainly where you see wildlife, the kind with sharp teeth, in its natural habitat and more like stumble into it with no barriers in between.
This is where we come to see alligators, tons of them, they will be lounging by the side of the road, some will be crossing and blocking your way, others will be taking in some rays as bikers and hikers go past them...
The highlight of Shark Valley, besides the free roaming wildlife that greets you at every turn, is the 15-mile Loop Road that starts near the Visitor Center and brings you to the heart of the Everglades.
All along the road you will see different kinds of wildlife depending on the time of the year, the dry season is when you see everything in abundance:
As mentioned before, the best time to see the migratory birds and all sorts of wildlife is when water levels are low, that is around the end of November through the end of April or May, each year will be different but this is roughly when wildlife is more visible.
During the wet season, there is so much water that all the wildlife spreads out and is more difficult to see.
Keep your eyes open and look for wildlife alongside the canal that runs all along the west side of the Loop road.
At the midway point of the loop, you reach an observation tower.
This is an ugly concrete contraption that seems somehow out of place here, but it has two redeeming qualities:
From the tower you can actually see the little nuances of the terrain, how the tiniest of elevations change the landscape from sawgrass prairies to the little islands of trees.
And there are also many wildlife sightings from up here. Watch out for alligators concentrated by the pools around the Observation Tower. We have also spotted turtles swimming in the pools.
There are basically three ways to "do the Loop":
Whichever way you decide to take, make sure to always keep a safe distance from the animals. Remember you are in their natural habitat, this is their home. Do not approach, feed or disturb any wildlife you come accross. If you don't bother them, they won't bother you.
There are Trams that run the 15-mile Loop with many stops along the way and a 20 minute break at the Observation Tower.
Normally a Park Ranger will accompany you on the tour and point out and explain a lot about the wildlife and the ecosystem.
This is an excellent two-hour tour that will give you quite a good introduction to the Everglades.
Tours depart every hour from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm during the dry season, with fewer tours operating during the low season.
In addition, remember there is the $20 per car entrance fee to the Park.
Bookings and More info: Shark Valley Everglades Guided Tram Tour.
This is one of our favorite places to bike in the Everglades. An easy ride in mostly flat terrain, on a wide and paved road.
There will be lots to see all along the 15 Mile-Loop. It should take around 2 or 3 hours depending on what you run into along the way.
You can either bring your own bike or rent at the same Concession stand by the Visitor Center.
Bike Rental Prices start at $8.50 per hour, it is first-come first-serve and there are not so many rental bikes and only a few children bikes, so try to arrive early in the morning to avoid having to wait.
Also remember that according to Florida law, all bike riders under 16 must wear a helmet. Helmets are available at the concession stand.
Bring plenty of water, keep a safe distance from the wildlife and pay attention to tram traffic, they have the right of way and bikers must stop.
If you don't have a couple of hours for the tram tour or biking all the way to the observation tower you can certainly just walk along the 15-mile Loop Road for a few yards and return and there is also a very nice trail just steps from the Visitor Center, the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail a very easy stroll.
This elevated boardwalk starts behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center with the Main Loop road then shortcuts through the marshes and hardwoods bringing you back on a 0.4 mile loop to the main 15-mile road. This is an easy walk and with lots of shade.
Even if you only go for a few yards on the main road, you will almost certainly see much of the wildlife the Everglades are known for, alligators, waterbirds, turtles... and lots of vegetation.
Click here to see some pictures from our last walk, we didn't go that far from the Visitor Center and still managed to enjoy a lot of wildlife.
If you have time to spare, Big Cypress National Preserve, is only 20 miles from Shark Valley if you keep going west on the Tamiami Trail.
The Tamiami Trail is a very scenic road along the Preserve and specially during the dry season.
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is an hour away, here you can head out on the water and take a boat tour.
These places offer an entirely different landscape and environment, specially the coastal mangroves and estuaries at the Gulf Coast, than the Everglades at Shark Valley.
Where?: Shark Valley Visitor Center is located at 36000 SW 8th Street. Miami, FL 33194. 8th Street also known as Tamiami Trail or US 41. The park is about an hour from Miami, 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike on Tamiami Trail.
See the Florida Everglades Map here.
Park Hours: 9:15 am to 5:15 pm
Entrance Fee: $20 per Vehicle, motorcycles $15, $8 pedestrians (16+) or bicycles. The Park Fee is good for entrance into the Park at any of its other locations within 7 days.
Parking: Parking lot fills up quick during peak season, weekends and holidays.
Other Ammenities: Restrooms, Gift Shop, Ranger-led programs
What's Nearby?: Many Airboat Tours Operators along Tamiami Trail, you can combine an Airboat Ride with a visit to the Park.
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