A pristine slice of rugged wilderness in Florida, Big Cypress National Preserve is a 729,000-acre unit of the National Park Service in South Florida. Part of the Everglades ecosystem, it’s home to a diverse area dotted with cypress swamps, prairies, pinelands, hardwood hammocks and a mangrove estuary. From wildlife watching to ranger-led walks and kayak excursions, there’s plenty to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy in this preserve.
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You’ll want to set aside at least a few hours to explore this natural wonder, where scenic drives will lure you in with the chance to spot elusive Florida wildlife and roadside parks offer a tranquil natural setting. One of the biggest drives within Big Cypress National Preserve is Loop Road, a 27 mile stretch of road that travels through dwarf cypress forest and pine forests, while another 17-mile drive along Turner River and Birdon Roads Loops will take you past open prairies and wading bird feeding areas.
Next, visit one of the roadside parks. Stretch your legs at H.P. Williams Roadside Park along the boardwalk overlooking a canal, where you can spot alligators, turtles and a variety of birds. Relax at one of the picnic tables, or head towards Kirby Storter Roadside Park halfway through your drive. Stroll the one-mile Kirby Storter Boardwalk to admire the views over a mature cypress strand.
If you’re up for an adventure, sign up for one of the ranger-led activities, which include free outings called Gator Gossip where you can learn about the science of gators and a Canoe Rendezvous, which is a 2.5-hour moderate paddle through cypress and mangroves. Birdwatching 101 offers an introduction to the area’s diverse birdlife, while Wet & Wild walks take you through a muddy section of the preserve.
Those looking for an overnight adventure can camp here under the stars, as this area has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Place due to its absence of artificial light pollution. There are even Big Cypress Star Parties where you can explore constellations, meteor showers and more with park rangers.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Address: 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141
Phone: (239) 695-2000