Big Cypress National Preserve is a beautiful park in Southwest Florida. Located just north of the Florida Everglades this is a must see national preserve. You’ll find a diverse mix of pines, hardwoods, mangrove forests and prairies to explore. View amazing wildlife in their natural habitat while you hike, kayak or walk the many boardwalks. Find alligators, birds and even manatee as you go. Visit the visitor centers along the way to learn more about the different habitats and get a park map.
If you enjoy amazing photography visit Big Cypress Gallery and be inspired by the amazing pictures. Make your visit a great day trip from Naples and Marco Island or consider camping here to get the full experience. Follow along with me to find the best Things to Do while visiting Big Cypress National Preserve.
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Big Cypress National Preserve Map
For this article I will detail where to stop in Big Cypress National Preserve heading east on the Tamiami Trail away from Naples and Marco Island toward Miami. Here is a link to the Big Cypress National Park Map. You can use this to get a better idea of where you are going while traveling in the park.
Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center
The National Preserve is spread out on either side of Tamiami Trail. Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center is the first stop to make. Here you’ll find a Ranger building with a small display inside teaching you about the national preserve. You will also find restroom facilities and parking. What we loved about this stop is the 200 ft boardwalk located right off the back of the ranger station. It is set right in the mangrove which made it great for viewing wildlife. The boardwalk is easily accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
When we were there the kids were able to view alligators, turtles and several birds. We had just missed a mom and baby manatee that apparently swim through the warm waters in this part of the mangroves often. We found this to be a fun and easy stop. Rangers here were also very helpful in answering our questions about the park.
Address: 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141
H.P. Williwams Roadside Park
If you want to see Alligators in the wild this is the place to stop. It’s a small roadside rest stop with a boardwalk along the canal. From the boardwalk we saw at least 20 alligators swimming and sunning themselves on the shore. You’re up high enough that it’s safe to view the gators. Plus it’s free, so try this stop before paying to see alligators at the local attractions. Kids also saw fish and turtles along the canal.
While you’re there you can have a picnic at the many picnic tables. They also have restroom facilities and a parking area.
Address: 12580 Turner River Rd, Ochopee, FL 34141
Kirby Sorter Roadside Park
About halfway through the park you will find Kirby Sorter Roadside Park. Here you will find another great boardwalk. This one is a one mile round trip walk through a mature cypress strand. Best part you are up high so you don’t have to trek through the water to see the cypress trees. It ends at an overlook where you can often view wildlife. The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly.
You will find covered picnic areas here and a large parking lot.
Address: 48900 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141
Oasis Visitor Center
Inside the Oasis Visitor Center you will find exhibits on nature and local cultural history. This location is the biggest of the visitor centers. Here you will also find a short boardwalk along the canal in the front of the building. We also saw alligators here hanging out in the canal area. Often throughout the year they have art exhibits in the auditorium. You will also find restroom facilities and a book store.
Address: 52105 Tamiami Trail East Ochopee, Florida 34141
Tips: When you’re out on the boardwalks there is not much shade, so make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen. There are also not a lot of places to buy water so make sure to bring some along on your trip. Lastly there are so many cool birds to see in the preserve. So make sure to bring binoculars to view the ones further away in the trees. Our kids loved using the binoculars to check out the gators and birds.
Want to view the park from the comfort of your car? Take a drive through the Big Cypress National Preserves Loop Road. It’s a 27 mile drive that will take you through a mix of pine forest, dwarf cypress forest and deep strands. If the weather’s not great this would be a great way to view the park in comfort. Check out this detailed guide to learn more.
Big Cypress Gallery
Famed Photographer Clyde Butcher has a wonderful little gallery in Big Cypress. Mr. Butcher is famous for his photographs of Big Cypress Nature Preserve. Walk through his quaint gallery to view amazing pictures he has taken of the surrounding area.
When you arrive you will see a estuary/pond with tiny alligators, turtles, birds and fish. Kids and adults will enjoy looking in the pond to find wildlife. Head to the back of the building for a fun 5-10 minute nature hike on a gravel path. If you don’t have the kids and want a more in depth hike through the preserve you will find guided tours here too. Much of it will be through water depending on the time of year, though, so may be harder for kids to do.
If you’re worried about littler kids in the gallery you could easily stop here to do just the nature walk and check out the estuary. However my kids found the pictures of wildlife fascinating and really enjoyed the gallery.
Address: 52388 Tamiami Trail, Ochopee, FL 34141
More Fun Things to See in Southwest Florida
Southwest Florida offers so many great places for families to visit. Here are three of our families favorite places to stay and play while in Florida.
Everglade City & Airboat Rides
After visiting Big Cypress National Preserve take a short drive to Everglade City. One of the most exciting things to do here is taking an airboat ride. Your family will love zipping thought the mangroves and looking for alligators. You’ll also find two fun museums Ted Smallwood Store and Museum of Everglade City. Both interesting museums teach you all about the people who have lived in this former frontier city in Florida.
It’s also a great place to grab a bit to eat after hiking. You’ll find some fun restaurants with local fresh seafood too. Check out my recommendations and all there is to do in The Best Airboat Rides and Visiting Everglade City Florida.
Naples is a great beach town with tons of fun activities, restaurants and shops. Find a great children’s museum and a small zoo to visit with the kids. If you enjoy nature there are several boardwalk and nature preserves such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. If you are a foodie there are amazing restaurants on 5th Avenue and 3rd Avenue to visit. Or just to stroll along and window shop while eating ice cream. The best part though are the beautiful beaches. Learn more in the Best Things to Do in Naples Fl with Kids – An Insider’s Guide. If you are looking to save some money while on vacation read 10 Fun Free Things to Do in Naples Florida.
Want a more relaxing and laid back beach vacation? Then you’ll love Marco Island! Here you’ll also find beautiful beaches such as Tiger Tail Beach. Which feels much more secluded then some of the busier Naples beaches. There are fun restaurants to visit on the water such as the Snook Inn a Marco Island staple for the last 30 year. Plus you’ll find some great spots to watch wildlife in the area. Learn more about this cool Florida town in 8 Fun Things to Do in Marco Island.
Are you ready now for a fun and exciting visit to Big Cypress National Preserve? The great part about this National Preserve is you can choose to hike or camp here if you want a more immersive visit. Or if you have younger kids you can just drive along Tamiami Trail and make the stops along the way. Either way you’ll get a great view of the Big Cypress National Preserve and hopefully see some wildlife too.
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