There are five visitor centers located in the park. Each area of the park has its own attractions, and features a different set of plant and animal life.
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center:
Located at the main park entrance west of Homestead and Florida City, the Coe Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Educational displays, orientation films, brochures, and information are available. The Long Pine Key Campground and Picnic Area is six miles further west, and is surrounded by an abundance of hiking trails.
Royal Palm Visitor Center:
Located four miles west of the main entrance station, the Royal Palm Visitor Center is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. It has displays with recorded messages that interpret the park's unique ecosystems. The Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails begin here.
Flamingo Visitor Center:
Flamingo is 38 miles (61 km) southwest from the main entrance at the southern end of the park. The visitor center, open November through April from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., offers natural history exhibits and information. A restaurant, gift shop, lodge, and campground are nearby. Boat tours and canoe rentals are available at the marina. The marina also sells gas and general supplies. A post office is located in the lobby of the lodge. Several hiking and canoeing trails begin at Flamingo or nearby, including the south end of the Wilderness Waterway. Abundant wildlife may be found here year-round.
Gulf Coast Visitor Center:
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located in Everglades City, in the northwest corner of the park. The visitor center has natural history exhibits, park information, and issues backcountry permits and park passes. It is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. November to April, and 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May to November. Gulf Coast is the gateway for exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that extends south to Flamingo and Florida Bay. Manatees (Trichechus manatus), dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and osprey (Pandion haliaetus) coexist in this saltwater portion of the Everglades. A 1 hour 30 minute narrated boat trip provides an overall description of this saltwater ecosystem. Canoes may be rented to explore Chokoloskee Bay and the Turner River. For the more adventurous, the 99 mile (159 km) Wilderness Waterway, accessible by canoe, kayak, or small motorboat, winds through the mangrove islands all the way to Flamingo. Nautical charts are recommended, and backcountry permits are required for camping.
Shark Valley Visitor Center:
Shark Valley is located along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) on the northern border of the park. The visitor center features exhibits and information. It is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. December to April, and 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May to November. Shark Valley lies in the heart of the "river of grass" that stretches 100 miles (160 km) from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. Wildlife abounds here in a freshwater ecosystem of sawgrass marsh and tree islands. A fifteen mile (24 km) tram road (not open to private motorized vehicles) extends into the marsh, offering one of the best opportunities to view alligators and the endangered snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) in Everglades National Park. A two hour narrated tram ride provides an overview of the freshwater Everglades. Those wishing to explore alone can walk the short trails and portions of the tram road, or bike. An observation tower located halfway around the tram road provides a spectacular view into the sawgrass marsh.