Airboat Tours In The Everglades

Visiting the Everglades has been on my bucket list for what seems like forever…ever since learning about its diverse and delicate ecosystem when I was a kid. Since it was only 1.5 hours away from Miami, I thought why not go?

The trip should’ve been easy – just a straight shot down highway 41. But I was pulled over and issued a ticket because my rental car’s registration expired! That sure put a damper on my day. So no matter what you do, DO NOT rent from this horrible company called “Sunshine Car Rentals” aka “Autoboutique.” Next time I’ll know to pay a little more for a reputable rental car company that won’t give me problems. But in the end, we made it to Everglades City and went on its infamous airboat tours:

We made it!

In our airboat, we first navigated to an area where manatees hung out.

Florida Everglades Manatee Area

They can stay underwater for 15-20 minutes…so I hoped we arrived at the right time. After a few minutes, we spotted one!

Florida Everglades Manatees
Do you see it?

All you can see is its little gray snout. There was a mama and baby manatee swimming together in the waters. They popped up for only a split second a couple times, which is why I only have that one picture!

The rest of the tour took us in and around the mangrove trees.

Florida Everglades
My obsession with Floridian pastel houses continues…

All about those airboat tours ?? #everglades #neature #evergladesnationalpark #evergladescity #roughingit

A photo posted by Jessica Pei (@itsjpei) on

Florida Everglades Mangrove Trees

It is illegal to cut down a mangrove tree! They are integral in keeping the soil from experiencing erosion and are a source of shelter for many small critters.

Florida Everglades Airboat Tour

Florida Everglades Mangrove Trees

I thought it was neat that the mangrove tree tunnels and paths were created naturally by currents.

Florida Everglades Mangrove Trees

Florida Everglades Airboat Mangrove Tour

At one point, we stopped along the shore where another boat was stopped. The reason why became very apparent:

Florida Everglades Raccoon

‘COONS! In fact, four of them came up to our boat.


I had never seen so many raccoons in one place before! They are usually nocturnal animals, but at this time of the year, their food source (little crabs) are active during the day. So they’re awake when food’s awake…as well as bad tourists who feed them. DON’T FEED WILDLIFE, PEOPLE!

Florida Everglades Raccoons

Florida Everglades Raccoons
(Doesn’t this guy look like Rory, who graces the cover of Jenny Lawson’s new book?)

Goodbye, ya little sneaks!

Florida Everglades Raccoons

You’re looking at your boat’s capt’n here

Florida Everglades Airboat Tour

Grand conclusion to that tour:

Holding a live gator! It was softer than I imagined (I always thought they’d feel hard and scaly).

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the mangrove tour, we also signed up for a grasslands tour.

Florida Everglades Grasslands Tour

The grasslands were more like what I imagined the Everglades to be…a swampy marsh. In fact, the meaning of “Everglades” is “River of Grass” because it used to be all covered by grass.

Florida Everglades Grasslands

Florida Everglades Grasslands
I thought sighting these vultures was exciting. But then I ended up seeing them everywhere…

Florida Everglades

Our guide’s goal was to find us an alligator. After some searching, he did, hooray!

Florida Everglades Alligator
He was only 15-20 feet away from our boat

What’s a Florida trip without a couple of gator sightings? The one we spotted was a big guy – about 6 feet long. Just the distance from his eyes to his snout is one foot.

Now don’t feed ’em, or you might just end up like a guy in Everglades City who tried and got his arm bitten off and lost his job…

Florida Everglades Alligator

Florida Everglades Grassland
One of my fave Everglades shots. The flying crane made the picture.

Florida Everglades Grassland

As we were coming back, we received another surprise:

Florida Everglades Alligator

A gator mama was lying out by her nest! We got so unbelievably close:

Florida Everglades Alligator

I’m surprised that they didn’t scamper away with all the loud noise coming from the airboats. There were quite a few more in that little bay where the boats docked.

Florida Everglades Alligator

Just don’t fall in while getting on and off the boat!

Pro tips while visiting the Everglades:

  • Cover up! Even though it’s hot, there will be bugs and lots of direct sunshine.
  • Douse yourself in bug spray. We bathed ourselves with Off Deep Woods!
  • If you want to see more gators, go when it’s NOT mating season. Right now is mating season so they scamper away from their usual haunts and are a bit harder to find. We didn’t see a single one on the mangrove tour.
  • There are plenty of airboat tour companies along the way to the Everglades, so RSVP-ing may be unnecessary.
  • We rode with Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours. I was more satisfied by the second grasslands tour because I saw what I came here for – gators upon gators.

Have you ever been to the Everglades? What did you do and see?

Thanks for reading!

  • What a fun trip! I’ve been dying to visit the swamps and everglades so I can see some alligators up close! I’ll definitely keep in mind to not visit during their mating season though!

    • You’ll definitely have a chance of getting pretty close! I’m curious to see how your trip would be different than mine if you went during a different season.