Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Everglades Travel Reviews

Hotel: The Ivy House-We decided to stay at the Ivy House in Everglades City because it is a green hotel and because we could book our kayak trip through them at a discount. The Ivy House has 3 types of a lodging: a two bedroom cottage with a full kitchen, a lodge with shared baths and a shared lounge, and an inn. We stayed in the inn and we had a nice big, clean room with 2 queen beds, a private bath, and a mini-fridge. Our room was right off of the small pool, and we were a little nervous that it would be loud, but it wasn't at all. We didn't use the pool, but it looked nice, and, while inside, the ceiling in the courtyard was glass so it let in lots of natural light. The Ivy House served a free breakfast daily which included eggs, ham, fruit, bagels and croissants, cheese, jam, and tea and coffee. They also offered to-go cups if you wanted to take some tea or coffee with you. Everyone at the Ivy House seemed really nice and helpful. All in all, we were very happy with this hotel and would highly recommend it.


Coopertown Restaurant-Coopertown Restaurant is on the Tamiami Trail heading towards the Shark Valley entrance of the Everglades National Park. We decided to stop there because we starving and we wanted to eat before we went on the airboat tour and there really wasn't any other place around. If you watch the Jersey Shore, you would have seen Coopertown Restaurant featured in the Miami season when they took their field trip to the Everglades. The Jersey Shore crew found the food disgusting, and I have to say that we agreed. As a vegetarian, I was pretty grossed out by the place. I tried to order pancakes, but the waitress warned me not to because meat had already been on the grill and the pancakes would absorb it, so I got a grilled cheese instead. Honestly, I just couldn't even bring myself to eat it because I was just queasy from the whole place. My husband, who does eat meat, was equally as grossed out and he said that his eggs and ham were not good at all. The service also wasn't great. Our waitress was very nice, but she seemed overwhelmed. I would definitely say skip this place.

Camellia Street Cafe-This Everglades City restaurant was just a block away from the Ivy House. This cute little restaurant had both inside and outside dining, eclectic decor, and live music every night. We ate outside, next to the water, but we could still hear the music from inside, so it was very nice. We split some fried green tomatoes, which were delicious. I had a veggie burger and some fries, and I thought they were good. My husband cannot remember what he had, but he says he remembers it was good as well. I would definitely recommend this restaurant.

Triad Seafood-On our second night in Everglades City, we had a late lunch/early dinner at Triad Seafood. At the time that we went, there were only a few local people (a police officer with some friends) dining there. We ate out on the screen deck that was over the water, which was really peaceful. Because I had such great fried green tomatoes the night before, I decided to try them again. They were good, but not as good as the ones at the Camellia Street Cafe. We also shared some hushpuppies, which were yummy. I then had a cheese quesadilla, which I thought was good, and my husband got stone crab claws, which he says were delicious. The waitress was very friendly and answered some questions for us about stone crabs and about the Everglades.


Coopertown Airboat Tour-We decided to take an airboat tour out of Coopertown because we had heard good reviews and because we had 2 $2 off coupons. (Tickets are regularly $22/pp.) There were about 12 of us on the tour and there was still an empty row, so we weren't smooched at all.  Prior to starting the tour, our tour guide/driver gave us cotton balls for our ears because the boat is very loud.  The boat went much faster than I thought it would, but that was my own misperception, and it was actually pretty fun to go fast. The tour guide did stop lots of times, though, to show us alligators and birds.  The tour took about an hour and our tour guide was very knowledgeable and answered everyone's questions. I would definitely recommend Coopertown Airboat Tours.  Here's a photo of an airboat we passed:

Everglades-Airboat Tour (1 of 16)

Shark Valley Tram Tour-We I originally wanted to bike the 15 mile Shark Valley trail, but we got there too late, so we opted to take the two hour tram tour instead. ($18.25/pp.) In hindsight, I think this was the much better choice since it was about 95 degrees and the last time I was on a bicycle I was screaming at people to get out of my way because I couldn't figure out how to brake. The tours are led by a naturalist and have 1 bathroom (fancy port-a-potty; bring purell) break by a 45 foot tall observation deck with expansive views of the area. Our tour guide here was also very knowledgeable and was able to answer everyone's questions. His wealth of information alone was a good reason to take this tour of the bicycle. (Yeah, that's why we took it; not the heat or my substandard bicycle skills.) He also pointed out really neat things that we would have missed had we been passed out on biking the trail, like this snail kite, which is apparently on the bucketlist for most birders.

Everglades National Park (35 of 40)

Gulf Coast Boat Tour-This tour company offers two tours: The Backcountry Tour, which I think focuses on areas with mangroves, and the Florida Bay Tour, which is in the open water. We decided to take the Florida Bay Tour ($26.50/pp) since we were going kayaking through the mangroves that night. The boat we were on had a canopy, which was great since it was another brutally hot day. The boat was crowded, though, so not everyone got a seat under the canopy (but we did. Yay!) Our tour had a park ranger on board leading the tour, but I don't think all of their tours do. He seemed like he was providing a lot of information, but I was too busy photographing the dolphins to really pay too much attentions. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any manatees. (I am starting to think they are mythical.) We really enjoyed this tour because it allowed us to see another side of the Everglades National Park. Here's a photo of some dolphins:

Everglades National Park-10,000 Islands (3 of 16)

Everglades Rentals and Eco Adventures Kayak Tour-We booked with this tour company through the Ivy House, which allowed us to get a discount of $25/pp, so we only had to pay $99/pp. They offer three tours: Kayak Into a New Day, which started early and focused on wildlife, Experience the Magic of the Mangroves, which was in the afternoon and was supposed to be relaxing, and Paddle Into the Twilight, which promised a gorgeous sunset and was supposed to be more adventurous. Even though neither my husband nor I had ever kayaked before, the Ivy House assured us that the twilight tour was safe for beginners, so we chose that one. I believe that there were about 10 of us on the tour plus our tour guide, Chris. My husband and I and one other couple chose tandem kayaks, and everyone else had single kayaks. My husband and I were the only ones without kayaking experience. Chris really didn't give us any instruction on how to kayak, instead saying that he feels it's better for people to just practice and pick it up. He did stay with us throughout the tour, no matter how behind we got, which I appreciated. I kind of felt bad for everyone else, though, because we were pretty much holding the tour up. Chris also led us to a beautiful place to see the sunset.

Everglades National Park-Kayaking (9 of 19)

In regards to safety, Chris also didn't give us any instruction on what to do if we were attacked by an alligator, except for not to provoke them and don't freak out if we saw one. Apparently, it's a real rarity to get attacked, which is good, except for I was the rarity it happened to. I don't really feel like rehashing it again, but here's the link to the post where I told the story. (If you don't feel like going to the post, don't worry, I am okay. I defended myself with my oar.) After it happened, Chris seemed as freaked out as us. He kept saying that he had never seen anything like that happen before, and, to be honest, he just didn't seem equipped to handle the situation. Then again, who is? (Fortunately, I was.) So, I cannot recommend this tour based on safety reasons. So, while I think Chris was a really nice man, the bottom line is it is stupid to get into a kayak in water that is surrounded by alligators in the dark.

1 comment:

  1. And I want to learn to kayak????!!!!! Thank goodness Connecticut does NOT have alligators!..:)JP