I have visited many National Parks around the world, and every once in awhile, my expectations get blown out of the water by some unexpectedly beautiful destination. The Everglades National Park is located in the state of Florida in the southern United States. This park is packed full of adventure, nature, and animals so unique, you can’t miss it during your visit to Florida.
Never had I imagined a wetlands landscape would be so mysterious, wild, and stunning. There are no other Everglades in the world– so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. My Everglades National Park Guide will take you through all the unique ecosystems of the everglades. With all you need to know, including hike suggestions to make the most of your time in the park. I hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did!
Here’s my Adventure Guide for Everglades National Park!
Fly into Miami International Airport (MIA) and drive a rental car 45 minutes west into Everglades National park. We entered the park at the Ernest F. Coe East Visitor Center and spent the day driving the parks scenic road in our Camaro convertible. Driving down State Hwy 9336 (Main Park Rd) is a journey, so buckle your seat belts!
Go Bird Watching
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Hiking Trails Guide
Elevation in the Everglades is typically measured in inches instead of feet. The highest elevation in the park doesn’t exceed 8 ft. so when I saw this elevation sign at 4 ft it made me laugh a little..
The elevation levels in the park define each habitat, from the lowest freshwater marsh to the higher tropical hardwood hammocks.
This was our favorite trail we did during our day in the park. It was the first hike as you entered the park, so it was quite busy. The 0.8 mile hike was the best area to spot wildlife. We saw alligators, turtles, varies birds, and lots of unique fish.
A word of caution- at the trailhead parking lot there are vultures that are waiting to feast on your vehicle. They’re quite fond of the rubber window seals for some reason, and they WILL destroy your car if you do not cover it with a tarp. The tarps are provided with straps by the bathrooms and rest area.
Gumbo Limbo Trail
After we finished the Anhinga hike we made our way over to the Gumbo-Limbo trail. A short 0.4 mile hike takes you into a dense tropical hard-wood hammock.
The trail was not crowded, and it was a nice break into the trees from the sunny Anhinga hike. Forests like this can survive only because of the tropical conditions. About 70% of the 700 native plant species of the park are of tropical origin.
Take a short walk along this 0.4 mile trail through a sub-tropical pine forest. You’ll be walking through one of the most diverse habitats in south Florida.
You’ll see the scenery changing as hardwoods are taken over by young pine. Higher areas in the Everglades eventually become large hammocks, unless they are destroyed by fire first. Fire preserves the natural diversity of the Everglades, and is crucial to the regrowth process of the various ecosystems.
Formerly, 52 color varieties of tree snails lived in the hammocks of South Florida. They came from the West Indies, dispersed, and settled in separate tree islands. After years of inbreeding, many multi-colored varieties came about. After gathering many of one variety, collectors sometimes would burn the hammock, destroying any left and making their collection more valuable. Thus putting at least four kinds of tree snail into extinction.
A short walk will guide you to a beautiful overlook known as Pa-hay-okee. This ecosystem of freshwater marsh is a wide, shallow, slow moving “river of grass”. It’s amazing how large this green river of grass really was. It seemed to expand forever into the horizon- with the occasional tree sprouting out.
Water is the lifeblood of Everglades National Park, this river of grass is dependent on the seasonal rise and fall of fresh water. It is also dependent on people. For over 100 years we dredged, dammed, and drained the landscape. Controlling the ebb and flow of this life-giving force. In doing so, we endangered the Everglades and the life dependent on it.
Mahogany Hammock Trail
This 0.4 mi walk takes you through a jungle-like island forest. Tropical Hardwood Hammocks as seen above grow in Everglades National Park The hammocks create dense island forests that grow out of the freshwater marshes.
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Visiting every National Park in the United States has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. The National Park Service (NPS) works to protect and preserve these important eco systems around the country everyday, as a visitor we must do the same. To help preserve our extraordinary National Parks, it is VERY … Read more 20 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2020
Inspirational photos from the beautiful Canadian Rockies. The journey will take you through Alberta into Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, & Yoho National Park of British Colombia. Read more Canadian Rockies National Parks
Lake Michigan touches four US states- Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Around 12 million people reside on this magnificent great lake. It’s crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with 275,000 acres of sand dunes, making it the largest freshwater dune system in the world! Lake Michigan has so many beaches it’s often referred to as “The Third Coast” of the United States. In my completely unbiased opinion, it’s the best of the coasts. The fresh water lake comes shark and salt free!
The Perfect Weekend Along Michigan’s West Coast
This past weekend Logan and I explored a new part of Michigan with his family, complete with fur babies and adorable nephews. We headed to the west coast over to Warren Dunes State Park where we camped for the weekend. The west side of the state is so beautiful, and just a short drive from Detroit or Chicago.
Where to Camp
As if setting up in the dark isn’t bad enough, it started to monsoon type rain as soon as we pulled into our campsite (and every weekend we camp, ever). Once again Logan and I questioned if tent camping was still our best option. We’ve been debating all summer if we should bite the bullet and buy a used camper to keep us dry on the rainy weekends (all in favor, say “i”). There are state campgrounds all up the coastline, here’s some of my favorites I’ve camped at along Lake Michigan.
Warren Dunes State Park: Three miles of rare PET FRIENDLY shoreline along gorgeous Lake Michigan. The park also includes around six miles of hiking trails through forest and sand dunes. Modern & rustic sites available.
Ludington State Park: My favorite Michigan state park has everything- a lighthouse, hiking trails, lakes, sand dunes, dense forest, adventure activities and so much more. This is a must visit park! Check out my post on 5 Reason’s to Love Ludington. Modern & rustic sites.
Leelanau State Park: Another park home to a magnificent lighthouse. The drive up the peninsula to Leelanau State Park takes you through Michigan’s wine country with water views on both sides. Rustic campground.
Wilderness State Park: This park is a night photographers dream spot, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive from Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Modern & rustic sites.
Take a drive along the coast and explore the waterfront towns while looking for lighthouses. The western coast of Michigan is dotted with around 35 lighthouses. Two of those reside side by side in the town of St. Joseph. It was about a 30 minute drive from our campground, 80 f degrees and the sun was shining. Perfect lighthouse hunting weather!
St. Joseph North Pier
Each lighthouse is unique and has its own fascinating history, road tripping around the shorelines of Michigan you’re bound to run into a lighthouse or two.
South Haven South Pier
Go for a Swim
Like I mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake that comes salt and shark free. Immerse yourself in the crystal clear blue waters to cool down from the summer sun and Michigan humidity.
Search for Petoskey Stones
Searching for stones as you walk along the beach shore was a tradition growing up. If you were lucky, you would find a Petoskey stone- the Michigan state stone. The stones are unique to the Great Lakes, and can only be found along the shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
The lake temperatures range from 60s in early summer to high 70s in late summer. The beach entrance at Warren Dunes State park has a sign showing the water temp each day so you can plan accordingly.
Relax on the Beach
Pack a beach bag, your furry friend or adorable nephew, and a picnic lunch- then head to the beach. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can hike to the beach on one of the many trails that runs through Warren Dunes State Park.
Hike a Sand Dune
Enjoy the world’s largest dune system, and go for a hike! At 400 ft the highest dune resides in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The dune formation pictured above was the largest at Warren Dunes State park. The dune rises 260 feet above the water with Lake Michigan views from the top.
We stopped at the local Three Blonde’s Brewing for lunch and a drink to cool down. Michigan’s west coast is crawling with local watering holes. Beer, Wine, Cider. We do them all impeccably well. The craft beer craze has swept through the state like wildfire, with hundreds of local breweries statewide. Just as Michigan has its own west coast, we have our own wine country, much of which resides on the beautiful Lake Michigan. You haven’t tasted anything like the sweet nectar Michigan’s cideries create. Cider is easily my beverage of choice, and I would highly recommend any produced locally, a few of my favorites include Blakes, JK Scrumpys, and Vandermill.
After our boozy lunch we decided dessert was a must. Good thing icecream is yet another thing Michigan is awesome at. There was a local dairy farm mere seconds away from the brewery we ate lunch at. Sherman’s Dairy Bar didn’t disappoint. I had a hard time deciding between the yellow cake batter flavor and the birthday cake. With over 70 different flavors of homemade recipes featuring all the Michigan classics, can you blame me? (I went with yellow cake batter 😊)
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The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.
Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.
The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.
Where To Camp
Indian Lake State Campground
We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.
Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.
Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.
Take A Hike
Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.
Relax at Chapel Beach
Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!
Take A Dip
At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊
For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!
Being outside in nature, soaking up the sunshine and fresh air is one of my favorite things to do. Camping is one of the best ways to experience the outdoors in all it’s natural beauty. My budget travel enthusiasts will appreciate the cash they’ll save by instead of staying in hotels. My packing guide for camping is perfect for when visiting National Parks, or other backpack camping destinations.
This blog post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one of my affiliate links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission for referring you. This comes at no additional cost to you.I only recommend products I have personally used + loved.
But what do we do for food?!? The best part about camping outdoors means cooking meals in cool places. After all, what’s better than dinner with a view? The Skys the limit on where you choose to eat your meals.
Last year I went on dozens of camping trips- forgetting something when you’re camping can be a huge pain in the ass (this one time we couldn’t find fuel, so our meal depended on if we could get the water boiling over a fire- not impossible, just time consuming, and after 5 days- that’s a lot of work) – most times we’re in the middle of nowhere, so you’re out of luck if you do.
I’ve brought friends with me on trips who have never camped before, and their first question is always- what do I pack? It was entertaining to watch them stumble through what they thought they might need (20 lbs of clothes, and no sleeping bag- maybe they were going to just wear lots of layers?)
I’ve created a packing guide to avoid that, broken up into camping essentials that you cant be without- down to what is nice to have if you have the packing space/weight. I usually try to fit my gear in a carry on so I don’t have to check a bag on the flight. Helping me save money!
Here’s your ultimate packing guide to camping in national parks!
My REI Half dome plus tentis the perfect size for me and my travel companion. With a door on each side it makes it easier to enter + exit without disturbing my sleeping partner.
The towel I bring is ideal for backpack camping. The light weight, compact towel comes in handy for showers, swimming, travel, or backpacking. It dries fast and is designed for multiple uses daily.
Sleeping on the ground isn’t always the most comfortable, a good pad can make a huge difference when it comes to a good night sleep- plus it keeps you warm when the temperatures drop. The sleeping pad I use is nice because it self inflates- and after a long day of hiking, I’m lazy and need all my air. The marmot sleeping bag I use is awesome- it has a hood at the top that not only keeps your head warm- it keeps your pillow from sliding away at night.
It’s always ideal to set up camp during the daylight hours- however somehow I always manage to end up at camp when the sun goes down. Holding a flashlight (or your cellphone) while trying to set up your tent for the night is difficult- get a head lamp. Yes it looks silly, yes you will be extremely grateful you brought one.
Tip:its handy to study the park maps and pick out what hikes you’re going to do the day before to see if there are any restrictions before you get to the trail head.
Backpack With Daypack
The backpackI take on my trips is better classified as a travel backpack than it is a backpacking backpack. What I love about it is it opens like a suitcase/duffel. PLUS the outer small daypack is the removable- great for carrying my water bladderor camera gear on my hikes.
Food is one of the largest expenses when traveling. Cooking your meals while camping will help cut down costs tremendously ($5 usd a meal vs $15 usd eating out). I bring my stove and cookware with me on longer hikes and cookmy mealwith a view at the summit- just don’t forget your spork (that’s happened to me several times). The cookware kitI have comes with bowls/pots/pans/spork and a stove.
Tip: Conserve water and use the leftover water from cooking to clean your dishes.
I have two different types of hiking footwear. My Tevas are designed specifically for a woman’s foot in order to provide unmatched comfort and performance in the water. I’ll also wear them in hot climates or sand hiking.
For more aggressive terrain such as rocky trails, I’ll wear my Salomon Women’s X Ultra hiking boots. These shoes are specifically designed for a woman’s anatomy. It holds your foot in place even during technical descents, and prevents slippage so you can enjoy more stable and safer descents.
There’s nothing better than kicking back in my hammock after a long day on the trails. I keep telling myself one night I’ll pull in my sleeping bag/pad and sleep under the stars (But then things like coyote’s howling at all hours of the night prevent that from happening- imagine that.) The slap straps I have are easy to use and make set up happen in seconds.
Pillow & Chair
I’m not gonna lie… camping without a pillow or camp chair can make for an uncomfortable night. I use my pillow on the airplanes (and sleep the entire flight 99% of the time). Sometimes I’ll forget the pillow, and I have to get creative for an alternative. Most times I make a ball out of clothes or the sweatshirt I’m wearing (I don’t recommend that). This lightweight camping chair takes up minimal space, and makes those nights around the campfire that much more enjoyable.
Tip: Some campsites don’t have picnic tables so when I get stuck sitting on the ground or finding a good “butt rock”. I always regret not bringing one.
Packing cubesare perhaps the most genius travel invention ever. If you don’t have a set- pay the $10 and get yourself some. They will change the way you travel forever. The cubes keep your clothes separated, keep your bag organized, and make packing things up fast and easy.
Tip: Roll your clothes instead of folding them, you’ll fit a lot more in.
Cocoon & Life Straw
I use my cocoon in the summer months- it’s perfect for warm nights and keeps my sleeping bag clean if it’s a dry shampoo type of day. The life straw is nice to have if you plan on doing longer hikes (6 + miles). My water bladder holds about 3 liters- and I get pretty close to running out on harder treks. I bring the lifeproof straw in case of emergency- it filters out 99.999999% of all the bad stuff, so you can drink from a fresh water source in a pinch.
What’s your favorite camping gear? Leave a comment!
Check out these extraordinary National Parks to inspire your next camping adventure!
Detroit is the largest city in Michigan- with several nicknames. We lovingly refer to our beloved city as “The D”, “Motown”, “The Motor City”, or most recent- “America’s Comeback City.” Having grown up just 30 miles north of the city, and done my fair share of traveling around the world- I feel Detroit is seriously underrated as a travel destination. But fear not! Detroit city is making a comeback. Lonely Planet recently ranked the D- No.2 in the top 10 cities to travel in 2018, making it the ONLY continental U.S. city on the list.
Ready to see what all the hype is about?.
Here’s your guide to Detroit in a weekend!
Brunch Instead of Lunch
Brunch: My favorite meal of the day. Detroit has so many options for a delicious mid-day meal, and many are centrally located right downtown. Here are some of my personal favorites!
Dime Store: This dime is a little hidden- it’s located inside the Chrysler House at 719 Griswold Street. Order a peach mimosa, with your eggs benny and find out why they call it Detroit’s #1 breakfast spot. Pro Tip: While you’re waiting for a table, go around the corner of the Chrysler Building to Bon Bon Bon and snack on the most adorable, tasty, handmade chocolate boxes you’ll ever taste.
The Hudson Café: Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, the namesake comes from the old Hudson’s department store that was across the street from the café. I would recommend trying their delicious Baklava French Toast- covered in walnuts, pistachios, and drizzled in honey.
Parks & Rec Diner: To get here- enter at the corner of Grand River and Cass Avenues. Breakfast & lunch are served all day, every day. The artisanal menu boasts a number of traditional fan favorites- I had the mouthwatering C-Day Benny: Thanksgiving spiced, smoked & pulled local chicken, poached eggs, sweet potato biscuit smothered in sausage gravy. But the real winner was the melt in your mouth delicious Crème Brûlée French Toast.. it was so different than I expected- soaked in orange anglaise coated in a crackly sugar crust and fresh fruit, served with two eggs any style-we went with scrambled.
Gold Cash Gold: Located in Corktown, this old pawn shop turned hipster eatery has a fantastic farm to table rotating seasonal menu.Try their take on the classic chicken & waffle- made with a cornbread waffle, hot & spicy fried chicken, and an orange sorghum butter, it’ll satisfy your sweet AND savory cravings.
Shop Eastern Market
You can’t visit Detroit without experiencing the oldest and largest year-round market in the US. During the busy season, Eastern Market has over 225 market vendors with up to 40,000 visitors in one day. Depending on the season, you can expect fresh Michigan grown produce, fresh proteins, TREATS, flowers, hand crafted goods, and all kinds of fun stuff. I would recommend getting here early on the weekends (like 7-8 a.m. early). Parking is free but fills up fast, the earlier you get there the better chance you have of getting a good spot. After you’re done shopping- head a couple blocks over to the Detroit Distillery and wet your whistle with their hand crafted cocktails.
Get Inspired By The Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art environment on Detroit’s East Side- about 5 minutes from Eastern Market. The project is on Heidelberg Street- the street that the local artist grew up on. In 1986 the artist started transforming his childhood neighborhood that had turned to poverty and shambles into a massive piece of art. The old abandoned houses and lots were cleaned, and the refuse collected was recycled back to create the artwork. The street, sidewalks, trees, and anything else on this street has become a part of this neighborhood gem.
Campus Martius Park
Visit Detroit’s gathering place, Campus Martius Park. Located downtown, the park has spectacular skyline views and is home to the always flowing Woodward Fountain, gardens, historical monuments and the popular Parc Restaurant. The park is open year round with activities for everyone- in the summer it’s turned into a small beach where you can relax and sip on cocktails in the middle of the city- while in the winter the park transforms into a winter wonderland, with the most popular ice skating rink in the area. Make sure to check their calendar of events before you go, there’s often special events on weekends- you don’t want to miss out!
The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments IN THE COUNTRY. Located in the heart of Detroit, the 50 blocks include just about everything, including businesses, parks, restaurants, and bars. This newly formed district brings together eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues. In addition to the residents, the district is also home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions- making it the district with the most professional sports teams in one downtown…again… IN THE COUNTRY. This is where the action is- grab some tickets if you’re in Detroit on game day, and experience what Detroit is really like with the fans in the city we love over the teams we love.
Visit Belle Isle
Belle Isle Park is a 982-acre island on the Michigan side of the Detroit River. The park is home to Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Nature Center, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain. No matter what season it is- there’s always something to do on Belle Isle. Take a walk around the island and explore, you’ll find an old lighthouse, several historical sites, and incredible views of both Detroit and Windsor across the river.
Detroiters love their coffee; it’s also a requirement for me to start my day with something that contains caffeine. The Roasting Plant is the perfect place to grab a fresh cup of joe (and just so happens to be my favorite coffee shop in Detroit). The coffee beans are stored in a Javabot (super cool tub machine that shoots the beans out through tunnels you can see) at the center of the shop- measured out per order. You can blend up to four different varieties per cup, they’re brewed within seconds – fresh just for you. I would recommend the Jamaica Blue Mountain blend- a bright acidity with a butter-soft body. Aromas of almond and praline come first, followed by dark chocolate, and energetic lemon zest.
Great Lakes Coffee has a few locations in Southeast Michigan including one in Midtown. If you’re looking for somewhere cozy with tea options and yummy baked goods and sandwiches, head to Corktown over to Astro Coffee.
Astoria Pastry Shop
Located in the Greektown District of Detroit, Astoria Pastry Shop is open till 1:00 a.m. on weekends for all your late night sweet tooth cravings. They have TONS of yummy treats- you’ll find something for everyone, from muffins, to cannoli’s, to fancy cheesecakes. Astoria has been filling Detroiters with goodies since the 1970’s- making it a local staple and a must try on your visit to Detroit.
Eat in Detroit
Detroit is rapidly transforming itself into a food mecca with foodie approved eateries throughout the entire city- the majority of which are locally owned and operated. Head to Hamtramck over to Polish Village for some pierogis that will give your taste buds an explosion of flavor. Feeling spicy? You’ll want to go to Mexican Town for some tasty tacos. Some of the best sushi I’ve had has been at Maru. It’s the perfect spot for a nice night out and a warm cup of Japanese tea. Wright & Co is great for sharing- with their menu consisting of creative seasonal small plates, my friends and I always order a couple plates a person, and then share family style.