Me made a day trip to Shark Valley to bike in the Everglades. We rented bikes at the Shark Valley Visitors Center and had a fun day out, biking between alligators, birds and snakes. This post shows how we did it and what it was like.
Afterwards we had lunch in the nearby Miccosukee Indian Restaurant and and we also went to a Miccosukee Village and watched an alligator show.
This is one of the Shark Valley alligators we saw. And I cal tell you there were many more of them.
Day Trip to Shark Valley, Everglades on the Map
Shark Valley is in the middle of the Everglades National Park west of Miami. It’s not a long way to drive, a little bit more than an hour from Downtown Miami. I marked the trip on the map as a two-way journey since we returned along the same road. So the distance Miami to Shark Valley is 60 miles one way.
Start along Calle Ocho that changes to Tamiami Trail. Road 41 (the Tampa to Miami Trail) brings you straight to the Everglades and our destination Shark Valley.
Biking in Shark Valley
Shark Valley has a surfaced 15-mile (25 km) loop road that’s perfect for a bike trip. You can either bring your own bike or rent one at the Shark Valley Visitors Center.
We have made been to Shark Valley twice and it was great fun both times. The second time we had small children with us.
You can bike in Shark Valley it with kids. Our small children loved the bike ride and the wildlife. The Visitors Center has bikes with child seats and they have helmets, but during high season it might be wise to book the bikes and helmets in advance.
It’s pretty hot in Shark Valley, so bring sunhats, sun screen and water bottles. The loop brings you to an observation tower that offers great views to the Everglades National Park around you. And to see more wildlife on your way back you can take the other road back to the visitor center.
If you want to see Shark Valley wildlife and the observation tower you can alternatively take a guided tram tour. There are tram tours starting all the time, but on a bike you can get closer to the animals and you are free to stop as often as you like.
Shark Valley Animals
When you start biking you will see big and small alligators almost right away. They are floating in the river right by the road and at times you can see them crossing the bike road. But don’t get too close, they are very rapid animals when they want to attack. It’s a bit scary accidents in Shark Valley are very rare and on a bike you feel a lot safer since you can escape if needed.
And of course don’t have your picnic on the bench if a huge alligator is staring at you in the grass behind you.
There are also many kinds of birds standing in the water or drying their wings in the sun. This is an anhinga bird:
This kind of wet swamp area is a perfect spot for bird-watching. Did you know that Everglades National Park has 400 species of birds?
Short Walks in Shark Valley
You can also leave your bike for a while and make short walks on marked paths. These pictures are from a short walking trail close to the observation tower. The trail makes a loop in the wet hammock but it’s easy to walk in the hammock since the path partly uses an elevated boardwalk.
The path slingered in a thick mahogany hammock and we spotted alligators and turtles. And on another walking path we spotted snakes. On the way back from the observation tower there was an area with lots of pink flamingos.
Learning about Miccosukee Indians
Since Everglades is a national park there is not a good choice of restaurants. But instead there’s a restaurant located almost right across the street from Shark Valley, the colorful Miccosukee Restaurant. In that restaurant they serve really nice portions of traditional Miccosukee food. What would you say about gator bites and frog legs?
Outside the Miccosukee Restaurant you can take an airboat ride on the swamp. And on Tamiami Trail you can find more Everglades airboat ride organizers.
I liked the colorful Miccosukee restaurant. It was a perfect place to stop at even if we didn’t spot alligators in the river – but never mind, we saw them on our plates.
Miccosukee Indian Village
The Miccosukee Village is a museum showing how the Miccosukee Indians used to live in old times.
Today there are only 600 left of the Miccosukee living in small settlements around the area. In the museum you get a glimpse of old Miccosukee habits and the tribe’s history. I didn’t know the Miccosukees used such beautiful strong colors in their art and handicraft!
Next to the Museum Village is a Miccosukee settlement. There are some beautiful chickee houses, colorful Indian-style road signs, a Miccosukee School, Police Station, Hospital, of course all that’s needed in a village. As I’m from Europe I loved to see this all.
And the locals here don’t only use their cars, they had airboats parked in front of their houses and I also saw mailboxes that looked like manatees! Of course airboats are a good way of transport and very practical in this kind of swampy area.
These pictures are from the Miccosukee museum area. We saw this kind of huge black vultures sitting on a chickee roof and alligators and turtles swimming in an artificial pool.
Miccosukee Alligator Show
The Miccosukee Indians organize very good alligator shows. This man is so brave and he’s doing a very hard work with these wild animals!
Would you be you brave enough to hold a little baby alligator in your hands?
More about the Miccosukee Indian Village
Afterwards we still wanted to see a bit more of the swamp so we drove further west along a small side road and then ended our day trip to Shark Valley. It was time to get back to Miami.
More on Everglades National Park:
My other post on the Everglades shows you short walking trails in the national park: