As we wanted to ride bikes in the Everglades we made a day trip to Shark Valley. Shark Valley Visitors Center in Everglades National Park has bikes for rent so there we went and cycled between alligators, birds and snakes. This post will show you how we did it and what biking in the Everglades is like.
Afterwards we learned about the culture of the American Indians. having a great lunch at a Miccosukee restaurant and and watching an alligator show.
This is one of the dozens of Shark Valley alligators we met when biking.
Our Day Trip to Shark Valley, Everglades on the Map
Shark Valley is in the middle of the Everglades National Park which is a short way west of Miami. Driving time to Shark Valley is a bit more than an hour from Downtown Miami. I have marked the trip on the map as a two-way journey, so the Miami to Shark Valley distance is only 60 miles one way.
We started taking the famous Calle Ocho that changes later on to Tamiami Trail. Road 41. Tamiami Trail stands for Tampa to Miami Trail and takes you straight to the Everglades and to Shark Valley.
Riding Bikes in Shark Valley
Shark Valley has a 15-mile (25 km) loop road that’s ideal for cycling. You can either bring your own bikes or rent them at the Shark Valley Visitors Center.
We have been to Shark Valley twice and just loved it both times. The first time it was only adults and on the second time we had small kids with us.
IT’s really nice to bike in Shark Valley with kids. Our small ones loved sitting on the bike and enjoyed the animals. The Visitors Center has bikes with child seats and even helmets. There were many to choose from, but traveling during peak seasons I would book it all in advance.
It’s pretty hot in Shark Valley, so bring sunhats, sun screen and water bottles. The loop goes to an observation tower from where you have wide views to the vast national park around you. To see more wildlife when cycling back, return along the other road to the visitor center.
For those who don’t want to bike but want to see Shark Valley wildlife and the observation tower there are guided tram tours. The trams use the same road as the bikers, but riding a bike you can get a lot closer to the wildlife and of course 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. Alligators are floating in the roadside rivers and at times you might see them crossing the bike road in front of you.
But don’t get too close, lazy Everglades alligators are very rapid animals if they want to attack. This sounds scary but accidents in Shark Valley are very rare, and riding a bike you are a lot safer as you can escape if it would be needed.
But a word of warning: don’t stop and have your picnic on the bench if you see a huge alligator staring at you from the grass. He might want to have your picnic.
The Everglades also has many kinds of water birds. You can see birds standing in the water or drying their wings in the sun. This is an anhinga bird:
For more anhinga birds, check out my post Four Short Walking Trails in the Everglades.
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 take short hikes on marked paths. These pictures are from a short walking trail that is next to the observation tower. The trail makes a loop in the wet hammock and is easy to walk as it’s partly an elevated boardwalk.
Her you can see us walk in the hammock. In the thick bushes we spotted both alligators and turtles. And on another walking path we spotted snakes.
On the way back from the observation tower there was an area that had a lot of beautiful pink flamingos.
Learning about Miccosukee Indians
Lunch in a Miccosukee Restaurant
Since Everglades is a national park there is not any choice of restaurants. But luckily there’s a restaurant almost right across the main road from Shark Valley. It’s he yellow Miccosukee Restaurant where they serve traditional Miccosukee portions. What would you say about gator bites and frog legs for lunch?
Outside the Miccosukee Restaurant you can take an airboat ride on the swamp. And you can find more Everglades airboat riding places on Tamiami Trail.
I really liked the colorful Miccosukee restaurant. It was a perfect place to stop at even though we didn’t see any alligators in the river – but never mind, we had alligator meat on our plates.
Miccosukee Indian Village
There is the Miccosukee Village, a museum showing how the Indians used to live in the old times.
Today there are only 600 left of the Miccosukee and they live in small settlements around the Everglades. The museum is there to tell about old Miccosukee habits and the tribe’s history. I didn’t know that the Miccosukees use such beautiful strong colors in their art and handicraft!
Next to the Museum Village is a living Miccosukee village. There are some beautiful chickee houses, colored Indian-style road signs, a Miccosukee school, police station, hospital, and of course all that’s needed in a village. For me as a European all this was fascinating.
In addition to their cars, the locals had airboats parked in front of their houses. Of course airboats are very practical in this kind of swampy area.
And there were mailboxes that looked like manatees!
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 a man made pool.
Miccosukee Alligator Show
The Miccosukee Indians organize stunning 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?
You can read more about the Miccosukee Indian Village here.
Back to Miami
Afterwards we still wanted to see a bit more of the swamp and took a loop west along a small side road. As it was time to get back to Miami this final swamp loop ended our Shark Valley day trip.
More about the Everglades and Florida Outdoor:
- See my post Four Short Walking Trails in the Everglades
- Everglades National Park website >>
- More about Florida hiking trails >>