AIRBOAT RIDES

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One of the highlights of a visit to South Florida is an airboat ride in the Everglades. An airboat is a flat-bottomed vessel propelled in a forward direction by an aircraft-type propeller and powered by either an aircraft or automotive engine.

Let's put one fallacy to rest: These vessels are prohibited to operate within the Everglades National Park meaning that rides offered to the public are operated outside of the park boundaries. You should also keep in mind that the Everglades is not a jungle or a swamp. It is a unique bioshpere found nowhere else in the world. It is a vast, shallow, slow moving river which appears as a grass-covered open prarie streaching for miles. There is no dry land except tree covered islands called hammocks, inhabited by deer, boar and raccoons. Nonetheless, the likelihood of seeing fauna, other than alligators, will be remote. At certain times of the year, birdlife is prolific, usually during the winter December to March period. You will most definitely see alligators at some time during your ride.

Most airboat operators are located along the Tamiami Trail (US 41), which runs across the peninsula from Miami to Naples on the west coast of Florida, and passes the north (Shark Valley) entrance to the Everglades National Park. There is also one airboat operator located before the south (Ernest Coe) entrance past the city of Homestead.

Which airboat rides are better? Well, to be honest, and airboat ride is an airboat ride. Possibly the airboats run by the Miccosukee Tribe to the north of the Tamiami Trail are somewhat more authentic. The rides that run south of the Trail are more developed and slicker. Prices are between US$ 20 to US$ 25 and usually include wildlife exhibitions and demonstrations as well as a nature trail.

Many of you will take an organized tour from Miami, so you will have little choice regarding which airboat operator you will be using. Fear not, as most of the rides will be fast and furious! You should be aware that the airboat is very noisy, though hopefully you will be provided earmuffs. The boat operators are usually very well versed in the Everglades, but keep in mind they are guides that do the same thing ten times a day, and probably eek a living from your tips.

Here is a list of airboat operators on the Tamiami Trail and their respective websites, in order of distance from Miami:

Coopertown Airboat Rides - 11 miles from Miami.
Gator Park - 12 miles from Miami.
Everglades Safari - 15 miles from Miami.
Micosukkee Airboat Tours - 20 miles from Miami.

Everglades Alligator Farm - Near Homestead before arriving at the main entrance to Everglades National Park.

Attraction Hours
Usually from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily all year

Prices
Rates vary, but are usually between US$ 20 and US$ 25.
Lower rates for children up to 11 years of age.
Not recommened for children under 5
Plus 7% Florida sales tax

Parking
On site parking free

Bus services
None

Driving Directions
Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail / SW 8th St.) is exit 25A (from the north) and exit 25 (from the south) off the Florida Turnpike.

From Miami Beach take SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway), which starts as 5th. Street and continues as the MacArthur Causeway past downtown Miami. Continue all the way to the end at 137th. Avenue. Turn right on SW 8th. Street, which is Tamiami Trail. You will see the various airboat operators well signposted along the way.

Photos at Johnny Tigertail's Airboat Tours

Airboat 1

Airboat 2
Waiting to start the tour
Airboat in action

Airboat 3

Airboat 4
Indian island in the Everglades
Johnny Tigertail and Big Bertha

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