Across the state from Miami, the southwest coast is the southeast coast’s antithesis – a nature escape from the metropolitan hubbub. In Miami, Seventh Street West turns into Tamiami Trail (Highway 41), which connects to Naples.
It skirts along Everglades National Park and Miccosukee and Seminole Indian reservation lands. The tribes have set up a few tourist attractions along the way.
There is a highrise resort and casino at the edge of Miami on Route 997.
To the west, you’ll pass Miccosukee villages where you can get an airboat ride into the Everglades, watch an alligator wrestling show, and eat fry bread and alligator tail at Miccosukee restaurants.
Eighteen miles west of Route 997 lies the Shark Valley access to Everglades National Park. From here you can bicycle (rentals available), hike, or take a tram around a 15-mile loop trail that ends at an observation tower.
Alligators and birds are plentiful and in plain sight.
Continuing west about 23 miles, the Oasis Welcome Center is also the visitor center for the 729,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve.
Hiking and off-road trails initiate from the center and to the west a few miles.
Primitive camping facilities are found along the trails. The park is home to the state’s largest population of the endangered Florida panther, but you are not likely to encounter any of the secretive, night-stalking creatures.
However, you are likely to find stands of cypress, which were once logged here.
The west end gateway to Everglades National Park lies 17 miles west of the Oasis at Everglades.
On the Gulf coast, the upscale Naples area, 35 miles to the northwest, offers even more natural attractions, along with good golfing, shopping, and beaches.
Fifth Avenue south of Highway 41 is a continuum of shops, galleries, cutting-edge cuisine, clubs, and sidewalk cafés. Follow it to Third Street, then head south to the vicinity of 10th Avenue for more shopping near the beach and the famous Naples Pier.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center has nature trails, an animal rehabilitation facility, canoe tours, and a boat tour of mangrove ecology. It lies east of Highway 41 on Goodlette Road and Merrihue Drive. From Highway 41, take Immokalee Road/1 11th Avenue west to Delnor-Wiggins State Recreation Area, known for its summer sea turtle nesting and its year-round good beaching and fishing.
As Highway 41 continues north, you’ll pass Koreshan State Historic Site. Here a turn-of-the-century religious cult once dedicated itself to science and the arts.
A parallel beach route traverses Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach.
In the other direction, 21 miles east of Highway 41 on Route 846, visit Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, home to the world’s largest stand of old-growth bald cypress and a nesting colony of endangered wood storks. (Approximately 175 miles).
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