If you are familiar with the State of Florida, you may have heard of Alligator Alley in some context. But what is it, and better yet, where is it? Until I moved to Southwest Florida 4 years ago, I didn’t know myself.
Where’s It At?
Alligator Alley is actually just south of where I live here in Florida. It is the east – west artery of Interstate 75 (I-75) that runs roughly from Naples to just west of Fort Lauderdale near Miami, linking the Southwest and Southeast Coasts of Florida near the tip of the Florida peninsula.
It officially starts at Exit 19 in Broward County and ends about 80 miles later at Exit 101 in Collier County, or vice versa. You will find a Toll Plaza at each end of Alligator Alley and the fee is $3.25 for a regular vehicle to enter this stretch of I-75. This section of the interstate is almost a straight line going through Big Cypress National Preserve on the west side, through a small section of Miccosukee Indian Reservation, and then on through Everglades National Park on the east side.
Alligator Alley officially adopted its name in 1966 from the State of Florida. The unique designation was penned by the American Automobile Association, which thought the corridor would be useless for vehicles. AAA thought it would more likely be an alleyway for Florida’s many alligators. And, they were right; at least partially. There are a lot of alligators to see in the numerous waterways next to Alligator Alley, if you know where to look!
Of course, you can’t see alligators well if you are traveling at the speed limit. So Alligator Alley has many exits and recreational areas along the way for you to pull over and enjoy the wildlife. The further east (southbound I-75) you go on Alligator Alley, the more exits and recreational areas with waterways there will be, and the more likely you are to see alligators.
On these exits and recreational areas, you will often see alligators and many types of large birds like egrets, blue herons and osprey. You also have a good chance of spotting a turtle in the waterways, as well as many types of fish.
Take the Time
My personal recommendation is that if you are following this stretch of freeway, plan about a half hour or so to stop at both the Recreational Area and the Rest Area at Mile Marker (MM) 35, which are connected to each other by a bridge under the freeway.
The Recreational Area at MM 35 on the northbound side of I-75 has an outstanding raised platform viewing area into the waterway below. This is a great place to spot alligators and other wildlife. The recreational area is directly across from the Rest Area, which sits on the southbound side of I-75. The Rest Area includes the wonderful Royal Palm Visitor’s Center that you should definitely take some time to see.
Other Recreational Areas to Look for Alligators
- MM 41 (southbound) which has a boat ramp and picnic area
- MM 31.5 (northbound) which has a boat ramp and parking lot
- MM 37 – (northbound) which has a boat ramp and long parking lot
You can also find a Rest Area at MM 63. At MM 49 there is the Miccosukee Service Plaza, which offers the only gas available on Alligator Alley. Everglades City can also be accessed from Exit 80.
Always Something to See
Remember that all Recreational Areas have brown signs on the side of I-75 letting you know that one is coming up. If you really want to see alligators, birds, and other wildlife, it is best to just swing into as many as you have time for. You won’t be disappointed!
Enjoy exploring Alligator Alley and look for future posts on Big Cypress National Preserve and a recent airboat ride out of Everglades City.