Exploring Shark Valley~
For many visitors to South Florida, exploring Everglades National Park is a must. Shark Valley is a great place to start! Shark Valley is located in a sawgrass prairie area of the Everglades with small potholes of water as well as a long waterway. Visitors to Shark Valley can enjoy a 15 mile paved looped trail that gives them a bird’s eye view of this part of the ecosystem of the Everglades.
Wildlife & Flora
You can hike, bike or take a tram along this trail to see some of Florida’s varied wildlife and learn about some of the extensive plant species that can be found in the Everglades. You will most likely see alligators, turtles, fish and all kinds of birds. Have your camera batteries charged and be ready to take lots of pictures! Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen and lots of water too.
What’s with the Name?
But first, I’m thinking you want to know why this place is called Shark Valley. It’s simple really. Shark Valley is located at the headwaters of the Shark River, which empties into Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. And, the land is so flat that you can’t tell it’s a valley and there most certainly aren’t any sharks! But, the name stuck. Go figure!
Taking the Tram Tour
So, I recently spent a day wandering around Shark Valley to see what it was all about. I took the tram tour and saw many alligators, turtles, birds, plus numerous baby alligators and a juvenile alligator. The tram tour takes about 2 hours and is conducted by Park-trained naturalists who dispense information on the many types of plant life and wildlife that you see along the trail, as well as the history and ecology of the Everglades.
Shark Valley Observation Tower
About half way along the 15 mile loop trail is an observation tower that visitors can climb for a better view of the surrounding sawgrass prairie and the alligators and birds that gather underneath this elevated winding boardwalk. This is your best bet for picture taking as you can see for miles and there is often a ton of wildlife underneath the boardwalk. I loved the view from the top of the tower!
The tram tour gives visitors a bathroom break here and about 20 minutes to explore the tower before following the loop back to the visitor’s center. Of course if you are on a bicycle or you walked to the tower, you can take all the time you want.
The tram tour is the way to go if you don’t want to bicycle or walk the entire 15 mile paved trail. I really enjoyed it and it was an easier way to see more of the Everglades while learning about the wildlife and plants that live in this area. However, I wanted to spend a bit more time taking pictures of the wildlife so after the tour was finished, I walked down the trail a ways and got the pictures that I wanted. Overall I would say it was an epic day seeing wildlife!
Shark Valley Visitor Center
While there, take the time to go in the Shark Valley Visitor Center. It is fairly large and visitors can sign up for tram tours or rent bicycles inside as well as shop for souvenirs. I suggest you reserve a tour time online for the tram though. Shark Valley is a popular destination and you will most likely have to wait, or not get to go at all, if you show up without a reservation on a busy day. Incidentally, there didn’t appear to be many bicycles left to rent either. So simply go to the Shark Valley Tram Tours website and reserve your spot.
Between Naples & Miami
For us that live in this part of the country, Shark Valley is an easy day trip. Located off of Highway 41, it is about 70 miles east of Naples and about 25 miles west of Miami. Being this close, locals often bicycle the trail on a regular basis.
Shark Valley is open 7 days a week, all year long. Tickets for the tram tours are:
- $12.75/children (3-12)
- $19/seniors (62+)
Remember Everglades National Park is huge, covering over 1.5 million acres. So Shark Valley is just a part of what there is to experience in the Everglades.
More on the Everglades
For more things to do in and around Everglades National Park, check out my other posts:
- Wandering Alligator Alley
- Airboating the Everglades
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Ten Thousand Islands