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Everglades City: A Day Trip to Florida’s Wild, Pioneer Past

Everglades City Day Trip You know why you decided to visit Naples for your vacation: the beautiful beaches, the great shopping, the unique dining experiences, the luxurious opportunities to enjoy during your vacation and wonderful outdoor activities like fishing, golfing, tennis and water sports. However, there is another reason to visit Naples: to make it your base for exploring the rest of Southwest Florida. Southwest Florida has a lot to offer to the traveler.

There are several towns, some small, some very urban like Naples, that offer unique experiences beyond Naples to see historical sites, outdoor activities, chances to see wildlife, and to experience Southwest Florida’s distinct local culture. One of those locations we are going to mention to you today is a perfect example as to Southwest Florida’s unique history, local culture and love of the outdoors and wildlife makes it worthwhile for you to take at least one day trip during your extended visit to Naples. The name of this destination is Everglades City.

Located an hour south of North Naples, or 45 minutes south of East Naples, Everglades City is a small little fishing village filled with lots of local history, and a love of nature and the outdoors. This area always had settlers since the late 19th century, mostly of people who wanted to start a new life away from the traditional constraints of society. In order to make a living, they either fished or hunted, and lived off the land. Everglades City, at that time called Everglade, was founded in the early 1920s by Barron Collier, Jr.

The purpose of founding Everglade was to provide a county seat for the local towns, but also serve as a location to help serve Collier’s employees and massive corporate empire. It served as the county seat until Hurricane Donna hit in 1960, when most of the city was destroyed. It was at this time that the seat of the Collier County government was moved to Naples, and Everglades City rebuilt itself.

Now, the city is pretty much known as a major destination for those who wish to visit neighboring Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, and for its fishing industry. However, evidence of the city’s pioneer past and its residents’ strong connection to living with the land is still there for visitors to see. Many of the buildings from Collier’s time, and even before, are still located within the heart of the city. To start your tour, first visit the Museum of the Everglades, which was the old laundry building built in 1927 to serve Collier’s employees.

This free, self-guided museum offers exhibits and local artifacts that will show the visitor how Everglades City came to be, its connection to Naples, and its significance to Southwest Florida history. Before you leave, ask the volunteers on duty about the self-guided historic walking tour map. They will give you a complimentary map and guide that will help you find these historic buildings. Buildings on this walking guide includes the old City Hall, which still stands today, the Everglades Community Church, and the old Bank of the Everglades, which is now a bed and breakfast.

For a look at Everglades City history beyond the time of Barron Collier, Jr., visit the historic Rod and Gun Club, which is the oldest standing building in Everglades City. It used to be the residence of the Storter family, who built there originally in the late 1890s. In the 1920s, the property was expanded and turned into a hotel, which it still is today. Go in for a bite to eat or a drink, watch the boats go by on the Barron River, and explore the lobby.

If that isn’t enough, take a drive down to Chokoloskee, a small barrier island connected to Everglades City, that has a small museum about the frontier days called Smallwood Store. Originally built in the 1880s by Ted Smallwood as a trading post, the Smallwood Store is now a museum that not only contains 95% of its original stock, but also contains exhibits about pioneer life in the area before Barron Collier, Jr. arrived. You can also learn more about the legendary EJ Watson, the main character in Peter Matthiessen’s best-selling novel, Killing Mr. Watson.

There is more than just Southwest Florida’s rugged pioneer past. If you’re a foodie or just love great seafood, you will definitely want to visit Everglades City. Everglades City is one of the largest fishing centers in Southwest Florida, both for commercial fishermen and sportsmen. Popular catches include stone crabs, shrimp, blue crabs, grouper, and red snapper. If you want to try some of the freshest, best seafood you have ever had, go to restaurants like Triad Seafood, Havana Café, or City Seafood. These places are owned by local fishermen who use some of the seafood off their boats in the restaurant.

Triad Seafood and City Seafood also have small fish markets where you can purchase some stone crab claws, shrimp, smoked mullet spreads, and other local seafood items to take home. Do you want to catch your own fish? Everglades City and Chokoloskee are the gateway to the 10,000 islands, which are known for some of the greatest fishing you can experience in the world! Be sure to charter a boat out in Chokoloskee with an experienced local guide who can show you great fishing spots and teach you great techniques. If you decide to keep your catch, many of the local restaurants have a “cook what you catch” option, where they will prepare what you caught that day the way you want it.

Everglades City is also the gateway to visiting the Everglades and the national parks related to it. Take the boat ride sponsored by Everglades National Park, or explore that park or Big Cypress National Preserve on your own, or with a private boat tour. In regards to a boat tour, you can take an airboat tour, a kayak tour, or a pole boat tour. Companies that offer these opportunities that we recommend include Everglades Private Airboat Tours, Everglades Adventure Tours, Wooten’s, Speedy’s, and The Ivy House. The Ivy House and Everglades Adventure Tours offer kayak and canoe rentals so that you can explore the parks on your own.

Therefore, if you want to learn about Southwest Florida’s rugged pioneer history, taste some great seafood, enjoy the outdoors with fishing and other water sports, or explore the parks related to the Everglades, Everglades City should be on your list of day trips to take during your visit to Naples. Whether you come here to explore Southwest Florida’s history, sightsee the Florida Everglades, enjoy the outdoors or eat great seafood, or all of the above, Everglades City has something to offer travelers young and old that will help enhance your visit not only to the region, but Naples as well.

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