While Orlando is too far from Everglades National Park to conveniently visit in a day, the sprawling network of lakes, swamps and waterways span much further north, surrounding the city, particularly to the south and east. This natural habitat is the perfect place to get closer to nature. Everglade swamps, as it may not surprise you to hear, are not very human friendly. After all, they’re packed with insects and alligators and lots of water. But never fear, human ingenuity has brought us the airboat, meaning you can simply glide over it all and access those hard to reach recesses of the natural world with the minimum of effort.
Specialized airboat tours from Orlando are an excellent way to leave the trappings of the city behind and get a little closer to the nature of the Everglades. The nearby cities of Kissimmee and St Cloud are gateways to these wetlands, while some airboat tours also organize hotel pickup and drop off from Orlando. Here are five of the best Everglades airboat tours from Orlando and its satellite cities. In compiling this list we have paid close attention to things like the price, duration, quality of the guides and of course the feedback from previous guests.
FROM: $59/per person
Combining a 30-minute airboat tour with a visit to Florida Wildlife Park means you’ll be able to get plenty of interaction with the natural world on this tour. At the wildlife park there are alligator handlings, an aviary and a wildlife safari. Meanwhile, true wild wildlife can be found out on the remote Cypress Lake, where gators, turtles and eagles roam free. For those staying in Orlando without their own transportation, this is an excellent tour option offering pickup and drop off at a range of Orlando hotels, including Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, Rosen Inn, and Maingate Lakeside Resort, among others.
From $32/ per person
The Boggy Creek airboat is ideal for those who want a 30-minute airboat experience based slightly closer to Orlando. Feel the wind on your face as you glide over the water at speeds of up to 45mph. Coast past cypress swamps and tall grasses, on the lookout for wildlife like alligators, turtles and birds. Your own transportation is advised as airboat tours depart from Southport Park, Kissimmee, which is at the southern end of the Orlando metropolitan area. For optimal wildlife viewing, morning tours are best during the warmer months, while in colder months it’s best to opt for an afternoon tour. Please note that this particular airboat tour does not operate on Mondays.
From $89/ per person
Many of the registered Florida airboats only head out into the wilds for 30 minutes to an hour. However, this excellent option is ideal for those who just can’t get enough of the wilderness and the thrill of the airboat ride. Head out onto the marshes in the search for gators, turtles and eagles with your guide, who’ll be able to offer greater insight into the region’s ecology and social history, as well as offering a trained eye when it comes to spotting creatures in their native environment. Life vests and hearing protection are provided to each person, as is the case with every tour on this list, and tours depart regularly.
From $68/ per person
Two other types of airboat tour are available at Wild Florida. You can head out during the day on an hour-long airboat ride, getting deeper into the swampland while also learning all about the natural history that makes the Florida Everglades so special. Then, when the sun goes down, the swamps really come alive. This one-hour airboat tour heads out into the swamp, at a time when the gators are becoming more active, during the hours of sunset and beyond. Heading out onto the wetlands at this time can be extra special given that added sense of isolation.
From $109/ per person
For a longer adventure out into the wetlands of central Florida, this six-hour tour incorporates many of the best elements of the Everglades experience. Zip over the swamps in an airboat for 30 minutes, before entering Gatorland, an adventure park dedicated to the giant reptiles, which has been running since 1949. This large nature preserve includes a boardwalk over marshland where waterbirds like herons and ibis share the wilds with alligators. There will be plenty of chances to get up close to the park’s gators too, along with snakes and crocodiles. Please note that this six-hour tour is only available once a week, on Tuesdays.