Everglades National Park
The Everglades encompasses most of South Florida and boasts thousands of species on over 1.5 million acres of swamplands. Visitors can wander the grounds and catch sights of the great blue heron, the Florida panther, or tortoises and arachnids, though the main spectacle to see is the American alligator found in the marshes of the park. Adult species can grow up to 10 feet (three meters) long, while the American crocodile can reach up to 13 feet (3.9 meters). You can either take an airboat ride through the swamps to catch the reptiles sunbathing along the shores or visit the Alligator Farm with over 3,000 alligators and caimans.
Everglades National Park, FL, USA, +1 305 242 7700
For an up-close look at an endless array of animals from Asia to Africa, take a walk through Zoo Miami—the largest zoological garden in the state. The zoo houses open-air exhibits showcasing animals such as elephants, lions, and hippos in their own environment. Feeding stations allow guests to interact with wildlife by feeding giraffes, rhinos, birds, and even camels. Bird lovers shouldn’t miss a walk through the Wings of Asia Aviary where 400 exotic Asian birds fly freely about. A perfect family-friendly attraction, children can also enjoy water playgrounds and educational shows offered at the zoo.
Zoo Miami, 12400 SW 152nd St, Miami, FL, USA, +1 305 251 0400
Perched on the MacArthur Causeway leading to Miami Beach, Jungle Island is a zoological park with a private beach, waterfalls, and tropical vegetation home to exotic birds and other jungle animals. Children and parents alike can enjoy numerous educational animal shows and exhibits as well as VIP tours offered at the park! While it’s currently closed, it will reopen in spring 2018.
Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, FL, USA, +1 305 400 7000
The 30-acre Monkey Jungle is a sanctuary for primates from baboons to gorillas. Visitors can gain up-close encounters with friendly species such as the squirrel monkeys while also watching keepers feed them. The unique experience here is that monkeys roam the grounds freely through the trees imported from the Amazon rainforest. Here, it’s the humans that walk through a caged-in path to take a peek at these wild animals.
Monkey Jungle, 14805 SW 216th St, Miami, FL, USA, +1 305 235 1611
Ever dreamt of swimming with dolphins? The Miami Seaquarium is the place to do it. It offers guests a chance to interact with these beloved mammals for about $200 a ticket, but there’s more to do than kissing and fin-playing. The Seaquarium also offers penguin encounters, killer whale shows, and exhibits of sharks, sea turtles, and manatees among other marine life. Situated on the beautiful island of Key Biscayne, it’s also a romantic spot to watch the sunset and the Miami skyline.
Miami Seaquarium, 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL, USA, +1 305 361 5705
Lion Country Safari
The unique drive-through safari gives visitors a chance to watch free-roaming animals from the comfort of their car seat. The “cageless zoo” covers over 600 acres of land and is home to animals such as zebras, wildebeest, monkeys, kudus, and lions—though the latter are kept in cages for obvious safety reasons. However, be prepared for a little pecking on your windshields from a few curious wild ostriches! Once the safari driving portion of the visit is completed, you can head to camel-riding stations, feed giraffes, and watch the beautiful pink flamingos in their watering hole.
Matheson Hammock Park
With Bayfront views and miles of mangrove forest, Matheson is the place to go manatee-watching. Rent a kayak at the local watersport rental stand and head toward the mangroves if you can stand the rotten egg smell emanating from the tangled plants. The unique webbing roots of these plants are home to shellfish, which you can spot cluttered all about, as well as tree-climbing crabs, and all along them, you’ll be able to spot the gentle sea cows slowly meandering beneath the greenish water.
Matheson Hammock Park, 9610 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables, FL, USA, +1 305 665 5475
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center
Nestled in the scenic Key Biscayne, the Nature Center at Crandon Park Beach is a not-for-profit facility that conserves local natural resources and provides environmental education. It’s also a sanctuary for birds such as herons, ospreys, and hawks, as well as other migratory birds in the area.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Butterfly lovers shouldn’t miss exploring the butterfly conservatory at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. With over 3,000 species from helicoids to owl butterflies, guests will have the chance to explore the beautiful kaleidoscope of colors fluttering through the gardens. There are two daily butterfly releases where everyone can experience an up-close look at the pretty critters. The conservatory also houses a metamorphosis lab where guests can watch the process of nurturing butterfly chrysalis through a glass wall.
Oleta River State Park
Rich in wildlife, Oleta River State Park is the place to go for a bike ride, canoeing, fishing, and wildlife-viewing. The largest urban park in South Florida is home to cottontail rabbits, squirrels, tortoises, white-tailed deer, and an abundance of snakes. If you want to increase your chances of actually spotting these animals, attempt a camouflage-style wardrobe such as khakis and greens, and don’t forget to bring binoculars! FYI: Feeding the wildlife is absolutely forbidden.
Oleta River State Park, 3400 NE 163rd St, North Miami Beach, FL, USA, +1 305 919 1846