Welcome to the first of maybe many of these “Absurd Day Trip” writeups. While I may never attempt to do any of these, my hope is to possibly inspire a reader or two to actually give it a go (or come up with their own).
Insane itineraries are the norm when it comes to crafting weekend outings – at least for me. I have an adventurous spirit, an insatiable desire to be out on the road and experiencing every little nook and cranny of this country and continent. Needless to say, at least for most of us, real life has a way of keeping us grounded. Everybody’s working for the weekend, and I am too – that’s why I make the most of a weekend (and maybe tack on an extra day or two) packing a full week’s effort into my Saturdays or Sundays. Granted, I enjoy lazy weekends as much as the next guy – but if I string more than two or three of those in a row, I feel I’m wasting precious time!
So, for those that want to see it all (in one day), I present you this “column”.
The first (of hopefully many) ideas is to visit all three Florida National Parks in one day. Can it be done? Let’s find out…
The biggest issue with the Florida National Parks (that being Key Biscayne, the Everglades and Dry Tortguas) is that, for most of the U.S. (those not living in Florida), these aren’t exactly the easiest to visit on typical weekend excursion. That, and people tend to visit Florida for a variety of reasons and getting one day to escape the clutches of Mickey Mouse and friends to book it to the Everglades is probably the exception to the norm. So for those who have crossed the country for their “trip of a lifetime” to Florida, they may only have that one day to take in a National Park. Well, how about take in all three then?
The major challenge, of course, is the outlier – Dry Tortugas. This tiny island which is home to Fort Jefferson, is reachable by ferry or seaplane. It’s not cheap and you can expect a solo journey to range from about $160 to nearly $500 dependent on your itinerary. For a little less than $300 you can board a plane at around 8 a.m. for a morning trip to Dry Tortugas. If all goes smooth, you’ll be back before lunch at 11 a.m.
From there you’ll need to book it to Everglades – but only if you want to hit up a visitor’s center and obtain a National Park Passport stamp. A three hour drive, again – if traffic cooperates – will get you into the Ernest Coe Center at around 2 p.m. Now you’ll need to make a decision. The Everglades and nearby Key Biscayne (a 40-minute drive) are open 24-hours to some degree (though if you really want to “experience” both, you’d do better to haul back to Key Biscayne and rent a kayak. It’s now 3 p.m. and you’re kayaking Biscayne Bay. You got all your passport stamps, but you still haven’t experienced the Everglades. It’s 4 p.m. and you can maybe make it back to Ernest Coe before they close at 5 (just in case you didn’t get your Everglades stamp). After that it’s time to experience all the best (or all you have time for) that the famous Florida swampland has to offer. A 50-minute drive will get you to the ghost town of Flamingo just in time to take an early evening stroll along the many trails there. You have until at least 7:30 p.m. (if you time this during the summer, of course) – enough time to get out of the park by dusk and fill up that terribly empty stomach of yours!
Good luck and Godspeed!