Many fun, amazing, and phenomenal things to do in the Everglades are found in the very small South Florida town of Ochopee Florida. My grandparents lived in Ochopee within the Big Cypress Preserve and Florida Everglades—only one mile from a quirky and fun Florida road trip spot—for more than 25 years.
Whether you are visiting Ochopee on a day trip from Miami or Naples, driving through on a Florida road trip, or spending at least one overnight, this article presents a comprehensive list of places to eat and stay, things to do, and tips and strategies.
Where is Ochopee FL?
Ochopee Florida is a tiny South Florida town along Tamiami Trail (Florida State highway 41) about 36 miles from Naples and 74 miles from Miami. Ochopee is surrounded by some of the world’s best natural ecosystems—including Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and Sovereign Miccosukee Seminole Nation and Turner River Indian Reservation.
Just west of Ochopee are Copeland and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Carnestown (now simply the intersection of highways 41 and 29), and Everglades City and Chokoloskee. The latter two are the gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge portion of Everglades National Park.
See the section at the end of this article for our recommendations for places to stay in and near Ochopee Florida.
Fun Things to Do in the Everglades in Ochopee Florida
Ochopee Post Office
One of the quirkiest US road trip spots and roadside attractions in the world is the Ochopee Post Office. The Ochopee FL post office is the USA’s smallest post office and in its former life served as a storage shed for a nearby farm. How fun is that? Plus, some McCool family history, it was my grandparents’ post office for 25+ years so letters and cards between my grandmother and I passed through this wee building.
Big Cypress Oasis Visitors Center, Everglades National Park
One place you should stop before, during, and after your Big Cypress adventures and Everglades explorations is the Oasis Visitors Center. Check out the current displays and gift stop if you are just passing through. More intrepid adventurers can extract valuable information from the rangers regarding animals, conditions, hiking and #LiquidRoadTrip paddling suggestions, and backcountry camping and ORV (off road vehicle) permits. The Florida Trail starts here and runs over 1,000 miles straight up the spine of the Sunshine State and then across the Florida Panhandle to Fort Pickens. McCool Travel trivia: The building once was the terminal and restaurant for a private airport.
Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Everglades National Park
Also stop at this visitor center also, which is 20 miles east. The Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center is next to the Big Cypress National Preserve headquarters. It is a bigger visitor center, with a conference room (groups can rent!), indoor and outdoor exhibits, and a film about the area. The building is designed to optimize renewable resources so be inspired to be more environmentally conscious here.
Swamp #LiquidRoadTrip: Canoeing or Kayaking in Everglades
One of the most fun things to do in the Everglades is exploring on your own kayak or canoe. One launch site and parking lot is just off Tamiami Trail at Turner River. Paddle south to explore the Turner River Canoe Trail. Another launch spot is at the south end of Dona Drive, across the street from Birdon Road. A larger boat launch is at the southern end Seagrape Drive, just west of the Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center. From here explore the Half Creek Canoe Trail. See below for guided kayak excursions.
Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe
The only Ochopee FL restaurant is Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe and it is funky, quirky, an authentic touch of Old Florida, and well worth a stop. In fact, it is a memorable destination for anyone on a South Florida scenic drive. Fresh catch of the day specials are recommended but eclectic items such as frog legs and gator also should be sampled. Joanie’s is located just east of the Ochopee Post Office so if you are driving from Miami and are at the post office, you missed it. Turn around and look on the left.
Everglades Scenic Drives in Ochopee
There is nothing quite like driving into the Florida Everglades and Big Cypress on a coolish night (around 70º here) and seeing a thunderstorm over Miami. It is spectacular.
These three scenic drives in Ochopee offer Old Florida experiences: unpaved roads, wonderful trees, clean air, and yes, gators and snakes may wander onto the road. Our three suggested Everglades scenic drives, in addition to Tamiami Trail itself, are:
Loop Road is a 24 mile throwback to old natural Florida. While I cannot guarantee you will see wildlife on this stretch, I have ALWAYS seen more than a handful of wild gators along with many other animals and tropical birds. Loop Road is rough in parts, unpaved and rugged, so check with a visitor center ranger for current conditions or if you have any doubts about your vehicle’s capability. One entrance is 4 miles west of Oasis Visitor Center and the other is four miles west of Shark Valley and 15 miles east of Oasis Visitor Center.
My grandparents lived on a two acre patch off of Birdon Road so I have driven that road many times. It once was a rough unpaved road. It is now smooth and unpaved but thank goodness still retains some Old Florida charm. I can tell you that the last few times I have driven Birdon Road that I have seen at least one gigantic rattlesnake resting in the middle of the road. Makes sense, since both of my uncles were bitten by a rattlesnake when they lived there. Hmmm, maybe the snakes sense my McCool blood and rush out on the road hoping to get a bite. Nope!
Three different Birdon Road options are:
- drive 4.5 miles north on Birdon Road, turn left on Lower Wagon Wheel Road, turn left on highway 29 back to Tamiami Trail
- drive 6.5 miles north on Birdon Road (to the end), turn right on Upper Wagon Wheel Road which ends at Turner River Road. There connect to the below drive or turn right back to Tamiami Trail.
- drive as far as you want north on Birdon Road and turn around whenever you want. Definitely after seeing some gators and hopefully giant rattlers.
Turner River Road
Start at HP Williams Roadside Park, at the Turner River Road and Tamiami Trail intersection, which has a restroom building, an information display, and a short boardwalk and dock over Turner River Canal. Look for gators and tropical birds like ibis, anhinga, and roseate spoonbill. 3.5 miles up Turner River Road is Big Cypress Institute which offers wonderful adventure experiences—guided hikes, paddles, bicycle tours, and birding trips.
Big Cypress Swamp Tours and Captain Steve’s Swamp Buggy Adventures are another 3.5 miles past Big Cypress Institute. Fire Prairie Trail and Concho Billie Trail are two opportunities to explore the Big Cypress Preserve on foot. Bear Island Campground (and Pink Jeep and Gator Head) is on the north side of Alligator Alley (I-75), about 20 miles north of Tamiami Trail.
Visit Everglades National Park
The Shark Valley Visitor Center for Everglades National Park is 36 miles east of the Ochopee Post Office. This Everglades National Park entrance is extremely popular during the peak season (January through April) so arrive early (or late afternoon) or be prepared to park far away. Hiking trails, a tram ride, the observation tower, and bike riding along Shark Valley Loop are best things to do at Shark Valley.
At the other end west of Ochopee, turn south on highway 29 and head into Everglades City. In Everglades City, visit the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Learn about opportunities to explore the Ten Thousand Islands portion of Everglades National Park. Several operators offer Ten Thousand Island tours, we like Everglades Area Tours.
Skunk Ape HQ / Everglades Adventures Tours / Trail Lakes Campground
One of the most popular things to do in Ochopee Florida is visit the Skunk Ape Headquarters complex, only one mile east of the Ochopee Post Office. Onsite are a great gift shop with native crafts, Everglades adventure tours, and ginormous animals (gators and snakes). Native Gladesmen provide Everglades Adventure Tours including traditional pole boat rides. Trail Lakes Campground has RV and tent sites, three chickee huts (throwback to indigenous Seminole tribe and a memorable Florida clamping experience), and four rustic old Florida cabins.
Wootten’s Everglades Airboat Tours
Operates on the southern side on Tamiami Trail making it a different Everglades airboat tour experience than the other Everglades and Ochopee airboat rides. They explore privately owned land west of the Big Cypress headquarters that no other airboats operate in. Other Wootten’s attractions and offerings include a swamp buggy tour, animal sanctuary, alligator show, and guided Everglades kayak tours. Check Wootten’s website for coupons and specials, combo packages, and lodging discounts.
Ochopee Airboat Rides
Other Everglades airboat ride operators in and near Ochopee are:
- C&G’s Big Cypress Swamp Buggy Tours
- Everglades Swamp Buggy Adventure
- Explore Big Cypress Tours and Lodging (next to Clyde Butcher)
- Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours (Everglades City airboat tours)
Clyde Butcher Gallery
One of Florida’s most important artisans, Clyde Butcher is an award-winning nature photographer. He has been called the next Ansel Adams, for his extraordinary black and white pictures. Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery is 1/2 mile east of the Oasis Visitor Center. Here you can indulge in private guided swamp photography tours and swamp walks. Two Big Cypress Reserve cottages are located behind his Big Cypress Gallery and I would really love to stay in one or both and report back to y’all. Stay tuned!
Miscellaneous Ochopee Florida Information
Miami Guided Tours offers full and half day Everglades tours with pick up and drop off at Miami hotels and cruise ships.
The Florida Trail southern terminus is at the Oasis Visitor Center but south of Tamiami Trail it connects to the 7.5 mile Robert Lakes Trail. The hiking-only trail ends at Loop Road but does continue onto an ORV trail.
Tree Snail Hammock Trail, along Loop Road just west of Pinecrest, is a short nature trail. Loop Road Education Center is across the street from the trail.
Gator Hook Trail is a 2.5 mile one-way trail further west on Loop Road.
Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport was originally called Everglades Airport and later intended to potentially replace Miami International Airport. It is 3.5 miles up an unmarked road off Tamiami Trail about 22 miles east of Ochopee Post Office. Look for a trail into Threemile Island just after that road turns right.
The closest gas station to Ochopee is at the intersection of highways 41 and 29. Two other gas stations are a few miles south in Everglades City. The closest gas station heading east is 55 miles away back in Miami.
In nearby Everglades City and Chokoloskee, we love the Museum of the Everglades (the magnificent Dade pine floor is one of my secret South Florida hidden gems), Triad Seafood for lunch, and Smallwood General Store.
Fun Things to Do in the Everglades: Where to Stay Near Ochopee
There is no official hotel in Ochopee but there are many amazing and wonderful South Florida camping opportunities.
Trail Lakes Campground offers Old Florida cabins and Chickee huts in addition to RV and tent campsites. See above for more information about the Trail Lakes property (at Skunk Ape Headquarters)
National Park Service manages several campgrounds, including (from east to west along Tamiami Trail): Monument Lake Campground (36 sites), Burns Lake Campground (15 sites), Mitchell Landing Campground (11 spots), Pinecrest Group Campground (32 tent spots in four sites), and Midway Campground (36 sites). Paddlers and Florida Trail hikers can reserve countless Big Cypress National Preserve backcountry camping sites.
NOTE: Mitchell Landing and Pinecrest campgrounds are located on Loop Road, a potentially rugged road (depending on the upkeep and time of year).
Three remote campgrounds are located 20 miles north on an unpaved road deep into the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Preserve: Bear Island Campground (40 sites), Pink Jeep Campground (nine sites), and Gator Head Campground (nine sites).
The highest rated place to stay in Everglades City is Everglades Adventures Hotel Suites by Ivey House. It is about 7.5 miles from the Ochopee Post Office.
Our favorite places to stay in Naples Florida are Inn on Fifth and Lemon Tree Inn. Both properties are 37 miles from Ochopee Post Office. One of the closest places to stay in Miami is TownPlace Suites Miami Kendall West, about 60 miles from Ochopee Post Office.
Did you imagine there would be this many fantastic things to do in Ochopee (population ~125)? Have you been to Ochopee FL? The Florida Everglades? Which of these Everglades activities do you most want to experience?