If you have only an hour to stop and visit in the Everglades, the Royal Palm Visitor Center is the ideal location to stop, stretch your legs and get your bearings. Royal Palm State Park originally started as Paradise Key but was set aside as a state park to avoid development in 1916. After several years and almost double the acreage being donated (bringing the grand total to 4,000 acres, Royal Palm was dedicated as a state park in 1921.
As an access point to two of the most popular trails in the Everglades, the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail, a visit to the Royal Palm Visitor Center allows guests to experience two distinct ecosystems of the Everglades, the saw grass marsh prairie on the Anhinga and the hardwood hammock on the Gumbo Limbo, in a short amount of time.
Strolling along either of these trails will allow visitors to see a variety of wildlife including alligators and, at the right time of year, nesting anhingas. The Royal Palm Visitor Center provides maps and brochures detailing the surrounding areas, as well as serves as a starting point for the guided tours led daily by park rangers. While a guided tour is not mandatory for exploring the area, the information shared by the knowledgeable rangers is invaluable.
The Royal Palm Visitor Center is located four miles (6.4 km) west of Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center on Rte. 9336 in the Everglades National Park and is open daily from 8 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. While the Royal Palm Visitor Center has restrooms, vending machines and a gift shop, there are no restaurants at the Center. Entrance to the Visitor Center is free; entrance to the Everglades National Park through the Royal Palm Visitor Center is $10 per vehicle for a seven day pass.