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What You Should Know About Everglades Airboat Tour with Kids

Plus other cool things to do in the Everglades with kids

When you are visiting certain destinations there are some things you just have to do. For instance, zooming through swamp land on an Everglades airboat tour while in South Florida.

The Everglades is a unique and beautiful ecosystem that is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species. If you’re looking for an adventure that your kids will never forget, taking an airboat tour through the Everglades is the perfect activity. Not only will your children be able to witness the beauty of the Everglades up close, but they’ll also have the opportunity to learn about its history, ecology, and wildlife.

Despite grandparent objections, I booked one of these adventures on our last visit to Naples. I had some apprehensions too, I mean some gnarly creatures live the swamp and I have small kids! But, we did and loved it! Everything went great and it ended up being the highlight of the trip.

So, if you are a worried parent too, we’ll discuss the reasons why you should take an Everglades airboat tour with kids and what to expect during your trip. So, buckle up and get ready for an unforgettable experience in one of Florida’s most iconic landscapes!

Disclaimer: Links in this page are meant to help you find relevant information and book attractions easier by linking directly to specific pages on partner websites (i.e. TripAdvisor, If you click a link, we may earn a small commission on transactions. This helps support the cost of running our website, and it adds absolutely no extra cost to you as the consumer. Thank you, we appreciate your support! You can read more on our disclosure policy.

Journey to the Everglades

There are several cities in Florida that offer convenient access to the Everglades.

Everglades airboat tours Miami: Located just a short drive from the eastern edge of the Everglades, Miami is one of the most popular starting points for a trip to the Everglades. You can easily rent a car or book a guided tour from Miami to explore the park.

Everglades boat tour Fort Lauderdale: Another great option for exploring the Everglades is Fort Lauderdale, which is located about an hour north of Miami. There are several tour companies that offer airboat rides and other activities in the park, making it easy to plan a day trip from Fort Lauderdale.

Everglades airboat tours Naples: If you’re looking to explore the western side of the Everglades, Naples is a good starting point. This charming coastal city is located about 30 miles south of the park, and there are several tour companies that offer guided trips to the Everglades from Naples.

Boat tours Everglades City: As the name suggests, Everglades City is located right at the heart of the Everglades. This small town is home to several tour companies that offer airboat rides, kayaking trips, and other activities in the park.

No matter which city you choose as your starting point, there are plenty of options for exploring the unique and beautiful ecosystem of the Everglades.

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Everglades Airboat Tours

There are numerous airboat tour operators in the Everglades, and the exact number may vary depending on the season and location within the park. Some tour operators offer private tours, while others offer group tours. Additionally, some tours may focus on wildlife viewing, while others may focus on the history and ecology of the Everglades. So no matter what kind of Everglades adventure you are looking for, you are sure to find it.

Most Everglades airboat rides offer around 90 minute to 2 hour tours through the winding mangroves and open swamp. You and your family will get a chance to spot a number of cool native wild life up close (yet at a safe distance) and learn about this very cool ecosystem. Many tours are followed by an wild life presentation where you can actually meet and pet many of the unique animals. The airboat tour we took even had baby Everglades alligators that we got pet, hold and take some cool photos.

It’s worth noting that the National Park Service does not operate any airboat tours within the park. Instead, private companies are licensed to operate tours on designated waterways within the park. Click below to see all the Everglades boat tours available.

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Everglades Animals

On an Everglades airboat ride, you can expect to see a variety of animals that are native to the region. However, it’s important to remember that wildlife sightings are never guaranteed and can vary depending on the time of year and weather conditions. The time of year you book will vary which animals you are most likely see during your tour.

Everglades Alligators are probably the most-requested animal for tour operators. The Everglades is home to a large population of American alligators, which are often seen basking in the sun or swimming in the water. However, they aren’t as easy to spot as you may think.

The best time of year to see alligators in the Everglades is during the dry season, which typically runs from November through April. During this time, water levels in the Everglades are lower, which concentrates the alligators in the remaining water sources, making them easier to spot. Additionally, cooler temperatures during the dry season cause alligators to be more active during the daytime, making them more visible to visitors. The saltiness of the water can also effect the number of alligators too.

Birdwatchers will love all the Everglades birds! You can expect to see a variety of bird species such as the great Egret, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and many more. The Everglades is also home to a variety of snake species, including the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Water Moccasin, the Eastern Coral Snake, and the Everglades Burmese Python!

Floating in the shallow waters you’ll likely spot many turtles, like he Florida Softshell Turtle, the Florida Cooter, and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. West Indian Manatees are rather hard to find, despite their large size. We had one right next our boat and I couldn’t see it, so keep your eyes peeled. Manatees are also known to be more visible during the winter months of November through March, but we lucked out in May. If you love fish, then you’ll enjoy seeing the variety of fish species, including Tarpon, Bass, and Catfish.

On land, look into the thick brush to spy Everglades Panthers and Bobcats. Although rare, some visitors have reported sightings of panthers and bobcats while on their airboat rides. What you will see an abundance of is raccoons! But beware, they are frisky and aren’t afraid to get close to the boat and hang overhead from the trees. Some airboat tour guides will pull over and let you feed these little cuties, but hold on to your hats!

Additionally, it’s crucial to treat all wildlife with respect and to never approach or disturb them in their natural habitat.

More Everglades Attractions

Although airboat tours is the one of the most popular Everglades attractions, there are many fun ways to explore the Everglade with kids. If you and your kids love nature and wildlife, then you can enjoy a number of small group kayak tours, dolphin excursions, shelling tours, wetlands walks, swamp buggy rides, and more.

If you love to bike, there are a number of cool Everglades bike trails as well as guided bike tours. You can get on foot with guided wetlands walks as well as stroll along the Everglades Boardwalk to visit alligator exhibits, see wildlife and maybe book an airboat tour.

To cool down from hot Florida sun or get dry from wet Florida rain, you can stop into the Museum of the Everglades to learn the 2,000 years of human history in this unique area of Southwest Florida. This was once a wild frontier land only accessible by boat, so it is really cool to learn the brave people to settle this untamed land.

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Our Personal Experience:

As we drove deeper into the country and further away from the comforts of Naples, even I questioned my big Everglades airboat adventure. With every mile I could feel the tension rising in our red minivan. Finally, we saw the turn off for Everglades Island Airboat Tours. As I was unloading the kids, Grams caught site of the airboat and almost had a heart attack. She is not big on adventure and with a daughter like me; she is forced into some crazy situations. Oh well.

“This doesn’t look safe.”

“You aren’t seriously taking the babies on this!”

“I can’t do this.”

Those were just some of the panicked complaints Grams had as we made our way to meet our captain. The sweet and sensitive daughter that I am, I kindly demanded my mother it get in the boat and promised her a cold beer if she behaved.

I slathered my babies in SPF 50 and fastened them into their lifejackets. Always thinking about how my photos will look, I picked out the brightest lifejackets I could find. For my daughter, I chose a pink Barbie vest and for my baby boy, I chose a red Hawaiian flower vest. I stepped back, satisfied with how my babies looked for their airboat adventure.

“Is that a little boy?” I heard the slow southern twang of our captain.

“Yes it is,” I responded proudly.

“Then why is he wearing a girl’s jacket?” He slowly questioned.

“It’s Hawaiian print!”

Captain Browne, searched through the life-jacket trunk and tossed me a blue faded shark vest.
“Here, let’s man this boy up. Poor little feller.”

Finding Captain Browne’s candidness hilarious, I opted for the shark vest and loaded our family on to the airboat.

If you have never been on an airboat, they are very interesting with a flat top and no railings. I was little worried about my kids trying to jump off and worried that booking the hour tour might have been a bad idea, but the trip turned out to be wildly entertaining; keeping the kids engaged the entire time.

Ahhhh! Moments after leaving the dock the largest pelican I have ever seen landed on our boat. I didn’t realize that this was all part of the airboat experience. As it crept closer to my baby, I freaked out. Yes, the person who forced everyone on the airboat was the first to scream. Captain Browne probably thought we were a bunch of California freaks the way we were all yelping and hollering. I thought the pelican, which was the size of a toddler, was going to try to snap up my son. Needless to say, it didn’t and we all just looked ridiculous.

HotMama Tip: Don’t panic when the giant pelicans land on your boat.

After cruising by some manatees, Captain Browne kicked it into gear and took us on a wild ride through the swamp! Again, this was my first time, so the speed was a bit shocking. As we zipped through the narrow channels, tilting sharply with every turn, I took the opportunity to snap a photo of everyone’s face.

My parents were as predicted; Papa was chilling while Grams was terrified. The hubby and our girl are thrill-seekers so they were embracing the wild ride, with big smiles spread across their faces and hands in the air. I clung to my little man as he went comatose. An automatic reaction whenever he is faced with fear. Hey, at least he isn’t a cry baby. I’ll admit I was a little nervous. I mean I didn’t want us to tip over. There are alligators in this water and my babies are delicious.

Captain Browne slowed down to a stop so we could observe a family of raccoons. They got close. Like really close. The up-close and personal encounter with jumbo racoon fascinated the kids. I was a bit apprehensive, but still managed to click those shots.

Then our captain took our boat to the middle of the water and invited my babies to take the wheel. Yup, toddlers at the controls this sounds safe.

My daughter jumped in the captain’s chair and gladly took us for a spin. Literally, she went in perfect circles. Around and around and around. (Barf)

Next was my son, but he was still in his comatose state. He really just sat there and looked at us like we were all crazy. Maybe we are.

Unfortunately the water was too salty for the presence of alligators, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get to see them. Once back at the dock we met up with another guide, whose family owned this Everglades Airboat Tour. He introduced us to some scaly friends. My son was not down to hold the little alligator, but my daughter took her photo opportunity. Even Grams seized the moment and held the gator.

After our wonderful airboat adventure we headed off for grub and beers as I promised. By recommendation we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Seafood Depot, which has sadly closed since our last visit. But, it was really cool, overlooking the Everglades. We recounted our wild day over cold beer and gator nuggets.

Papa and Grams actually thanked me for forcing them on the airboat. Even though everyone fought me on this activity, it turned out to be everyone most favorite! The kids had a blast and still talk about it to this day. Sometimes we just need a little adventure and an airboat tour through the Everglades is a great one for kids and grandparents!

That’s A Wrap!

An Everglades airboat tour is a perfect family adventure that offers a unique opportunity to explore the beauty and diversity of one of the world’s most extraordinary ecosystems. The tour allows you to get up close with a wide range of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and exotic birds, while enjoying the thrill of gliding across the water on a high-speed airboat. Additionally, the tour provides an educational experience that helps you learn about the history, culture, and ecology of the Everglades, making it an enriching experience for both kids and adults. Everglades airboat tours is a must-do activity for families looking to create lasting memories and have fun together in the great outdoors.

Disclaimer: Links in this page are meant to help you find relevant information and book attractions easier by linking directly to specific pages on partner websites (i.e. TripAdvisor, If you click a link, we may earn a small commission on transactions. This helps support the cost of running our website, and it adds absolutely no extra cost to you as the consumer. Thank you, we appreciate your support! You can read more on our disclosure policy.

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I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. I like your writing! I’ve always wanted to travel to the Everglades but I haven’t made it there. It sounds like one heck of an excursion!

  2. Pingback: Naples with Kids |

  3. I have never been on an airboat, but I have seen them on CSI and always thought I would like to try it some day!

    • They are really fast and I would forget they are flat bottom, so it would freak me out when it would zoom over branches sticking out of the water.

  4. When I was a child there was a TV Show where a little boy and his father crossed the Everglades in an airboat. Since then that I dream of doing it too. Your tour look great, but your mother’s didn’t look like she was having a great time 😉

    • Haha. Yeah, it was something I had always wanted to do too. My mom is a stress case, so she was freaked out the whole time. Afterwards, she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was. That’s why I push her.

  5. This is the 1 thing I didn’t do at the Everglades when I visited last winter so it’s interesting to read your thoughts – sounds like I missed out! The Airboat Tour sounds awesome, your little one is so brave to have held the alligator! Wonderful photos too, always love seeing families out & about having fun 🙂

    • Yeah, I had missed doing it the few previous times before when we were in Florida, so I really pushed for it this time. I’m so glad we just did it, because it was so much fun.

  6. I had so much fun reading through your blog! You are very detailed about the experience you have had. Very vivid. This is something that my parents also used to do with us – taking us to small trips to different states and to other parts of the world. Those are memories we cherish and always keep. How wonderful and beautiful that you took your kids and your family with you to have this memory with them, thank you for sharing.

    • What a sweet comment! Thank you for reading and enjoying. I hope I am giving my kids precious memories to hold on to forever.

  7. I really enjoyed your article HM! I think it’s great you walked through the fear of sliding (as we call it)! It’s great that they thanked you for pushing them through the experience afterwards. Any plans for more sliding in your future?

  8. We are celebrating my son and husbands birthday down there this month. I had NO idea they were that expensive! $350 for 1.5 hour ride? Did you use a coupon or pay that much? I am 6 months pregnant as well and I REALLY want to do it!! Do you think they will frown upon that? LOL

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