Spanning more than 2,400 square miles, most of which remains impenetrable, Everglades National Park is an untamed beast of subtropical wilderness that begs an honest question from luxury travelers: Is it possible to immerse in these extreme wilds without completely roughing it?
The short answer is yes, thanks namely to Clyde Butcher, the celebrated photographer synonymous with the Florida Everglades. On the park’s outskirts but still within the Everglades’ ecosystem in Big Cypress National Preserve, Butcher invites travelers to experience the best of the region through his Big Cypress Gallery swamp rentals. The duo of accommodations—one a cozy one-bedroom bungalow and the second a two-bedroom, family-friendly cottage—are located directly behind Butcher’s gallery, where his black-and-white masterpieces are on display. (Many of these captivating images were snapped in the swamplands surrounding the cottages.) A standout of staying at the cottages—besides breakfast with baby gators and wading birds at your feet—is a guided swamp walk eco-tour, which entails getting up close and personal with the Everglades by slogging waist-deep through the flooded terrain.
The rentals’ prime location also puts other Everglades highlights within reach. Visit Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to search for the likes of barred owls and ruby-throated hummingbirds while keeping watch for summer-specific spectacles like the world’s largest ghost orchid in bloom and the seasonal appearance of bioluminescent tree fungi. Head to Chokoloskee for a private photography and birding excursion across the Everglades’ Ten Thousand Islands with Everglades Boat Tours. Explore a labyrinth of coastal mangrove islets and narrow channels, snapping scenes of roseate spoonbills taking flight, predatory hawks catching a snack, bottlenose dolphins leaping through the air, and rookeries teeming with just-hatched pelicans, ibises, and egrets.
Finally, indulge in memorable Everglades-to-table meals at Everglades City’s best no-frills restaurants. Try Triad Seafood Market & Café for fried alligator tail and stone crabs fresh off the boat when in season. And be sure to check out Camellia Street Grill for hyper-fresh blackened grouper salad and decadent peanut butter pie.