Although not as big and powerful as their crocodile counterparts, alligators still have a strong presence as a majestic yet frightening species. They also happen to be a popular tourist attraction, believe it or not. When it comes to searching for gators, the first location in the US that comes to mind is Florida. All over the Sunshine State, you can catch alligators sunning themselves near water, from the Everglades to freshwater lakes. It’s hard to not see a gator on a visit to Florida and even harder to believe that at one point they were almost extinct in the state. In captivity or in the wild, if you’re keen to do some alligator hunting on your travels, then the swampy Florida lowlands are definitely where to go, including these spots popular with the reptile.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the south of Florida that nearly a million people visit each year. It spans 1.5 million acres of wetland, making it the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.
Hundreds of different animal species call the Everglades home, many of which are rare and endangered like the manatee and the Florida panther. The American alligator — a federally threatened species — also finds a home in the park. You can often find these alligators around Anhinga Trail, Shark Valley, and Eco Pond. The best time for viewing alligators in Everglades National Park, and other wildlife for that matter, is during the dry winter season. Visitors are warned to be on their guard however, as you can run into these gators out in the wild. It’s best to leave your pets at home in this case; it will put your animal and yourself in danger if you try to bring them along.
Everglades Alligator Farm
If the idea of being out in the wild scares you, why not check out a more tour-focused and enclosed space with gators? The Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, Florida offers snake shows, alligator shows, alligator feedings, and iconic airboat rides through the Everglades. Set right near the entrance of Everglades National Park, the Everglades Alligator Farm is the oldest of its kind in south Florida. It’s also home to more than 2,000 alligators. Gator enthusiasts will appreciate the farm’s Alligator Encounter experience, where you can hold different sized alligators and feed over 250 alligators in the breeding pond. The standard alligator shows offered at the Everglades Alligator Farm invite attendees to learn more about the swamp creatures from the experts and even get a photograph holding a live baby alligator.
After catching flights to Orlando, the quickest way to see some gators would be to head to Gatorland, a 110-acre wildlife preserve and theme park. Not only does Gatorland boast the largest collection of white leucistic alligator, but you can also find a free-flight aviary, a petting zoo, and animal shows. Perhaps the best attraction that combines the amusement park and wildlife elements of Gatorland is its zip line, where you can cruise right over an alligator pit with 130 giant gators below. For a more relaxed adventure, ride on the Gatorland Express train or hang out in the Gator Gully Splash Park. However, if you’re here for the alligators, you can see them a bit more up close and personal than the zip line experience at the White Gator Swamp and the Baby Gator Marsh.
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Gatorama, located in Palmdale, Florida, is an alligator farm that also does shows where you can hold a baby gator and watch them feed. Each year around late August, they put on a hatchling festival where you can actually experience a gator egg hatching right in your hands! If you can’t make it out in August for the festival, you can visit Gatorama throughout the rest of the year and experience its hands-on approach. You can partake in various alligator activities of varying expert levels, from just dipping your toes in a baby gator pool to tangoing with a big alligator who’ll be learning his cues from a lead keeper. Despite the name, Gatorama offers experiences with other species like giant tortoises and pythons. The alligator farm is also the proud home of Pearl, an albino alligator, one of the rarest in the world.
Myakka River State Park
One of the state’s oldest and largest parks is also a good spot for alligator viewing. Myakka River State Park lends a river running 57 square miles. Along those riverbanks, you can spot turtles and alligators catching some sun. In addition to the river itself, you can also make the trek out to Deep Hole, a sinkhole situated on the edge of the water. Deep Hole just happens to be a favorite spot for alligators to congregate under the right weather conditions, as they aren’t fans of the wind and cloudy skies.
Have you spotted an alligator or two while in Florida? Share your favorite spots for gator watching in the comments below!