Everglades Exploration Network

First-time to the Everglades, Solo Camping, Tips/Help/Advice?

Hi All - 

First off, this website has been a great resource as I research all things Everglades. I've spent hours reading through threads and trying to get an idea of what I should do/bring/consider/etc. It's been fun and exciting to begin planning all of this and am looking forward to hearing some direct feedback from the community.

I'm planning a 2 night trip the weekend of 12/11 (leaving on Friday 11/1 and coming back on Sunday). I plan to paddle out Indian Key Pass with the outgoing tide around 2p and heading straight to Tiger Key or Picnic Key. I'm thinking to just camp at one of those two sites for both nights and just fish around the area on Saturday before packing up and paddling back w/the incoming tide (low tide at 8a) on Sunday morning.

My questions are:

  • What safety gear do I absolutely need to bring?
    • I have all the basics like pfd, whistle, first aid, extra paddle, etc. But I'm thinking more like "Do I need a GPS? Marine Radio? Other?"
  • How concerned should I be about doing a solo trip for my first time to the area? I'm most concerned about getting lost. That's why I'm choosing a pretty basic route.
    • FYI I'm 32 and in decent-to-good shape. Been kayak fishing in Florida (originally from Jacksonville) for the last 2.5 years on my WS Ride 115. Basically, I'm not a total newb to the outdoors but I'm not a "survivalist" either.
  • What would be other options for a similar trip if Tiger Key and Picnic are both full?
    • What do you think the odds of this happening are?
  • Any tips for fishing around that area?
  • Anything else I should know?

Please share your collective wisdom with the new guy! I'm open to all suggestions and advice....Thanks in advance!


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I love launching from Collier Seminole. For a short trip it sure avoids the hassle of running to get a permit.

When you look at the canal down the Blackwater your first impression is ugh. Its a straight canal but what you can't see is its quite short. Then lovely turns start. I do like this river quite well.  

I can't comment on which key would be better for fishing but probably depth charts will help you. Some of Panther is posted as a National Wildlife Refuge but I camped there with no problems. I think I like Gullivan the best for its potential for cross breezes.

Both Viivian and I start at the crack o dawn to avoid the worst of winds. Sometimes there isnt any of course but in my experience that is not the norm

Now nothing is marked so a GPS and a chart and a compass both is a very good idea in this area.

You might get a kick out of this article.. I did not see any motorboats camped. Sometimes there are on Lulu as the beaches are a sharp slope and deep water near by 


I saw that you mentioned "google maps." I hope you also have a chart. I ant to put in a plug for charts. We have never brought a GPS, don't even know how to use it, and have not gotten lost in 5 trips (have I just jinxed myself?). We have always used charts. If you're going solo, maybe a chart is too much to use but it gives you a bigger sense of where you are relative to other places. Have a wonderful tine, David! As they say, it's addictive.

Allison (of Allison and Rob)

PS -- Planning our December trip -- on the water Dec. 20

I have camped on all those islands and have left from both collier and port of the islands. If you are trying to avoid powerboats, I much prefer going out of Everglades city. On weekends it is very different there and just as many powerboats at both places. Throw in the jet ski crowd that like to picnic on gullivan and swarm unto your campsite area. And watching the sunset with Marco island condos in the way is not my favorite. Stopped camping there a few years ago after having to move from panther to hog to get away from a huge group of loud powerboaters that blared country music and used chainsaws to cut firewood. At least there are rules at ENP and quotas on how many people can camp at each site,

Personally prefer ENP but if you are new to the area should try both. One good thing about preserve camping is to get an even earlier start and head over to collier Seminole and get a campsite for Friday after work, launch from there as well and go to Whitehorse or gullivan first night. No permits are required.

Thanks everyone. So after considering all the factors (paddling distance, camp-ability, driving distance, permiting, etc) the route I'm favoring the most is leaving out of Port of the Everglades and heading towards Panther/Hog/White Horse Keys. The route looks relatively easy, it's not too far (this is important to me; my kayak is not made for distance), and between the three islands I should be able to find a good place to camp...I hope.

It's saying low tide is @ 9:30a on Friday in Pumpkin Bay. The goal is to leave as early as possible (7-8a) and ride the last bit of the tide out as far as possible. That said, how long do you think it will take to get to the islands?

As for gear, I need to be budget-conscious. I think a GPS is a must, but can I get by with some Google Maps printouts + cell phone instead of buying a VHF & charts? Is that crazy to even consider?? And is there a GPS that you all recommend (I've never bought one before.)?

Collier Seminole SP is closed to camping currently


I dont know what nearby if anything is an alternative.

I really think printouts are a mistake. Two waterproof charts cover all of ENP and the 10000 islands to the north.  They run about $25 each. They will last many years even dunked in salt water. Get your paper map wet and you are toast if the fog comes in ( and it may well).. Also  mapping GPS is way more detailed than what you get on your phone. I use an Oregon by Garmin but there are many that will do a good job.

To each his own. Leaving from Port of the Islands you will have a very merry miserable motorboat experience.

I usually do about 3.5-4 mph but my canoe is fast and skinny ( 23 inches, 15 feet or 26 iinches 18 feet). I can get up to 6 mph. With neutral tide.

Never start at Port of the Whatever, always start the Faka Union on the Faka Union - Bridge 030058.

That canal scar is an abomination, an insult to everything.

Since he is interested in fishing and not really in a boat made for distance paddling, the quickest way out to camp is best no matter how ugly and boring that long canal is. Plus, he might see a tarpon or two along the way :-)

David, get noaa chart of the area and a waterproof chart case and compass and learn how to use it. I went for years without a GPS and survived. Plan your route on the chart before you go and note the necessary bearings on it for point to point navigation. On your smart phone save google maps for offline use. Even if you don't have service, when you open google maps, it will find you on the map. This is a good way to double check your location until you feel comfortable with chart and compass.

Thanks Vivian, you are right in that as much as I would like to take the scenic route, the quickest way to camp trumps all at this point. 

I will pick up a chart and compass as a fail safe. I think it's worth the $50 or whatever even if I never use it again (I will most likely be moving out of state in a few months, part of the reason I want to do this trip now - before I leave the area).

One other random question: What type of footwear do you bring? Should I expect to drag my kayak through mud and therefore bring lace-up shoes or would flip-flops + crocs work? Any other tips that I might not know to ask for that you can only get through experience??



David, you're getting some good advice here. The charts are good, but they will stick together in the salt water from my experience. I like to keep them clean and dry. Google printouts are great and you can either laminate them or use a pouch to keep them dry. Sometimes I also just take screen shots from google with my waterproof cam and use those. Your biggest concern isn't necessarily getting lost, but "sidetracked" and then running out of water on low tide. Some passages will be closed. Also, I'm sure you realize there are lots and lots of oyster beds in the 10K, so you don't want to plan to walk or drag your boat much for that reason (and the mud is really soft!)

You should always have a compass with you, and at least some sort of chart or map wherever you go. There are some beautiful kayaking models, but I've found the old Ikelite wrist-type diving compass to be very rugged and cheap. I got one off eBay for less than $10.

Footwear: https://kayakfari.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/keep-your-feet-firmly-in...

Generally the aquasocks or diving booties work well. You don't want flip flops. Remember the razor sharp oysters!

Since you asked about my aerial images: https://kayakfari.wordpress.com/360-vr-panoramas/kayak-aerial-photo...

It's done with poles - pole aerial photography (now called a selfie-stick ..lol).

I'd like to suggest another trip option to Cape Romano and vicinity. You can launch in Goodland which is a chill lil town and paddle due south, hugging the shoreline. It's the backyard for Marco Island, so you will see many boaters, however at night it's nice and quiet as long as you avoid weekends. FYI the current really rips around the tip of Cape Romano, but the rest of the paddling is easy since you can pick which side to paddle on to stay in the lee. Actually if you have the times, I'd suggest this trip as a trial run to dial it all in before your solo wilderness excursion!

I've never had trouble with the waterproof chart sticking together. It always is wet and readable . It will stick if it dries folded up so I rinse in fresh water and dry flat

After a few years the print does get abraded
I never rely on one source of navigation so there are always backup charts or theNational Geograhic map too

Flex - That's a great suggestion around taking a prelim trip out of Goodland to Cape Romano. Can you share a little more about that? Have you camped around that area e.g. Brush Island, Jackfish Island, other?? How is it? And where would you recommend parking if I were to launch out of Goodland? I checked your blog but didn't see anything specific to those islands...

That whole area is actually fun to paddle around. There's lots of beaches and you could prob camp almost anywhere there's room. The west shore of Kice Island is well known for camping but I like to save that one for cooler weather and/or a westerly breeze to reduce bug encounters (noseeums). At the south tip where it turns into Blind Pass there's a lot of beach space, very nice camping. Of course there's the tip of Cape Romano itself, with the dome shack ruins:

This is what it was like before the deluge of 2012:


Lately though I've been camping on the sandbar that's about a mile south. Check tides, it is a sandbar but if you time it right, it will be dry and - it's 100% bug-free camping year round! :) But you are fully exposed 360 to wind and waves ..

In Goodland you could launch off the side of the hwy 92 causeway bridge, at the Calusa Island Marina or at the Goodland Boating Park. Also if you talk to the people at Little Bar, they'll prob let you launch from their floating dock. It would be customary then to stop by the bar upon your return for food and drinks (which is great idea anyway).

Keep in mind that you will encounter lots of powerboaters, but it's nowhere near like paddling in lets say .. Miami! Like I said before, it's the backyard for Marco, Naples, Goodland folks, and it's free beach camping and that's what people do. There's a lot of space and good times for everyone!

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