Everglades

Florida

An alligator in the Everglades     Photo: Photodisc

Almost as aqueous as it is terrestrial, the subtropical, primeval wetlands of the Everglades are heavy with humidity, overhanging mangroves, and very old menace. It's the only place in the U.S. where the alligator and the crocodile coexist.

Park Action
Extend the de rigueur paddle along the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, in Everglades National Park, with the new Paradise Coast Blueway, a group of GPS-marked water routes of varying lengths (from an easy afternoon's paddle to multi-day jaunts) that begin at the edge of the Everglades and continue along the coastline into Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and north toward Goodland (by 2009, the trails will continue to Naples). Signage is rare; paddlers follow GPS coordinates on a free Collier County map. Dolphins and manatees are common; other paddlers aren't. paradisecoastblueway.com

Where to Stay
"Minimalist verging on monastic" describes the Aqua Hotel, in South Beach, 90 minutes from Everglades City and one of the park entrances. Trendiness blends with slacker cool: The front desk is made of a surfboard; bedroom furnishings include plastic chairs. Most important, the Aqua sits less than five minutes from the beach, in the heart of South Beach nightlife. Doubles and suites, $175–$300; aquamiami.com

Where to Eat
Michael's Genuine Food and Drink, opened last spring by local celeb chef Michael Schwartz, is ambitious, unpretentious, and one of the city's toughest reservations. Suck up to a concierge or miss out on harissa-spiced black grouper, slow-roasted Berkshire pork shoulder, and the Mayflower Martini, made with smooth Plymouth gin. michaelsgenuine.com

Extra Credit
Catch big air at Crandon Park Beach, a 15-minute drive from South Beach. Kiteboarding lessons, $200 for two hours. southfloridakiteboarding.com

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