Winter Glamping Flamingo Florida Adventures

Winter Glamping Flamingo Florida Eco Tents

Eco Tent Glamping in Flamingo

The first thing you may ask yourself is why? Why would I go to the end of the continental United States to camp in an upgraded tent? For me, visiting Flamingo was an opportunistic detour.

In the winter of 2024, I had one night between leaving Key West Literary Summit  and arriving in Everglades City to meet my Fakahatchee Panther Walks crew.

Once I realized this lodging gap would allow me to visit Everglades National Park for the first time, the overnight trip flashed like a lens flare on my mind. This was my shot!

My schedule aligned with my friend, Jenn Harned, a tried-and-true Orlando city girl, who did a big trust lean and agreed to glamp in the Flamingo Eco Tents with me.

Jenn picked me up at a rental car return in South Miami and we turned southwest, following the setting sun.

Dusk on the Boardwalks at Flamingo Eco Tents

High Hopes for Winter Glamping at Flamingo Eco Tents

  • I hoped I wasn’t just being cheap by staying in the eco lodges because it was the most affordable lodging in the region. Had I not learned from the stinky Key West boat stay a few years back? The Flamingo Eco Tent was $109 per night compared to $350+ for a night in a hotel in the the Upper Keys. I didn’t find appealing options in Homestead and didn’t have the interest/energy/research to successfully do a Miami jaunt.
  • I hoped to find an art colony in the Everglades. Friends pointed me to Artists in Residency Everglades (AIRIE) and I had it in my mind that there was a bustling gallery in Everglades National Park.

  • I hoped to see Florida wildlife. Prime choice: Florida Panther. Next, West Indian Manatees, then American Crocodiles and Roseate Spoonbills.

  • I hoped to see the Everglades that Marjory Stoneman Douglas knew. She’s the acclaimed author of The Everglades: River of Grass, and if you’ve ever committed to completing it, you are swimming with images of saw grass rivers and swamp fires by the end.

Entry to Everglades National Park

Alright look, I was planning on paying the national park entry fee ($35 per vehicle) since Jenn did the driving, but fortune was with me when the tollbooth worker waived us through without paying. It was the end of her shift, she said. 

That win helped offset our experience at the Everglades National Park Visitor Center, where the highlight was the bronze Florida Panther statue in the parking lot and the giant python skeleton in the museum. 

 Everglades National Park Visitor Center Panther

Gone Fishing? Gallery for Artists in Residence in Everglades

I had high expectations for the Artist in Residency in Everglades NEST Gallery. On their Instagram feed and website, they share tales of marvelous people exploring their art, their identity, and their roots in the Everglades. 

Leading up to the visit, I was doing all the things (Instagram, website, Google Maps) to understand exactly what and where it was, and saw that visitors are welcome at their gallery space. This part wasn’t clear, but if you’re looking for it, the AIRIE Nest Gallery is located within the Everglades National Park Visitor’s Center.

Y’all, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt: We must have arrived between residents. Somebody fell ill. Somebody had to go tarpon fishing. I get that.

But that day, the gallery space was a disappointment. There was a circle of stumps. There was a printed shower curtain. There was, proportionally for the room, generous amounts of white drywall. The space itself was smaller than it seemed in photos. It was unclear what was happening or meant to be happening in there. I don't recall any information about the art residency program or the space. The python skeleton in the adjacent visitor’s center museum was more interesting.

I hate that I didn’t love it. I would stop at the Nest Gallery again because something must have been awry that day. Either that, or the marketing team is a crew of magicians.

Flamingo Adventures Florida Eco Tents Parking Pass E

My Review of The Winter Eco-Tents Experience

Flamingo Florida Glamping beside Florida Bay

The beds at Flamingo Eco Tents

In the winter there are real beds in the tents. I visited in January, and the beds were comfortable—more comfortable than the bed I stayed in at El Patio in Key West and for half the price. Comparing a tent in the Everglades to a classic motel in Key West is probably a faux pas, but it was literally where I was coming from.

Our tent had two double beds with an aisle in between and a pseudo bedside stand. I don’t know why the beds are only available in the winter. I also don’t know why you would stay there in the heat of the summer, unless the lodge was sold out or the eco tents are your only option…they are not air conditioned, if that needs to be said. It is a big, durable tent, with screens on all sides and cloth walls that can be rolled up to let more air pass through or dropped down for more privacy. It did feel like a safari-style tent, and the Everglades always feel like America's safari to me.

The Sea of Grass
Glamping on the Sea of Grass

Elevated Flamingo Eco Tents & Boardwalk

The Flamingo eco tents are elevated off the ground and connected by a boardwalk. Jenn and I arrived after sundown and the solar lights on the edge of the boardwalk were comforting and took the edge off while my mind ran wild with visions of crocodiles and pythons below the boardwalk. Instead, we spotted a grasshopper on our way to the tent. When the sun came up the next morning, there was mostly plant life below us.

Grasshopper in everglades

The Porch is the living room of the Flamingo Eco Tent

The front porch of the tent is open air (no screens) but when the bugs are bad, and they are bad, you can roll up the tent flaps and watch the salt marsh from behind the screened-in sides. The reason we were on the porch with the mosquitos is because it’s the only place we could eat our breakfast — food is not allowed in the eco-tents and that’s just good housekeeping. I could see an ant colony moving in overnight or a hungry bear. Anyway, no complaints on that rule, we just kept applying bug spray and lit the citronella candles on the porch.

Shelby Little Flamingo  Florida Eco Tents Porch
Jenn Harned Flamingo Florida Eco Tents Porch

The bathrooms at the Flamingo Eco Tent

There are no showers at the eco-tents. So if that's a hard no for you, I understand.

The bathrooms were clean and located between the tents and the parking lot. You have to schlep your toiletries from the tent to the bathrooms to brush your teeth at night, which is camping as I know it, but thank goodness for the park workers who were keeping it clean. It was a short walk to the restrooms and a bit of a thrill to be out at night in the glades, under the stars, and hearing the birds. Somewhere out there the panthers prowl. Next to the bathroom in the morning, a red-shouldered hawk eyed a small dog.

Everglades Florida Sunset

Things to bring to the Flamingo eco-tents:

  • Breathable, long-sleeved shirts and pants as initial mosquito armor

  • Citronella candles

  • Lantern or flashlight

  • Sunscreen

  • A variety of bug repellent. Go ahead and pack your lemongrass, eucalyptus and lavender mist. But also pack your heavy duty repellant. We used both and regularly reapplied. Yes, in January.

  • Books/cards/journal/birding diary. The tents don't have games or entertainment options and it is very quiet out there.

Mangrove at Florida Bay Flamingo Florida Campground
The Flamingo Eco Tents are huddled on the shore of Florida Bay but not all have a view of the water.

Camp Cooking & Flamingo Restaurant: What to Know

You cannot eat in your tent at Flamingo, so if you are considering taking your camp kitchen set-up, think again. We did see a family cooking on the picnic tables, which are located back near the parking lot and bathrooms, but that would take significant forethought.

Since I had no camping supplies with me and the Flamingo Restaurant had just opened, we planned to eat there for dinner and breakfast. The prices were higher than I expected, but also, when it’s the only restaurant in the park, that’s to be expected. We paid close to $17 each for dinner.

Jenn and I discovered that the Flamingo Restaurant does not have fresh fish on the menu, which seems odd when water is abundant nearby. However, if you catch fish, they will cook it for you. When we spotted this option on the menu ahead of time, Jenn offered to pick up a fresh catch at Publix before heading into the park. She did not make that Publix run and it turned out fine.

For us, the mahi-mahi wraps and fresh salad mix was fine. Alright, I'll admit despite my pretentious questions about when the fish was harvested, I didn't mind the previously-frozen fish wrap. No complaints.

Fine, the mahi wrap was delicious.

There goes my chances of ever being a swanky food critic.

At breakfast we paid close to $10 each for oatmeal with chia seeds and tropical fruit. I thought it taste good. Jenn did not. If you’re reading this and thinking, do they always order the same thing at restaurants…well, maybe we do.

The aesthetic in Flamingo was clean cafeteria with aqua accents and no sound. I hope they are working on installing some speakers. A friendly young man named Jake was running the front of the restaurant when we visited for dinner and he agreed, being able to play music would be a game changer.

One more thing to know: all the employees we were in contact with were very friendly: at the restaurant, the info booths, the visitor center —except for a salty ranger, but he was stuck indoors, and the man clearly expected the life of an outdoorsman. But back to my point, these people are naturally kind, and that is a national treasure in itself.

Guy Bradley Visitor Center Flamingo Florida Everglades
This is the Guy Bradley Visitor Center at Flamingo, not to be confused with the Everglades National Park Welcome Center, or the Flamingo Restaurant, which is next door near the Flamingo Lodges. Do visit Guy Bradley's museum. There are excellent maps, displays, and elevated views of Florida Bay.
The old architecture at Flamingo sent my heart swooning. Here
An old filling station at Flamingo

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