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The New Flamingo Lodge Immerses Visitors in the Beauty of Everglades National Park

The hotel reuses shipping containers for eco-friendly construction, and they'll cook your catch if you have luck fishing

by Bill Kearney

April 8, 2024

Everglades National Park / Photo: Courtesy of Flamingo Everglades Adventures

There’s something thrilling about spending the night at the wild southern tip of Everglades National Park, known as Flamingo, where America stops and the Gulf of Mexico collides with endless stars. There’s also something very hot and mosquito-filled about it. It has been 19 years since the park had air-conditioned accommodations—in 2005 two hurricanes pummeled a circa-1959 lodge so severely that it had to be demolished.

Everglades trail / Photo: Courtesy of Bonnie Barnes

But a new Flamingo Lodge has arisen. The hotel cleverly reuses shipping containers for eco-friendly construction, resulting in an aesthetic I’ll call “enviro-industrial.” The rooms are elevated 16 feet off the ground, to survive both hurricanes and sea-level rise. All told, there are eight two-bedroom suites, 12 one-bedroom units for up to four guests, and four studios for two guests.

Luxurious and ornate they’re not—the place feels bulletproof. But they’re spotless, with firm beds and plenty of hot shower water for washing off whatever adventure you get into.

Glamping tent at Flamingo Lodge / Photo: Courtesy of Flamingo Everglades Adventures

Each unit has an elevated back porch with outdoor seating and views that look east for sunrise and moonrise over Florida Bay. And units are set up with kitchens replete with stoves and pans for cooking.

But there’s no need to cook if you don’t want to. There’s also a spacious restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a full-service bar. The food is surprisingly good for a casual counter-service operation. Breakfast highlights include steel-cut oatmeal topped with mango, toasted coconut, agave and chia seeds, and lunch options include a blackened mahi-mahi sandwich with Cajun rémoulade that’s top-notch. They’ll also cook your catch if you have luck fishing (more on that later).

There’s much more to Flamingo than fishing. You can bring mountain bikes, with several trails taking you to secluded areas. There’s also ample hiking, canoeing and kayaking opportunities.

Pelican / Photo: Courtesy of Flamingo Everglades Adventures

Hurricanes also wiped out the previous visitors’ center, which has reopened, as well. The revamped version, named after Guy Bradley, a game warden shot in the line of duty in 1905, preserves much of the aesthetic of the original building, adding a pop of pink to the green and gray of Florida Bay. Displays inside provide a deeper understanding of the surrounding wilderness.

Wildlife viewing can be exceptional. Alligators, bull sharks and American crocodiles all top Flamingo’s very rich food chain, which also includes a stunning array of bird life. Ospreys are common, and you might even see a bald eagle stealing their catch. In winter, white pelicans swarm by the hundreds, and there’s an abundance of wading birds such as great blue herons, night herons and roseate spoonbills. Hawks and owls abound, too. There’s even a new flock of flamingos in the area that bird experts believe was swept up from the Caribbean by Hurricane Idalia in 2023.

Captain Shawn MacMullin with a snook / Photo: Courtesy of Bill Kearney

With the aforementioned “cook your catch” option in mind, a friend and I chartered a day of fishing with Captain Shawn MacMullin of Prime Time Charters on his 25-foot Pathfinder. He first took us to toss live shrimp at mangrove shorelines for snook. We landed several before the tide slowed down, then headed out to the Gulf of Mexico where MacMullin knew just where to find Atlantic tripletail, a type of fish that hunts the surface and has a knack for looking like a piece of debris.

We caught a 12-pounder and then the three of us sat down for a lunch at the restaurant. The chef fittingly made the tripletail three ways: blackened, grilled and fried—the perfect ending to a few days at land’s end.