Get outside! Essentials for a Big Cypress Reservation Visit
With the weather getting warmer, and more places open for visitors, the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation is the perfect family-friendly day trip destination. Learn about Seminole culture and take in gorgeous south Florida landscapes in only a few hours’ drive (roundtrip!) from each coast. But what about before you start your road trip? Follow along for everything you need to know before visiting the Big Cypress Reservation!
How to get to Big Cypress
Whether you are coming from the east or west coast of Florida, the scenic drive will be sure to impress you on the way. Each drive is very different, and if you ever have the chance to do both you won’t regret it! To make the directions simple, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is being used as a landmark.
From the East
Take I-75 east until exit 49 (Snake Road). Continue for roughly 17 miles as you enter the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. The Museum will be on your left at the intersection of Josie Billie Hwy and West Boundary Rd. There is free parking across the street from the Museum entrance for visitors. Snake road is a beautiful, winding road that is enjoyable to drive. Watch for alligators and birds in the canals and waterways!
From the West
From Fort Myers, take FL 82-E for about 19 miles. Keep right to turn on FL-29. Continue on FL-29 through Immokalee. You will turn left onto E Main, and then almost immediately turn left onto County Rd 846. Take County Rd 846 for 20 miles. You will come to an intersection where you will take a sharp right onto County Rd 833 S. You will take 833 S for another 16 miles, and end up right on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Turn right at the stoplight (the Museum will be directly in front of you) to park in the Museum parking lot. This drive features more rustic farmland. Lush pastures, Spanish moss, and mixed hardwoods and cypress are all prominent on the drive.
What do you need?
Florida heat is deceptive, and if you’re a visitor to the Sunshine State make sure to pack a lot of water for your trip! Spring and summer are very humid in south Florida, and it can be dangerous to be dehydrated. Pack a reusable water bottle. There are ample water bottle filling stations on the Museum grounds.
Just like water, salty snacks are an important thing to bring to replace your electrolytes. Peanuts, jerky, or even Gatorade are great shelf-stable items to pack. Just remember, no food or drink (except water) can be consumed inside the Museum! If you forget, Sadie’s Big Cypress Landing is a great place to stop and pick up some snacks. Located on the eastern side of the community, Sadie’s is stocked with snacks, ice cream, drinks, and more convenience items.
Remember, sun protection is not limited to sunscreen! Pick clothing items with built-in UV protection, long sleeves, large brim hats, and sunglasses. Sun burns, dehydration, and even sun poisoning are important things to consider when out in the elements. Make sure you are prepared by taking sun protection seriously!
Do not miss the Museum boardwalk during your trip to Big Cypress! Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes is a must to enjoy it, and the rest of the reservation, to the fullest. Running shoes or hiking sandals are both great options for your visit.
A Tank of Gas
While there is a gas station on the reservation, since Big Cypress is about an hour away from each coast it is a good idea to come with a full tank. You can always top off up either in Big Cypress, or at the Miccosukee Service Plaza. Thinking ahead about travel time and gas will save you a lot of stress on your journey!
Camera and Binoculars
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is committed to Everglades conservation, restoration, and the continuing health of the ecosystem. So, while you’re visiting make sure to not disturb the local plants and wildlife. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look and take pictures! Grab your camera to make memories in the cypress dome and boardwalk. Binoculars can help when trying to identify plants and animals!
Plant and Bird ID Book/App
If you want to identify birds and plants, make sure to bring a guidebook or app along with you! While some native plants and animals are identified by signage along the Museum’s boardwalk, some are not. The Audubon Bird Guide is a great app option, and it will allow you to identify birds on the fly.
While many places in Florida do not require masks, the Seminole Tribe of Florida tribal government is requiring all visitors and staff to wear masks in all indoor spaces. This is non-negotiable in order to protect the Seminole community, guests, and staff. The rule is regardless of vaccination status, and the only exception is children under the age of three who are unable to mask. This requirement is in addition to other efforts being made by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to keep everyone safe. These measures include: thorough cleaning of all public spaces, free hand sanitizer stations and disposable masks, and physical distancing reminders. Please read the Museum’s Covid-19 guidelines prior to your visit for the most up-to-date information.
Highlights on Big Cypress
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a great family-friendly destination for people of all interests. The Museum has been open since August 21, 1997. They have hosted countless events and visitors over the years while working to share and teach about Seminole culture. The Museum has a number of exhibits, a gift shop, a mile-long boardwalk, and a village and hunting camp to explore. Learn about Seminole culture and their deep ties to Florida and the Southeast. If you’re interested in a sneak peek, please check out a previous Virtual Tour post. But don’t mistake the virtual tour for the real thing! Visiting is necessary for getting the most updated offerings, as well as the full experience.
Some new offerings to the Museum include an exhibit featuring Seminole artist Elgin Jumper in the Mosaic Gallery. “Fluent Poetry” artwork by Elgin Jumper is running now through May 31, 2022. Those who peruse the 14-piece exhibit can expect “Tonalism, Cubism, Fauvism, Graffiti Art, Abstract Art, Charcoal, and Mixed-media drawings.” Elgin explained, “There is a visual poetry that takes place in these pieces, something that’s unique and lyrical. If you know my life’s poetry, you know Elgin.” Make sure to stop by and see this dynamic exhibit!
In addition to this new exhibit, springtime in Big Cypress brings a whole new batch of animals for you to be on the lookout for! The Museum boardwalk is a mile-long raised loop through a 60-acre cypress dome. The boardwalk also passes by the village, ceremonial grounds, and hunting camp. It is part of the Florida Birding Trail. So, keep your eyes sharp for some beautiful examples of springtime birds. Although Florida is best known for big populations of winter birds, spring can also be a great time to birdwatch. Numerous wading birds, warblers, raptors, woodpeckers, and songbirds can be spotted. Make sure to pack your identification book (or app!) to identify as many as you can. The boardwalk loop is also a wonderful activity for people of all abilities. It is wheelchair and walking aide accessible with benches to stop, rest, and appreciate the sounds of the cypress dome.
Mark your calendars! Big upcoming events at the Museum include:
The Museum 25th Anniversary Celebration on August 21st, 2022
Big Cypress RV Park
Looking to stay a bit longer? The Big Cypress RV Park is the place for you! It boasts full service amenities and RV hookups, as well as air conditioned cabins for rent. While staying, you’ll have access to a heated outdoor pool, mini golf, horseshoes, bocce ball, and more on site. The BC RV Park is conveniently located close to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and the rest of the on-reservation amenities. Take in the beauty of the Everglades in comfort. Make sure you book your reservations in advance, as well as check any updated Covid-19 restrictions.
Sweet Tooth Café
Just across the street from the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, the Sweet Tooth Café is a great place to stop for a bite to eat. After walking through a humid cypress dome at the Museum, you deserve it! Walk up to the order window and choose from hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza, and milkshakes. Although simple, everything is fresh and worth the wait. Come for the food, but stay for a chat at this popular lunch spot!
Swamp Water Café
Exciting news: the Swamp Water Cafe reopened on April 18th! Located at 30000 Gator Tail Trail (on the grounds of Billie Swamp Safari, which is still closed), the Swamp Water Café offers Seminole and American Cuisine. Everything on the menu is a win, but be sure to try the Indian Taco–you will be glad you did!