• Long Pine Key Campground: Ah, wilderness. It’s not for everybody, but you don’t know until you try. The 200 campsites located 6 miles in from Everglades National Park’s Ernest Coe Visitor Center can not be reserved in advance, but they are never full. The campground has a bathroom with water, but no showers and no electricity. There may be bugs, even in winter. You can bring pets, but keep them on a short leash: wildlife abounds here, including birds of prey, gators, and — occasionally — exotic Burmese pythons. You can hike or bike alone or join a group for a ranger-led talk or walk; paddle a canoe or kayak around the marked trail at Nine Mile Pond; and tour the historic Cold War Nike Missile site, among other things. Park admission is $10 per car, plus $16 per night for a campsite holding two tents with up to six people; $8 per night for seniors with Golden Age passes. (Address: Everglades National Park, near Homestead. 305-242-7873.)
Riding on South Florida’s crowded urban byways (and even residential cul-de-sacs) can be a risky adventure. For an enhanced outdoors experience where you might actually spot wildlife, check out some of the region’s scenic back roads.
• Shark Valley: One of the most popular bike trails in the region, the 15-mile, flat paved loop road through the Shark River Slough is probably the best place in the entire region to see alligators in the wild. Many can be found in the canal that runs along the road directly behind the visitors’ center, but there usually are plenty more lazing beneath the large observation tower located at the halfway point, and a few others scattered around the back side of the loop. Besides alligators, you are likely to see a rich variety of bird life: anhinga, cormorant, endangered wood stork, egret, great blue heron and many others. Occasionally, bicyclists spot otter and deer. Admission is $10 per vehicle, and the parking lot fills quickly on weekends and holidays, so some visitors park along Tamiami Trail. You can bring your own bike or rent one from the concessionaire (305-221-8455) for $8.50 per hour, but rental bikes are usually gone by 10 a.m. during peak periods. (Address: Everglades National Park, 36000 SW Eighth St., West Miami-Dade. 305-221-8455.)
• Loop road, Big Cypress National Preserve: This 27-mile rough road is a superb way to get close to wildlife and observe the ever-changing landscape of the Big Cypress swamp. Many bicyclists begin their trek at Monroe Station, the site of a 1920s filling station built to serve motorists on the fledgling Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), located about 4 miles west of the Oasis Visitor Center. From there, you can pedal the whole road, winding up at Forty Mile Bend, or just turn around whenever you feel like it. Along the way you will feel like part of a Clyde Butcher photograph, for this is where the famed nature photographer has shot many of his black-and-white masterpieces. You will pass through sawgrass prairie, pine forest and cypress strand. You might see gators, otters, bears and just about any kind of bird that winters in South Florida. You will encounter automobiles, but not that many, and pass private camps with airboats and other off-road vehicles. You also may greet hikers because the Loop Road marks the beginning of the Florida Trail, which extends for more than 1,000 miles north to the Florida Panhandle. (Address: Off Tamiami Trail midway between Miami and Naples, 239-695-4759 or 239-695-1201.)