Mention Florida to most folks and they think palm trees, ocean, sun, and girls in bikinis. But head south from Miami, about eleven miles west of the Florida Turnpike and you will find yourself smack dab in the middle of the Everglades. Here lies Coopertown, population eight, home to beautiful tropical birds, amazing natural woodlands, and of course plenty of alligators. The friendly Kennon family (descendents of the Cooper clan) has been welcoming adventure buffs from all over the world to explore the resplendent River of Grass, dine on exotic fare, and generally become one with all the magnificent wonders the Florida Everglades have to offer.
[php snippet=1]Coopertown’s biggest draw is their fleet of seven airboats. From a small two-seater to a large, powerful 24-seater, the airboats are as loud as they are exciting. Hop on, put in a pair of ear plugs, and get ready for the ride of your life. As one of the highly experienced tour guides leads you through the many canals and small waterways you can expect to see cormorants, turtles, egrets, fields of saw grass, and much, much more. The guide will then stop for you at one of the predetermined clearings to allow you to see the biggest (literally) draw of the park, the alligators. Lured by the sound of the boat and the promise of snacks (don’t worry, you’re not on the menu) the alligators swim out to the boats to nibble marshmallows or perhaps pieces of bread tossed by the guide. This is the best time to pull out your camera as you are guaranteed some amazing up close and personal shots of one of America’s greatest predators. After the gators get their brunch hold on tight because your driver will be taking you zooming around the hammocks (natural islands in the river) and through some of the most breathtaking vistas you will ever see.
Back on land, your journey is not yet over. Any visitor to Coopertown has to visit the famous Coopertown restaurant. Tops in burgers and more typically kid friendly dining; the adventurous among you will definitely want to indulge in some delicious fried alligator tail or maybe even some of their renowned frog’s legs. If you can get past the “weird factor” these dishes are out of this world and unquestionably worthy of at least a tentative taste. Outside the owners have a special alligator exhibit where you can see some of their on site “pets” and learn more about these wonderful and impressive animals. Offering private or group tours, Coopertown gives visitors from all over the world a chance to see why in 1947 Harry Truman protected Everglades National Park, a magical and unique piece of American heritage
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