Everglades National Park | SANDFLY ISLAND TRAIL

Sandfly Island Trail map (click to enlarge)

Sandfly Island Trail map (click to enlarge)


See the Hiking web page for an interactive location map.


Length: 1-mile loop
Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

The Sandfly Island Trail is located on Sandfly Island and requires a boat or canoe trip to reach it (see the Sandfly Island Canoe Trip web page for details). By canoe or kayak it takes about an hour to reach the landing point on the otherwise impenetrable mangrove-lined shore. While there is a dock at the island, algae has made the stairs very slippery, and visitors are asked to land on the small “beach” to the right of the dock.

Small beach at Sandfly Island

Small beach at Sandfly Island

Sandfly Island is one of the very few islands in Everglades National Park that you have the opportunity to explore, and for that reason, if you stop on the island, I highly suggest hiking the trail (which is the only thing to do anyway). While the exterior is covered with mangroves, areas of hardwood forest can be found on the interior, and the trail passes through this forest. Be sure you have on closed-toe shoes. With sandals, rocks and dirt get between the bottoms of your feet and the soles of the sandals and it makes walking miserable—trust me.

The trail begins at the end of the dock, forking to start the loop just past an old cistern and a few foundation blocks, the only remnants of a 1912 home built by Charlie Boggess. There was no fresh water on the island, so Boggess had to collect rainwater. How anyone could live with the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and sandflies is beyond me. When you live in a place named for something despised, you should know you are in the wrong place. Despite the hardships, Boggess ran a 30-acre tomato farm until moving in 1923. A few other people lived on the island until it became part of Everglades National Park in 1947.

Cistern of the Charlie Boggess homestead

Cistern of the Charlie Boggess homestead

At the fork you can go either left or right. I chose to proceed in the counterclockwise direction and took a right. A boardwalk takes hikers over any wet areas, but otherwise the trail is a traditional earthen path. Signs that identify the plants in the area can be found periodically along the way.

Boardwalk through the wet ares of the Sandfly Island Trail

Boardwalk through the wet ares of the Sandfly Island Trail

The start of the trail runs through some swampy terrain, and this is where you will find the mosquitoes, even in early February when I visited. They weren’t out in force, and as long as you don’t stop to read the signs and keep moving, they don’t land on you. Once you get away from the wet area, about a half mile into the hike, the terrain is drier and the mosquitoes disappear, though in the summer I’m sure they are everywhere.

Swamp area of Sandfly Island

Swamp area of Sandfly Island

Swamp area of Sandfly Island

Swamp area of Sandfly Island

Aside from the mosquitoes, the ecology of the island is fairly interesting. Here you will find the Gumbo Limbo tree—aka Tourist Tree—with its red, peeling bark, just like a tourist’s skin after a few days in Florida. Even Prickly Pear Cactus grow on the island.

Gumbo Limbo Tree

Gumbo Limbo Tree

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Other than the trail, there is nothing else to do on the island. There is a restroom on the dock, and if you have to wait for the tides to shift in a direction favorable to your paddling trip, you can sit on the small beach or the dock and have a lunch or take a short nap.

Dock at Sandfly Island

Dock at Sandfly Island

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Last updated on January 1, 2020
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