Everglades National Park | ERNEST COE VISITOR CENTER

Ernest Coe Visitor Center

Ernest Coe Visitor Center

See the Visitor Centers web page for an interactive location map.


GENERAL INFORMATION

The Ernest Coe Visitor Center is the main visitor center for Everglades National Park, and the only one with a large museum and a theater that shows the park orientation film. The Visitor Center is located outside of the Homestead entrance gate, so you can stop in without paying the park fee.

Ernest Coe (1866-1951) is considered the “father of the Everglades.” A landscape designer in the vein of Frederick Olmsted, Coe moved to Miami at the age of 60 after working as a professional landscape gardener in Connecticut. He became one of south Florida’s premiere naturalists, and for twenty years he worked to promote the Everglades to National Park status.

HOURS

The Ernest Coe Visitor Center is open 365 days a year. Operating hours for mid-December through mid-April are from 8 AM to 5 PM, and 9 AM to 5 PM the rest of the year. Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to visit the Everglades’ official Ernest Coe Visitor Center web page for the latest schedule.

AMENITIES

  • Ranger-staffed information desk where you can pick up a free park brochure and trail maps, plus get information on Ranger-led tours
  • Register for Royal Palm area Ranger-led tours that require reservations (see the park’s Calendar web page for a schedule)
  • Book / souvenir store
  • Large exhibit area
  • Theater that shows the park orientation film
  • Restrooms
Information desk at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center

Information desk at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center

Book and souvenir store at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park

Book and souvenir store at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park

PARK FILM

A 15-minute documentary on the Everglades, produced by the Discovery Channel, is shown in the Visitor Center auditorium on demand—just ask the Ranger at the information desk to start it for you. The film is suitable for all ages. The main focus is on the park’s current water situation. Water is meant to flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, but in the early- to mid-1900s, much of the water was either drained or confined to canals so the land could be developed into farms and residential and business properties. In the 1920s, the Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) was constructed, which essentially acted as a dam. The road had only a few culverts to allow water to flow through and continue south. Today, sections of the highway have been raised to allow more water into the area, but even so, the flow is nowhere near what it should be naturally.

EXHIBITS

The Ernest Coe Visitor Center has a large exhibit area that focuses on the nature of the Everglades. It takes about an hour to read everything in the museum, but for those who have no such interest or time, there are a few exhibits worth mentioning. Keeping with the topic of water conservation as discussed in the park film, exhibits on the subject make up a good portion of the museum. With the demand for water at an all time high, there is a fight to secure water for different sectors of the economy. Listen to the debate between homeowners, vacationers, fishermen, farmers, conservationists, and park Rangers at the Great Water Debate exhibit.

Great Water Debate exhibit

Great Water Debate exhibit

For those interested in birds, there is a five-minute video that shows the different species found in the park. Look for an exhibit with three sets of binoculars. These are actually video screens. One set of binoculars is low enough to the ground for children. There is no beginning or end to the film, so just watch until you get back around to where you started.

There are also a number of nature dioramas in the museum. These cover birds, fish, and alligators.

Nature diorama at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park

Nature diorama at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park

Alligator diorama

Alligator diorama

A separate room houses an art gallery. I am not sure if this is a permanent exhibit or if the art pieces rotate, but all are done by artists local to the area.

Art Gallery

Art Gallery

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

As mentioned, if you want to read all of the information and see all exhibits in the museum, plan to spend an hour just for that task. Most people have no such interest, but still allow fifteen minutes to browse the area. Factor in the park film and time to talk with the park Rangers to get the information you need, and you can spend anywhere from 45 minutes up to 1.5 hours if you want to read through all of the exhibits.

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Last updated on February 22, 2021
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