Visit the Everglades Tourist Traps
One weekend in July 2013, we planned a short road trip south east of Naples that would take us about 60 miles into the heart of the Everglades along the old Tamiami Trail road, which connects Naples to Miami.
Everglades Tourist Traps Something for Everyone
Closest to Naples is the Fakahatchee Indian Shop, which has an assortment of good for sale relating to typical touristy Indian stuff, but the real value is a conversation with the Miccosukee Indian lady working the shop. She said the Miccosukee and the Seminole Indian were once one tribe, but because the Miccosukee wanted to remain traditional and the Seminole more modern, they split several years ago.
The Indian Village along Tamiami Trail is traditional Miccosukee, while the village on interstate 75 (or Alligator Alley) is Seminole. Both villages are open to the public, but the Miccosukee shop just east of Marco Island doesn’t allow visitors into their village. You must continue east for about 60 miles to that village.
It turns out that our visit in July 2013 was the historical point when Wooten, the son of the founder, sold the business to a long time airboat captain in Everglades City. We noticed that the Macaw cage at the front of the store was empty and I asked a few questions why, which led to the announcement that the business had just sold.
The Wooten family were originally from Labelle and it sounds like that is were Mr. Wooten is going to retire.
Just east of the Wooten airboat operation is the Skunk Ape Research Headquaters which is home to a few colorful characters that spend much of their time reminiscing about time spent wandering the Everglades swamp.
This Everglades tourist trap offers visitors a warehouse filled with large snakes in containers of various sizes. Descriptions on these containers are few and far between and we were left to guess what large snake it was. They have a fair amount of non-native Macaws as well, and some talk English.
The help at Skunk Ape Research Headquaters are pre-occupied with other matters that have little to do with customer care or satisfaction. But you could strike up a lively conversation with the man behind the Skunk Ape legend or purchase the Skunk Ape Movie at the cashier. There is no air conditioning in the warehouse housing the reptiles, so its hot and its humid.
As far as I know Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe is the only restaurant along Tamiami Trail, in the area of Marco Island. We tried her ‘Fish and Chips with fresh Flounder’ and it cost just over $14 with tax. Joanie, the owner of the cafe, was not in the day we visited and nor was the live entertainment and nor was the lemons for the fish and chips. But we substituted with lime.
The help ate Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe were not tourist guides. They serve your food on plastic plates and a plastic food bowl with plastic utensils and you get your drink from the fountain yourself and drink from a plastic cup. There is no air conditioning in the restaurant and mostly natural lighting with a large array of memorabilia on all walls, which is entertainment in itself.
They are open most days from 9 to midnight, but the sign on the wall says it all about their work schedule. “Some days or afternoons we aren’t here at all and lately I’ve been here just about all the time, except when I’m someplace else.”
Clyde Butcher has a gallery about mile marker 54 heading east from Marco Island. Its an easy drive and easily done as a round trip from Naples with one tank of gas. Clyde Butcher calls this his Big Cypress Gallery and it mostly shows large black and white photographs of Big Cypress, but a fair amount is photographs outside the swamp. Clyde Butcher is all about black and white and large format cameras and a traditional, almost age forgotten art of photography. It reminds me of work I did in the South African Air force when I worked as a photographer during my draft days. Managing such large prints, sometimes over 7 feet in length, can be a task.
What I find most interesting about Clyde Butcher is how he manages to lug around all this hefty photographic equipment in the water without it getting wet. His photos sell from over $100,000 to small postcards, $5 for 3 in the shop, so there is something for everyone.