Natural escapes to ecological preserves minutes away by bike in Hollywood, Florida. A vast sawgrass and gator-inhabited wilderness, including the Everglades National Park, found less than an hour’s drive from the Miami skyline. What surprised my family and me the most on our recent ecotourism adventure in the Miami or Fort Lauderdale areas were their accessibility – and beauty.

While Part 1 in this series of blog posts covers what’s possible just off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean, for this blog we stayed closer to shore.

Stand Up Paddleboarding With Jorge Posada

Stand-Up Paddleboarding through Mangroves in Hollywood

Our guide, Jorge Posada, makes it seem too easy.

“First, kneel on the paddeboard until you’re comfortable and can maintain your balance,” he coaches, just as the early morning light cuts across Dania Beach, with its popular pier for fishing and stretch of sand most popular among high school-aged locals and skim boarders. “Once you have your balance, with one leg first, stand up on your paddleboard.” Within minutes, my son and I were upright and calmly paddling up Whisky Creek, named as such after being used to smuggle booze during prohibition. Today, the pristine mangrove-lined waterways are protected as the John U. Lloyd State Park, just north of Hollywood and south of Fort Lauderdale, sandwiched between the Intercoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean.

Gliding across the calm surface of the water on our stand up paddleboard, or SUP for short, we spotted pufferfish darting about and surprised a crab scampering for cover. Being atop the paddleboard, peering down into the water, provides a clear perspective of the aquatic life beneath the waters. Besides offering private paddleboard lessons and tours to Whisky Creek and nearby at the 1,501-acre coastal mangrove wetland area that includes the Anne Kolb Nature Center and West Lake Park, Posada coaches clients on personal fitness and nutrition as a part of his company, FocusFitt. By the end of the hour-long paddle, we felt as nearly at ease on our paddleboard as our guide.

Airboat In Everglades

Airboat Expedition of the Everglades

“Inches deep, but nearly fifty miles wide, the Everglades is America’s slowest moving river,” says Steve Caves, our guide for Airboat in Everglades who coasted to a stop within a couple feet of an 9-foot-plus-long American…