Anybody who has ever camped at Flamingo in Everglades National Park has first-hand experience with the relentless hordes of mosquitos. As a tent camper, I’ve had mosquitos practically carry me away even in January. But there is now a more civilized Everglades alternative.
Beginning in November, the Flamingo Lodge and Restaurant opens, providing air-conditioned (and mosquito free) lodging. The lodge is the first at Flamingo since 2005, when hurricanes Wilma and Katrina destroyed the old Flamingo Lodge.
Built and operated by concessionaire Guest Services, uniquely the lodge is built from recycled shipping containers. There are 24 “cottages” in four buildings, plus the restaurant, overlooking Florida Bay. Using the shipping containers allowed for modular construction, and reduced the environmental impact on the construction site. The units stand above ground level on pillars to stand above any storm surges storms might toss at Flamingo.
There are one- and two-bedroom options. Each room has a kitchenette, complete with refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher.
Guest Services CEO Nico Foris says the lodge offers guests a welcome respite from the Florida heat and flying critters.
“All guest rooms, as well as the indoor section of the restaurant, are air-conditioned, which we know our guests will appreciate. Nevertheless, when outdoors we recommend applying insect repellent and well as minimizing exposed skin when possible,” said Foris.
The recently renovated Flamingo Guy Bradley Visitor Center nearby offers a meeting room for up to 55 people and a smaller conference room. The lodge restaurant provides catering for group meetings.
The lodge began booking reservations in August, and some winter weeks are already booking out. Rates range from $159 to $299 (per night, plus tax) in the summer season and $259 to $399 (per night, plus tax) from November through March.
On site there are rentals for kayaks, canoe, and bicycles. Guest Services also offers houseboats and eco tents for rent. A popular hiking trail terminates at the restaurant.
Flamingo is a place of remarkable natural beauty, but visitor levels drop off in the summer months due to the relentless Florida heat and torrential wet-season storms. Those conditions last typically from May to November. The National Park Service offers ranger-led tours year-round, but most other events occur during the winter months.
The new lodge is expected to help draw visitors year-round.
The Park Service, following the loss of the Flamingo Lodge, was interested in the “eco-tent” approach to lodging because of the hurricanes that can rake Florida. The tent systems that Guest Services went with are designed to stand up to a Category 4 hurricane