Everglades City is located at the North edge of the Ten Thousands Islands. You can launch from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and enter the Everglades National Park. While the launch site is not the best I have ever seen - especially at low tide when you have to deal with very shallow water over muck and mud - there is plenty of room to park while you are kayaking. The rangers (who you pay the fees to) are very helpful as to conditions and other information you may need.
Once in the water, we paddled our kayaks directly across the shallows instead of following the deeper water marked by navigational aids. The trip to Picnic Key, where we had paid the camping fee, was around an easy seven mile paddle.
Since we left late in the day there was little time to select a camp site so we just pitched our tents on the beach a couple of hundred yards away from the porta potties.
Awakening the next day, a short hike along the channel by the porta potties revealed a much better camp site in terms of providing a breeze which eliminated much of the insect problem. There was also abundant wild life: Raccoons, Rosetta Spoonbills, various egrets, Ospreys, bait fish in balls, jacks feeding on them, and a shark feeding on the jacks.
After the wildlife viewing we paddled to a couple of islands to the South, again using well maintained navigational markers and maps provided by the rangers.
The paddle back the next day split up the 11 person group somewhat due to a brisk wind and an outgoing tide. While I had little trouble dealing with the current/tide some of the less experienced paddlers needed breaks. So a word of warning: make sure you check the tide tables when planning your trip.
There are several camping sites and not all have the same facilities. Here is a link which will help sort out the options:
This trip was a university trip and the university provided 16, 17, and 18 ft skin on frame kayaks of various types. Tents, sleeping bags, and camping gear was also from the university, but I brought my personal gear.
Yes. There are multiple options which are described in this link:
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located 5 miles south of Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) on State Road 29, in Everglades City. From Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley), take exit 80 (State Road 29) south and proceed 20 miles to Everglades City. Once in Everglades City, follow the signs to the park. The visitor center is on the right
The only map used was provided by the rangers when we paid the fees.