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Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park: Established in 1980 to protect Florida’s northernmost keys and the sparkling seas around them, Biscayne National Park is an anomaly in the US National Park System because it is made up of 95 percent water. This uniquely detailed 173,000-acre park is ideal for boaters, fishing fanatics, snorkelers, paddlers, and scuba divers, as well as those who enjoy the warm winds, glistening shallow seas, subtropical temperatures, lagoons teeming with wildlife, snorkeling, or Makes a bucket-list destination. Camping on the lush green islands under the palms.

The shoreline, mangroves, and 250 square miles of water are home (or temporary homes in the case of migratory birds) to a wide range of tropical, subtropical, and marine animals and plants, including more than 500 types of reef fish. Birds, 20 threatened and endangered species, and unfortunately some strange and hungry insects. The park also includes more than 10,000 years of human history, beginning with the migration of Paleo-Indians down the Florida peninsula, the arrival of the Takesta people as the waters rose, through European colonization, and up to the present day.

This complete guide has all the information you need to plan a trip to this beautiful and special Sunshine State spot a stone’s throw from Miami, including camping, what to do and see, and how to get there.

Things to Do in Biscayne National Park

Start your time in the park with a visit to the Dante Fassel Visitor Center. The center features dioramas/exhibits detailing the park’s four ecosystems, a ranger desk, a 20-minute park film titled “Connections”, a gallery highlighting local artists inspired by the park, and a porch full of rocking chairs.

Whether you bring your own sailboat or swim in the seagrass close to the shoreline, getting out or taking in the crystalline waters is a must. Boating and boating are two of the most popular activities in the park. There are Homestead Bayfront and Black Point Marina that dine directly in the park.

Enjoy a Sightseeing Tour

The Biscayne National Park Institute operates a wide variety of private and small group sightseeing tours, including a snorkel experience that stops at a shipwreck. All ages are welcome on the three-and-a-half-hour history boat tour that cruises an island and often encounters wildlife. Guided paddleboard tours through Jones Lagoon’s mangrove-lined waterways are perfect for the more active and often include sightings of baby sharks, upside-down jellyfish, rays, turtles, and manatees, as well as rose spoonbills and other birds.

Get Out on the Water

You can also bring your own canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. They are the ideal way to navigate around the mangroves, shallow creeks, lagoons, creeks, and channels south of Caesar Creek. Launch free of charge from the designated area adjacent to the parking lot. Many areas in the park are too shallow for motorized watercraft, so paddlers take these sights along and can enjoy some peace and quiet. Jones Lagoon and Hurricane Creek are some of my favorite spots. For a real challenge, try the 7-mile crossing from Biscayne Bay to Elliot or Boca Chita Keys.

Explore the Park on a Hike

While water-based activities such as boating, fishing, kiteboarding, and diving around the coral reefs the park are known for, there are some dry options such as hikes. Two paths twist through the tropical island landscape at Elliot Key. One runs the entire 7-mile length of the island while the other is a 1-mile loop between the bay side and Elliot’s Seaside that begins at the marina. There is also a short walkway into the jetty near the visitor center.

The Biscayne Birding Trail has 10 stops including the Fowey Rocks Historic Lighthouse, Convoy Point, Black Point Shoreline, Many Keys, and the Pacific Reef Light. Shorebirds and seabirds such as frigates, brown pelicans, and yellow-crowned night herons are very common. The park also receives seasonal feathered visitors and some species that come from the Caribbean from time to time. It has one of the largest populations of mangrove koalas in Florida.

See the Houses of Stiltsville

Biscayne is home to architecturally significant houses on stilts in the overwater neighborhood called Stiltsville. After Hurricane Andrew swept the area in 1992, only seven kooky houses dating back to at least the 1930s survived. The home’s storied history—which was added to the park in 1985—includes the original Stiltsville Pioneers, which provided bait, beer, and crawfish chowder, private social clubs with nude sunbathing decks, Life magazine coverage, and plenty of storm damage.

Public access to properties is by permit only. To inquire about renting one of the homes for camera shoots, small conventions, artist-in-residence sessions, or small family gatherings (day use only), contact the nonprofit that Oversees the Stiltsville Trust your planned stay at least three weeks in advance. The Biscayne National Park Institute also offers a two-hour cruise to get a closer look at the homes in the northernmost corner of the park. It originates from Diner’s Marina in Miami’s Coconut Grove.

Fishing in the Park

The bustling waters of Biscayne Bay support hundreds of fish species and encourage world-class fishing for spiny lobster (which cannot be pulled out of the park), snapper, grouper, tarpon, and bonefish. A Florida saltwater fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 16. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission sells permits and also sets rules. Be sure to brush up on local fishing regulations before your trip.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

The Maritime Heritage Trail boasts exciting opportunities to snorkel or scuba dive around the area’s many shipwrecks. Six wrecks, spanning roughly 1878 to 1966, fall within Biscayne’s boundaries. They can only be reached by boat and have installed mooring buoys. Mandalay is the most suitable ship destination for snorkelers. It’s also pretty decent around the base of the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse. The Earl King, Alicia, and Lugano on the other hand are the best sunken ships for tank dives. For a more guided experience, the Biscayne National Park Institute offers a variety of snorkel and scuba tours.

Where to Camp

There are two campgrounds within the park: Elliot’s and Boca Chita’s. As the name suggests, both are located on islands within the boundaries of the park and hence you must have a boat to reach them. You will also need to pay a reasonable fee which is $35 per night for docking and camping or $25 per night for camping only. Use Recreation.gov to pay after sunset on arrival day. There are no advance reservations.

Boca Chita is the most popular choice with its waterfront views, meadows, and swaying palms. There are picnic tables, grills, and toilets, but no shower, sink, or drinking water.

Elliot Key, the park’s largest island with 33 boats in the marina, offers cold showers, sinks, picnic tables, grills, and drinking water. There is a group campsite for 10 or more for about a third of a mile from the main campground.

Both islands maintain quiet hours from 10 pm onwards. There is no backcountry camping until 6 a.m. and all trash must be packed.

Where to Stay

Biscayne Homestead is 33 miles from Florida and about 35 miles from Miami. Both cities offer dozens of hotels of every size, service level, and price range.

How to Get There

Biscayne is in Homestead, about 45 minutes south of Miami by car. The visitor center is at the end of 328th Street just before the entrance to the Homestead Bayfront Marina. It can be reached from the Florida Turnpike or US Highway 1.

Accessibility

To go beyond the edge of the mainland you will need a boat, which immediately limits access. But a number of measures have been taken to accommodate the needs of visitors, including mobility and other challenges:

  • There are ramps, lifts, and boardwalks at the visitor center and park headquarters.
  • Audio-visual programs are close-captioned and are available in English and Spanish. Exhibits along the Jetty Trail are also bilingual and available at the Haitian Creole Translation Center’s help desk.
  • The Junior Ranger booklet comes in those three languages ​​and the park brochure has been translated into many more languages.
  • On Boca Chita, Elliott, and Adams Keys, restrooms are accessible, but some buildings are not. The latter two do not have sidewalks while Boca has only around the port and restrooms.
  • Legitimate service animals are allowed in buildings and on all islands.

Tips For Your Visit

  • There is no charge to enter and enjoy this park. Permits are required for some activities such as commercial filming, weddings, and memorial services. Visiting Stiltsville structures also requires permission and a permit from the Stiltsville Trust.
  • The waters of the park are open 24 hours a year. However, the visitor center maintains closed hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most days) and is closed on major holidays.
  • Pets are only allowed on leash on Elliot Key in developed areas and cannot be left unattended.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Biscayne National Park

Q. Is Biscayne National Park worth visiting?

A – If you find yourself in southern Florida, a visit to Biscayne National Park and the nearby Everglades National Park is well worth a visit! There are lots of fun things to do in Biscayne National Park.

Q. What is special about Biscayne National Park?

A – Within sight of Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-seed weed coral reefs. Evidence for 10,000 years of human history is also here; From prehistoric tribes to shipwrecks, and from pineapple farmers to presidents.

Q. How much does a trip to Biscayne National Park cost?

A – There is no entrance fee to the park. Camping – $25 fee for each night’s stay at Elliot’s Key or Boca Chita Key. This includes the use of a maximum of two tents and six people. A boat is required to get to each remote island.

Q. Can you swim in Biscayne National Park?

A – Elliot Key is the largest of the park’s islands and offers hiking, overnight camping, picnicking, and swimming.

Q. Are there crocodiles in Biscayne National Park?

A – The American alligator and the American alligator can be found in both Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. NPS photo. Fascinated by alligators and crocodiles? You can find both in Biscayne or Everglades national parks, and they are a little easier to spot at this time of year than in the summer months.

Q. How many days do you need in Biscayne National Park?

A – Some of the highlights of Biscayne National Park can easily be visited in one day, thanks to the variety of tours offered. That being said, there’s a lot to see if you’re interested in spending more time in the area.

Q. How do I spend a day in Biscayne National Park?

A – Start at Jones Lagoon (go kayaking or SUP here), then snorkel a few offshore spots (Mandalay Shipwreck and Bache Shoal were two we visited), followed by Boca Chita, then travel to Fowey Rocks Lighthouse. Cruise through Stiltsville and then head back to the marina.

Q. Is Biscayne National Park underwater?

A – Biscayne National Park is home to 173,000 acres of land, much of which is underwater, and also has the longest mangrove forest in eastern Florida. In addition, Biscayne is the northernmost part of the Florida Keys and contributes to the third largest coral reef tract in the world.

Q. Can you visit Biscayne National Park without a boat?

A – 90% of the visitors enter the park by boat and 95% of the park is covered by water. Visitors without a boat can join a guided boat tour, explore the Dante Fasel Visitor Center, participate in ranger programs, walk the small jetty trail, watch a movie, or have a picnic. A boat is required to go beyond the visitor center area.

Q. Is it free to go to Biscayne?

A – Key Biscayne is no different. Just to enter the city, you pay a toll. Crandon Park and El Farito are beautiful beaches, but they charge a hefty amount to park your car there.

Q. Can you hike in Biscayne National Park?

A – There are five trails within Biscayne National Park, although calling them “hiking” trails is probably giving them more credit than they deserve. Four are a mile or less in length, while the longest, the 7-mile, one-way Spite Highway Trail at Elliot Key, runs through the middle of the island and the scenery never changes.

Q. Are there sharks in Biscayne Bay?

A – According to experts, it’s not uncommon for great white sharks to swim about 1,500 miles to the beach in Biscayne Bay, to move to warmer waters.

Q. Can you see manatees in Biscayne National Park?

A – In Biscayne National Park, the best place to see manatees is in the harbor north of the visitor center. Or rent a kayak, canoe, or paddle boat and head out into the bay in search of them. They may be massive creatures, but they are gentle giants.

Q. Are there dolphins in Biscayne Bay?

A – Dolphins are South Florida’s unofficial mascots to many of the most beloved marine mammals living in Biscayne Bay.

Q. Are there coral reefs in Biscayne National Park?

A – The reefs of Biscayne National Park are part of a 150-mile-long chain of coral reefs that stretch through the lower Florida Keys and the Caribbean. The Florida Keys coral reef is the only living coral barrier reef in North America and the third longest coral barrier reef in the world.

Q. What Animals Live in Biscayne National Park?

A – The park is home to an incredible diversity of life, including more than 600 native fish, neo-tropical water birds, and a number of threatened and endangered species including sea turtles, manatees, and Schaus’s swallowtail butterfly.

Q. Are there crocodiles in Biscayne Bay?

A – Crocodiles have been on and around Key Biscayne for decades and there are more now than at any time in at least 40 years; Yet due to their generally shy nature, they are still seen less often than expected.

Q. How do you explore Biscayne?

A – Located between Miami and the Florida Keys, Biscayne National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, and is completely free to visit – no entrance fee or pass required. However, the park’s islands, cliffs, and other natural attractions can only be reached by boat. Guided tours are available.

Q. How do you snorkel in Biscayne National Park?

A – The underwater offshore reefs of Biscayne National Park are accessible only by boat, with no beach or shore diving in the park from the mainland or small keys. The park offers daily snorkel tours to the reefs year-round through its concessionaire. Boats leave from the jetty at the visitor center.

Q. What time does Biscayne National Park open?

A – The park grounds are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the visitor center open. Snorkeling tours have resumed through the Biscayne National Park Institute: only small-group and private tours are being organized to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

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