Exploring Biscayne National Park
Protecting the fragile coral reefs and islands of the northernmost of the Upper Keys, Biscayne National Park encompasses more than 270 square miles between Miami and Key Largo.
More than 95% of the park protects the shallows of Biscayne Bay. With a mangrove coastline, small islands rising from the shallows, and coral reefs between the bay and the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a fascinating destination for anyone who loves the water.
You can paddle into the park from a variety of launch points stretching from Cape Florida State Park at Key Biscayne to Convoy Point in Homestead, but to visit the islands themselves – which are geologically part of the Florida Keys – you’ll need to hop on a boat.
Tours offered by the Biscayne National Park Institute are the best way to visit the park. There are guided snorkeling and paddling tours, a historic tour of Stiltsville, and a daily boat cruise to Boca Chita Key direct from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. Tour prices start at $44 and advance reservations are necessary.
Planning Your Trip
Located in Homestead, near the south end of the park, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center is your starting point for both learning about the park’s ecosystems and looking into ways to explore the park.
Extensive exhibits explain the habitats of Biscayne Bay, from the sea grass beds and coral reefs to the tropical hammocks and mangrove shorelines, while the visitor center and its nearby nature trail offer views across the open waters.
No entrance fees are charged for Biscayne National Park. Campgrounds are available on Boca Chica Key and Elliott Key. Both can only be reached by boat. Restrooms are available but it’s recommend you bring your own drinking water, and a method of protecting your food from thieving raccoons. $25 per night camping fee includes boat docking and tent site for a maximum of six people, two tents. Exact change required, payable at kiosk at boat dock. No reservations are taken.
Camping and docking fees are waived between May 1-September 30. Note that during these months, mosquitoes are extremely intense on the islands. Pets are only permitted at the Elliott Key campground.
Inside the Park
Southeast Florida is home to two poisonous trees, the poisonwood and the manchineel. Learn how to recognize them so you don’t get too close, and find out how truly dangerous they are.
Preserves along Biscayne Bay
A popular destination for sun worshipers, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is an easy getaway for most folks in the Miami area, with a long strand of beachfront complimenting trails along Biscayne Bay and a historic lighthouse at the point.
Opened in 1949, Crandon Park – which takes up a commanding portion of Key Biscayne – is packed with family fun. The biggest draw is the beach, which spans two miles of oceanfront with few waves.
The Deering Estate at Cutler, a Miami-Dade county park, preserves both the historic buildings and a remnant of the Addison Hammock, a pine rockland along the old road following Cutler Ridge.