BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK
Park Tally: 21/59
Orientation: Located on the southeast edge of the Florida peninsula, Biscayne National Park is a water lover’s dream. The park consists 173,000 acres of land, with 95% of that being underwater and including extensive coral reefs, plentiful marine-life and subtropical vegetation. Biscayne is a popular destination for boating, kayaking, angling, diving, snorkeling, picnicking and camping.
Most iconic view: Boca Chita Key is the most visited island in the park. The key is small yet consists of a marina, sandy beach, lighthouse, chapel and picnic areas. The historic 65-foot Boca Chita Lighthouse was built in the late 1930’s with its main purpose being to draw sailors into the beautiful park rather than the traditional use of guiding ships to safe passageways.
Visitors can access Boca Chita Key via a private boat or on a guided tour run by the National Park Service. We took the popular 3-hour boat tour from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. The guides were very informative and the tour provided a nice overview of Biscayne Bay and Boca Chita Key. Be sure to climb up to the lighthouse’s viewing platform for a beautiful view over the island.
Accessible activity: The park service offers numerous guided tours around Biscayne. The 3-hour Boca Chita Key tour mentioned above is a well-liked and family friendly activity for exploring Biscayne Bay and Boca Chita.
Another option is a full-day paddle and snorkel sailing tour. The tour provides opportunities to snorkel and paddle in the clear waters of Biscayne Bay and protected mangrove lagoons, plus sight-seeing ashore at Boca Chita or Adams Keys.
For the adventurous: Biscayne National Park is well-known to the diving community due to the numerous submerged shipwrecks, vibrant coral reefs and interesting marine life. Tropic Scuba in South Miami offer diving tours or visitors are welcome to utilize their own vessel and equipment if applicable.
Another option to get “off the beaten path” is to camp on Elliott Key or Boca Chita Key. The park offers boat transport for campers to get to and from Elliott Key with their gear. Keep in mind that these campsites are primitive and do not contain facilities or drinking water.
Best photo opportunities: As mentioned above, Boca Chita Key is a scenic location for photographs, particularly of the iconic lighthouse. Another option is to get out on a kayak or canoe during the early or late hours of the day, when that golden light is hitting the clear blue waters. Photographers will obviously love the park for the incredible coral reef and marine life – just be sure to have an underwater camera housing or GoPro if you want to capture those kind of images!
- Biscayne was designated a National Park in 1980, in order to protect the area from oil refineries and other developments.
- There are 44 known shipwrecks in the park, some dating back to the 1500s.
- Biscayne is home to various endangered species, including the West Indian Manatee, eastern indigo snake, peregrine falcon, American crocodile, swallowtail butterfly and the piping plover.
- December to April is the most popular time to visit the park, due to optimal weather and bug conditions.
- Biscayne is the largest marine park in the National Park System and it is part of the only tropical coral reef that is alive on the mainland of the United States (The Florida Reef).
- In 2016 the park had 514,709 visitors.