Biscayne National Park
Biscayne Bay, as seen from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center
Biscayne National Park started out in 1968 as Biscayne National Monument. In 1980 it got promoted to National Park status. Today the Park protects around 173,000 acres, including mangrove wilderness, a clear, shallow-water bay, wild barrier islands, and beautiful coral reefs.
To get to the Biscayne National Park Headquarters at Convoy Point, on U.S. 1 in Florida City, turn east onto S.W. 328th Street, at approximately
N 25 deg 27 min 45 sec, W 080 deg 28 min 36 sec.
, and continue due east for about nine miles to the entrance at approximately
N 25 deg 27 min 45 sec, W080 deg 20 min 48 sec
. Upon entering, you will see the Dante Fascell Visitor's Center.
Now that you're here, what is there to do? You can picnic, swim, or browse the visitor center.
To enjoy Biscayne National Park place to the max, however, you'll need a boat. If you have your own boat, that's great. Pick up a map at the visitor center, but also be sure you have the proper marine charts (11451 or 11462,11463, & 11465).
If you don't have a boat, you're not out of luck. The Park has a variety of tours: glass-bottom boat, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving. Also, you can rent canoes and kayaks. Call 305-230-1100 for up-to-date information.
Since we arrived without a boat or SCUBA gear, the snorkel trip was our excursion of choice. This three-hour-tour (sounds too much like Gilligan) left promptly at 1:30 PM, heading to the southeast, past the barrier islands at Adams Key, and out to the open-ocean reefs. Adams Key, by the way, is just a day stop. No camping here, but there is a picnic area with restrooms, also a nature trail.
As best as I can figure it, the trip out was about 12 nautical miles. Our actual snorkel time was a little over an hour, which turned out to be plenty. The ride out and back was almost as enjoyable as our time in the water.
Calm, clear, sunny, summer days are generally the best for great underwater visibility. Bad weather can churn things up a bit, reducing water clarity. We were there in June, and if maximum viz could be considered a 10, our Captain said it was about a 9 on the day we went.
Another view of what's waiting for you at the reef...
More great reef sights...
This place was just too much fun to want to leave. The water temp was around 81 degrees. You just don't want to get out. Maybe I'm half dolphin, I don't know. Summer, in the opinion of this guy who's lived here almost all my life, is a good time to be in Florida. Summertime may bring a few bugs and a bit of heat, but it also brings outstandingly clear and invitingly warm ocean waters.
There are no camping facilities on the mainland, but if you have your own boat, you can camp on some of the barrier islands. (Even without a boat, the Park concessionaire may be able to transport you to Elliott Key. Call 305-230-1100) Elliott Key, about 7 or 8 nautical miles from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, is the only place where drinking water is available. It also has restrooms and showers. You can also camp at Boca Chita Key, about 4 nautical miles north of the Elliott Key campground. Boca Chita has saltwater toilets, and no drinking water. Overnight anchorages are available at Sands Key, about one nautical mile south-southwest of Boca Chita. Check with Biscayne National Park for current regulations and fees.
For more photos and information on the Park, see this page on tripadvisor.
Return from Biscayne National Park to Snorkeling Florida
Return from Biscayne National Park to National Parks in Florida