As everyone is enjoying the big football game this weekend in Miami, Florida, we are wishing we were there not to watch football, but instead to revisit Biscayne National Park. It was just one year ago when we visited Biscayne for the first time.
Unlike other national parks, this one is virtually all water. In fact, 95% of the 173,000 acres is water, most of it very shallow, protected from the open ocean by mangrove-covered keys. The clear water of the bay plays host to colorful fish and coral reefs – great for snorkeling.
The best way to explore Biscayne National Park is by boat. On any given day you will see the horizon dotted with sailboats. We enjoyed a sail with the national park service concessionaire, the Biscayne National Park Institute, a non-profit that supports education and preservation of the park.
Sailing out from the visitor center, you could clearly see the edge of development. To the south you can see all of the waterfront mansions on Key Largo and the bridges connecting the islands to the mainland. To the north you can see Key Biscayne and all the development there. But in the middle, all you see is nature. Boca Chica, Elliot Key, Adams Key, Sands Key… seemingly small islands covered with dark green trees, reflected in the blue water.
Established as a national monument in 1968, and designated a national park in 1980, Biscayne National Park protects this entire area. Looking at the beauty today, it is hard to think of a time when this bay was polluted and people considered mangroves useless; burning them down to replace them with pineapple trees and palms.
Today we realize how important these mangrove covered keys are; protecting the mainland from the brunt of hurricanes; filtering the water to keep it clean; and providing a home for sea life. Fish find protection and raise their young in the roots of the mangroves; sea turtles and sea birds thrive in the protected habitat; and coral reefs teem with life.
Visiting Biscayne National Park
If you have only a short time, the visitor center is only a short drive from Homestead, Florida. We didn’t have the opportunity to experience what the visitor center offers because we visited the park during the government shutdown. Fortunately for us, the bookstore and the sailing excursion was managed by the Biscayne National Park Institute. They were still operating and kept vital services, like the restrooms, open!
We would highly recommend their sailboat excursion. It takes most of the day… sailing from the visitor center, across the bay to one of the keys. On the way, the naturalist pointed out sea life and helped us identify birds. They also shared information about the history of the bay (think pirates!) and how the park protects the environment.
Our destination was Adams Key where we docked for a couple of hours. There was a short hiking trail on the island and it was a great place for a picnic. The highlight was a paddle. They had kayaks and paddle boards, and the water was clear and calm. It was a great experience.
We would love to return. There are lots more places we’d like to see and explore – the lighthouse on Boca Chica; snorkeling on the reefs; hiking along the keys; and even camping!
Biscayne, a memory more lasting than the big game…
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.