Biscayne National Park near Miami, Florida, is a park that may have escaped your radar. I know that we hadn't seriously considered visiting until we began planning a trip to Florida, and I'm sure we're not the only family to consider trips to parks like Rocky Mountain NP and the Grand Canyon ahead of Biscayne.
We should've known better.
If there's anything we've learned in our recent visits to America's National Parks, it's that each one of the 59 parks have their own surprises, and whatever expectations you may have going in will likely be pushed aside as soon as you step foot in the park. Biscayne is no different.
While it may not be the largest, or most popular, its beauty and uniqueness might have you a little awe-struck, and just like the rest of America's National Parks, you'll have a lot of fun exploring it. Absolutely put it on your list to visit this year!
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What to see and things to do in Biscayne National Park
Get out on the water!
This park is all about water. In fact, 95% of the park is water and 90% of visitors enter the park by boat according to their website. With only one mile of road in the park itself, you'll want to plan for some time either out on or below the water. Here are some activities that you can enjoy during your visit.
Boating is the best way to get around Biscayne National Park. Boats can be chartered, or, if you have your own, go for it!
In addition to exploring Biscayne Bay, plan some time to get out and explore some of the small islands in the park. Boca Chita Key is the most popular, and is where you'll find the historic 1930's lighthouse that offers up fantastic views of the area. You can also take a hike around the island on the hiking trail, and even stay overnight at the campground if you choose.
Elliott Key is the largest of the park's islands and offers up hiking, overnight camping, picnicking, and swimming. Finally, Adams Key is open for day use, and was once a retreat for several U.S. Presidents. All three can be reached by boat, and experienced kayakers may enjoy paddling over to the islands as well.
Exploring the park by canoe or kayak is an excellent way to explore Biscayne National Park. The park's shallows don't allow for larger boats to get around, so paddlers are free to enjoy these parts of the park at their leisure. Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards are available to rent at the visitor center.
To reserve a kayak, canoe, or guided tour, visit the Biscayne National Park Institute site here.
Fishing and Lobstering
With so much water, saltwater fishing is clearly a top activity for visitors to do while visiting Biscayne National Park. What you may not know is that Biscayne is home to the Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary. Even though you can't take lobsters from the sanctuary, spiny lobster can be fished in other areas around Biscayne. For another unique experience, consider a bow or spear fishing excursion which can be booked through local tour operators.
If you don't have time to get out on the water, families can fish right off the shoreline near the visitor center. We saw plenty of fish swimming around while we were there, so give it a shot!
Click here for more information on fishing and lobstering in and around Biscayne National Park.
Snorkeling is available throughout the park, but the most unique and interesting place to do it might be the Maritime Heritage Trail, an underwater trail of shipwrecks and sea life running through the park. The trail is accessible by boat, so plan on a guided tour to visit the trail. Those who are SCUBA-certified and wanting to take a closer look can do so.
Click here for more information on the Maritime Heritage Trail.
Swimming beaches exist all around the park, including at the marinas listed above. We actually explored the park on foot where you can find places to swim and take in the incredible scenery at your leisure. We saw several families kayaking around the visitor center and swimming in the shallow water just off the boardwalk. There are plenty of sandy spots and rocky shallows to explore and get your feet wet, so kick off your shoes and enjoy!
Exploring Biscayne National Park by land
If you're just swinging through the park and don't want to spend a day out on the water, there is still plenty to do for casual visitors. In fact, that's how we explored Biscayne. We were visiting Biscayne and Everglades National Park in the same day, and we found a visit of just a few hours was fun and interesting.
If you're unlucky like us (or waited too long to book), the boat tours may be full during your visit. If that's the case, there is plenty to experience around the park on foot. Start your visit in the Dante Fascell Visitor Center for passport stamps, information about the park, maps, and other information.
Be sure to take a look around as they have some nice exhibits and galleries. As always, the staff if helpful and willing to answer all your questions!
Hiking around the boardwalks and trails
Set off from the visitor center and walk the trails and boardwalks for great views of Biscayne Bay and Miami off in the distance. We had a great morning (albeit hot and muggy) exploring the beaches and hiking around the mangroves.
Obviously being out on the water would be a better bet, but it was holiday weekend, and we just waited too long to book anything.
Don't make the same mistake!
Make sure you book any boat tours early. Check here for availability.
Important information about Biscayne National Park
Where is Biscayne National Park located?
The Dante Fascell Visitor Center is located 9 miles east of Homestead Florida and about 1.5 hours' drive from Miami.
We stayed at the Hilton Cabana Bay which is a fairly new hotel right on Miami Beach. With pools and beach access, you can't go wrong!
Biscayne National Park Hours
Dante Fascell Visitor Center - Open every day all year except Christmas Day 9-5
Convoy Point Grounds (around the visitor center) - open daily from 7-5
Park Waters - open year round 24 hours a day.
Adams Key - open for day use only.
Entry is free to the park!
Biscayne National Park was a nice surprise in a trip filled with other great parks. Have you been? What did you enjoy about it?