Where is Biscayne National Park
Off the tranquil turquoise coast of the northern Florida Keys, you’ll find Biscayne National Park. It’s an Atlantic Ocean treasure. The park protects gorgeous islands, stunning coral reefs and shady shorelines of mangrove forests. There are several keys and small islands that make up the park, including Totten Key and Old Rhodes Key. Just 30 minutes west, on the southern tip of Florida, is Everglades National Park. A little further north is Big Cypress National Reserve. Biscayne is less than an hour from Miami, Florida.
How Big is Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park covers over 270 square miles (or 172,971 acres). The park is 95% water, including the reef filled shallows of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The US National Park's largest island is Elliot Key, stretching nearly seven miles long. It's the northernmost Florida Key and was formed from fossilized coral reefs. There are almost 50 keys in the park, most of which are small and undeveloped. The park consists of four ecosystems: shoreline mangrove swamps, coral limestone keys, Biscayne Bay shallows, and Florida Reef.
Biscayne National Park Weather
The weather at Biscayne National Park is sunny and gorgeous year-round thanks to its lovely subtropical climate. Temperatures rarely dip below 49 °F or above a balmy 92 °F. Fall is when the hot and humid weather starts to gradually cool and dry out. Rain is possible. Hurricane season runs through November. Winter weather is dry and windy with the occasional frost. Light showers are also possible. The skies are usually sunny and clear. On average, the temperature in winter is around 68 °F. Spring brings more showers, warmer weather and more humidity. Summer is hot and humid. Scattered thunderstorms are common in the afternoons. Hurricane season begins in June. The most frequented seasons for the park are winter and summer.
When did Biscayne become a National Park
Originally, it was proposed that the Biscayne area be made part of Everglades National Park, but was cut before the park was formally established in 1947. Biscayne became its own National Park on October 18, 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-606. In 1980, the park was expanded to include Boca Chita Key, the Ragged Keys and the Safety Valve shoal region.
Things to do in Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is a beautiful area with a myriad of things to see and do. We’ve outlined a few of the most popular attractions in the list below.
Boca Chita Key
Boca Chita Key is the most popular island in the park. It is the home of the iconic Mark Honeywell Lighthouse that guides people to explore the wonders of Biscayne. The island features a hiking trail, observation deck, campground, boat docks and harbor entrance.
Maritime Heritage Trail
The Maritime Heritage Trail is one of the only underwater trails in the world! Explore sunken shipwrecks and take a splash back in time by snorkeling or SCUBA. There are six wrecks from nearly a century, from the Arratoon Apcar (sank 1878) to the Mandalay (sank 1966).
Dante Fascell Visitor Center
The visitor center at Biscayne is much more than just a ranger station. The center features a gallery and museum. There are educational programs and park videos. The park gift shop is here. It’s also the starting site for most events, programs and boat tours.
Elliott Key is a tropical paradise. It is the largest key in the park. The island was once a huge operation of pioneers farming pineapples, wrecking, and sponging. These days visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming, fishing and picnicking. Elliott Key also offers first-come first-served camping.
Biscayne Bay’s unique Stiltsville has a rich history dating back to the 1930s. The first building was erected by "Crawfish Eddie Walker". Before hurricanes and fires wiped out most of Stiltsville, there were 27 “floating” structures. Today you can reach the area via boat tour.
For some of the most spectacular snorkeling opportunities and interesting diving areas, check out Biscayne Bay or Florida Reefs. The tropical fishes and living coral are a sight to see. You can also explore the wrecks of ships from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Animals in Biscayne
The park is a place of diversity when it comes to flora and fauna. There’s more than 600 species of birds and native fish, like pelicans and seabasses. The park is also home to 20 different threatened and endangered species, including manatees and sea turtles.
Biscayne National Park offers guests some of the best fishing in the world. The unique marine habitat preserved by the park has led to a healthy nursery and sustainable environment. Anglers come from around the world to fish for snapper, grouper, tarpon, and spiny lobster.
There are several guided tour options that operate out of the park. The most popular are sightseeing tours. Many guided tours are historical; some offer SCUBA and snorkeling adventures; and others are for fishing. All guided boat tours depart from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center.
While most of Biscayne National Park is underwater, there are still a few gorgeous trails to take advantage of. The trails are all rated easy and offer stunning oceanside views. The Convoy Point trail and Boca Chita Key trail are the most popular hiking trails.
When to go to Biscayne National Park
There’s no wrong time to visit Biscayne National Park - the best time is completely up to you. However, there are some things to take into consideration before planning your trip. The dry season at Biscayne is mid-December to mid-April. This means the weather will be mostly sunny skies and low 70s. It’s perfect for hiking and camping. This is the most popular time for guests, so the park will be crowded. Florida summers tend to be warmer and stormier. Thunderstorms are common and humidity is at its peak. The seas are calmer this time of year offering the best snorkeling and diving opportunities. Mosquitos are out and about all year long, though they tend to be worse in the summer.
List of Parks Suggests These Must-Have Things to Bring to Biscayne
You can make the most of your trip to Biscayne National Park by being prepared. Here’s a quick list of items you’ll definitely want to pack.
Most of the keys and park facilities at Biscayne have no potable water. The ones that do are always at risk of freshwater systems failing, especially during high tides and hurricane season. You should always bring your own water and enough for your whole stay.
Food options are extremely limited in the park. You will want to bring your own food and snacks. Store food properly and clean up after yourself. It is also never a good idea to feed wild animals at the park.
It is always a good idea to bring a map with you when you’re out adventuring at a park. This is especially true if you plan on exploring the keys and islands on your own. A tide chart and compass are also good to have.
Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and having fun on the beaches is a big part of the fun at Biscayne National Park. You’ll want to protect your feet from sharp rocks, broken shells, floating timber and other marine debris. Sturdy water shoes with hard soles are recommended.
The sun shines all year long at Biscayne. You’ll need to come prepared to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Always wear sunscreen and reapply often. Use SPF 35+ or higher. Waterproof is certainly a plus. You should also wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
Bring your swimsuit so you can get in the water! The beaches, reefs, and bay are excellent places to take a dip in the ocean, especially during the summer when the water is warmer. In the winter you might consider wearing an insulating wetsuit instead.
There are some sights you’ll need binoculars to fully enjoy. Birding is a popular pass time at the park, binoculars help you get a good look at elusive birds from a distance. You’ll also be able to catch a better glimpse of lighthouses and Stiltsville.
Don’t forget to bring your camera! Biscayne National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the country, especially around sunrise and sunset. Capture memories to last a lifetime with your camera. You can even find waterproof cameras to take on tours or snorkeling!
Mosquitos are out all year long at the park. You’ll also find other pests like gnats and sand flies. Keep nasty critters off you by bringing along some bug spray. You can also try different bug repellents if you prefer.
Biscayne National Park is a treasure trove of snorkeling locations. People travel from across the globe to explore the Florida Reefs and Maritime Heritage Trail. While there are places that rent snorkeling gear, save time and money by bringing your own. It’s also more sanitary.
Where to stay in Biscayne National Park
You’ll find ample camping opportunities between Biscayne’s two beautiful beachside campgrounds. The first is on Boca Chita Key. The campground has toilets and picnic tables, but no running water. Elliott Key features the other campground. The marina has 33 boat slips. While there are no official lodging sites in the park, you’ll find plenty of options outside the park in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Homestead, or Florida City. There are campgrounds, resorts, cabins, hotels and more.
Food Nearby Biscayne
There are no restaurants or food stands in Biscayne National Park. There are a few concessions available at the Park Store. However, Our National Park Visitors Guide suggests the amazing restaurants just outside the park in neighboring keys, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Discover local cuisine and fresh seafood like nowhere else! There are plenty of restaurants, diners, bakeries, dessert parlors, bars, and so much more.
Airports near Biscayne National Park
When it comes to flying in for your trip to Biscayne National Park, you’ve got some great options. The closest airport is also a major one, Miami International Airport. It is only 35 miles from the park. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is 42 miles away. If you prefer, there are smaller local flights out of Key Largo and Homestead airstrips.