Wandering the Waters of Biscayne National Park

September 5, 2017Travel Ideas
— Carol McGunagle, Share the Experience

Encompassing 173,000 acres, 95 percent of which is water, Biscayne National Park is unique among American national parks. Included in this stunning aquatic landscape are a remarkable assortment of ecosystems and habitats, making it one of the greatest places in the world to experience marine life in its natural environment. And perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this one-of-a-kind park? It's just minutes from downtown Miami. 

A Watery Wonderland

Colorful yellow and red underwater coral at Biscayne National Park
Adam Jewell, Share the Experience

The stunning diversity of coastal Florida is on full display at Biscayne National Park, which is home to four closely-related ecosystems that connect to form one distinctive place. The park offers an opportunity to explore not only the vast expanse of Biscayne Bay, but also the northernmost Florida Keys, a swath of rich mangrove forest, and a sizable chunk of the world's third-largest coral reef. Pelicans, manatees, sea turtles, and more than 500 native fish species call the park home. 

Many Ways to Explore

Wooden walkway next to the water on a partially cloudy day at Biscayne National Park
Lily Schleicher, Share the Experience

Biscayne National Park encompasses a vast area, making it a park that you can return to time and again without running out of new experiences. Be sure to put these amazing destinations and activities on your to-do list: 

  • Maritime Heritage Trail: This water trail is prime territory for snorkeling and scuba diving, given its shallow water and plentiful marine life. Best of all, it provides access to six of the park's most stunning shipwrecks.
  • Boca Chita Key: The most visited island in the park, Boca Chita Key is home to a historic lighthouse that has stood since the 1930s, along with campgrounds and picnic areas. Although the lighthouse is ornamental, its observation deck provides excellent views of the landscape. Insider tip: if visiting, make sure to seek out a park employee who can give you access to the deck!
  • Elliott Key: A thriving community of industrious pioneers once inhabited Elliott Key, the largest island in the park. Today, the island offers a campground, hiking trails, picnic facilities, and excellent swimming and wildlife-viewing options.
  • Stiltsville: Perhaps one of the most distinctive attractions at Biscayne National Park, Stiltsville is precisely what it sounds like — a group of historic homes built on stilts and surrounded by water. 

The opportunities to explore the waters and islands of Biscayne National Park are nearly endless. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, diving, snorkeling, camping, hiking, and wildlife-watching are just a few of the ways you can experience this unique place.

Know Before You Go

A view of the blue water from the coast at Biscayne National Park

Since the vast majority of Biscayne National Park is water, visiting this park requires careful planning. In fact, most of the park outside of the visitor center area is accessible only by boat. Joining a guided tour is a great way to experience Biscayne National Park, with options ranging from full-day and half-day tours to overnight camping. Many visitors also explore the park using their own private boats. 

Biscayne National Park offers an unmatched chance to discover America's diverse coastal wilderness for yourself. Located within sight of the Miami skyline, this park is also easily accessible, making it a perfect place to visit during your next vacation.

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