Biscayne National Park, 95 percent of which lies underwater, is one of the top scuba diving areas in the United States. Divers and snorkelers flock here to experience Biscayne Bay’s extensive reef system. Above water, you can explore the Florida park’s small mainland mangrove shoreline and keys by boat.
As nearly all of Biscayne National Park’s 181,500 acres (73,450 hectares) are mostly underwater, the best way to truly experience it is with snorkel or scuba gear. Beneath the surface, the park’s underwater world explodes with multicolored life, from vibrant angelfish and parrotfish to swaying sea fans and multishaded labyrinths of coral.
Reef cruises and glass-bottom boat tours typically depart from Convoy Point and pass through Caesar Creek to see the more than 50 shipwrecks within the park’s boundaries. Mangrove Shore is a nice option for those on a tight schedule and no boat access—simply stroll around Convoy Point and enjoy a picnic. Of the park’s 44 islands, only a few are open to visitors: Elliot Key has picnicking, camping, and hiking among mangrove forests; tiny Adams Key has picnicking; and Boca Chita Key has a lighthouse, picnicking, and camping.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is no fee to access the park.
- Boca Chita Key and Elliot Key are open year-round for boat-in camping on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Most snorkel and scuba tours include the use of equipment, but you can bring your own if you like.
- Nature lovers can combine a stop here with visits to nearby Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
How to Get There
The park is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Miami via the Ronald Reagan Turnpike. information, stop at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, at the park’s main entrance, which has maps, ranger programs, and a great introductory film overview of the park.
When to Get There
Key Biscayne is open year-round, and the water portion of the park is always open. The best time to visit the park’s islands is during Florida’s dry season, December to March. For underwater visibility and calm water, summer is best, but be prepared for the occasional afternoon thunderstorm and hungry mosquitoes during this time.
Biscayne Bay Wildlife
Tourists visiting the national park’s coral reefs and aquamarine waters will come in contact with more than 325 types of fish, shrimp, crabs, spiny lobsters, and even sea turtles. On land and in the mangrove forests, look for the rare peregrine falcon and bald eagle. Barnacles, fish, and other sea creatures also bunch around the trees’ half-submerged roots.