Biscayne National Park in southern Florida spans nearly 173,000 acres, 95% of which includes the waters of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The marine park’s 4 ecosystems are home to a huge variety of birds, wildlife, and marine life.

Found about 60 km south of downtown Miami, Biscayne National Park is a spectacular place to enjoy numerous marine activities like sailing, fishing, and kayaking as well as nature walks and overnight camping. Its thriving coral reefs offer a colourful undersea world for scuba divers and snorkellers, who could also explore the shipwrecks strewn along the Maritime Heritage Trail.

The park’s above-water areas include 3 keys: Adams Key, Boca Chita Key – the most visited island with its 1930s-era lighthouse – and Elliott Key, which has a 7-mile hiking trail known as Spite Highway to explore. Entry to Biscayne National Park is free, while fees are charged for camping and overnight boat docking.

Biscayne National Park Near Miami - one of the highlights of 11 Best National Parks in the USA (Read all about Miami here)

Highlights of Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park has 4 distinct ecosystems to explore and, aside from the area around the Dante Fascell Visitor Center on the mainland, you’ll need a boat to reach all the park’s sights. Day trips to the park’s coastal mangroves, shallow bay waters, limestone keys and offshore reefs can be arranged through the Biscayne National Park Institute. There’s a variety of trips available, including snorkelling trips to reef and shipwreck sites, heritage cruises, kayak paddles through the mangroves, wildlife watching tours, and trips that include a mix of sailing, kayaking and snorkelling. The institute also offers full-day scuba diving trips.

Tours are guided by local experts who will help you learn about the area’s unique ecological features and history. Enjoy the chance to see a colourful variety of fish and coral, sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees. Explore the coastlines of Boca Chita Key or Elliott Key and learn about their storied histories as former resort enclaves for wealthy families and pineapple plantations. Trips range from a few hours to multi-day adventures that include camping in the park, best booked in advance on the Biscayne National Park Institute website.

What to see at Biscayne National Park?

With its rich biodiversity, Biscayne National Park is home to thousands of species, including more than 100 different bird species and some 600 distinct species of fish. The park is part of the Biscayne Birding Trail, and avid birders could earn a certificate if they see and record such native species as the double-crested cormorant, royal tern, mangrove cuckoo and brown booby.

With the world’s 3rd-largest coral reef system to discover at Biscayne National Park, snorkellers and divers have the chance to see colourful hard and soft corals, barracuda, damselfish, parrotfish, and maybe even a moray eel. Dolphin sightings are common, and those on the lookout might even spot some of the several types of sea turtles that dwell here, including hawksbills, leatherbacks and loggerheads. Visitors are asked to avoid disturbing any endangered or threatened species they might see, including many types of sea turtles, wood storks and the Florida manatee.

Good to know about Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is open year-round, with the cooler months of December through March offering the clearest water conditions for snorkellers and divers. These are also the busiest months, so make sure to book any boat trips in advance to avoid missing out. Only certified divers are allowed on scuba diving trips, and they must bring their own equipment. Fishing is permitted in the park, but only with a fishing license.

When arriving at the park, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center is worth stopping into to see its informative exhibits and videos, pick up some park maps, and ask the park rangers on site about anything you need to know before setting off into the park. Visitors are welcome to use the centre’s picnic area, as well as the launch for canoe and kayaks, free of charge.   

Biscayne National Park Near Miami

Location: 9700 SW 328th Street, Sir Lancelot Jones Way, Homestead, FL 33033, USA

Open: Dante Fascell Visitor Center open daily from 9 am to 5 pm

Phone: +1 305-230-1144

Lana Willocks | Contributing Writer