Biscayne National Park is, hands down, one of the most tantalizing and extraordinary national parks in America. While it’s not filled with dirt trails and lush forests, this park still woos travelers with its spectacular underwater treasures.
As a matter of fact, 95% of this national park sits under Florida’s sparkling, crystal clear turquoise water. With its colorful coral reefs, exhilarating outdoor pursuits, and shipwrecks, Biscayne National Park is a veritable ocean playground.
What’s more, this 270-square-mile aquatic paradise has a diverse ecosystem full of uniquely shaped corals and multi-colored fish. Did we mention that it’s home to photogenic lighthouses and miles of beautiful wavy seagrass and mangrove channels?
For a memorable, sunny, and salty escape here, check out our extensive our Biscayne National Park travel guide.
While exploring Florida we suggest: Fodor’s Florida Travel Guide
Biscayne National Park Map
If you’re looking for a Biscayne National Park map, the one featured below will show you the proximity of the national park to Miami and Homestead. I’ve also marked the visitors center for reference.
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Above you’ll find a map of our highlights for Biscayne National Park. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places we mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version.
Brief History of Biscayne Bay
In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon became the first European to discover the Florida Keys. After the arrival of the other Spanish conquistadors and explorers later in the 1500s, the Florida area came under the Spanish rule.
From the 1500s to the 20th century, Spanish fleets sailed regularly past the keys and were usually caught in massive hurricanes. There were at least two 18th-century ships from Spain wrecked in the national park area.
In the 1890, as modern communities expanded, developers looked into Key Biscayne’s undeveloped areas for new projects. A bustling industrial seaport was then, in 1962, proposed for Biscayne Bay’s mainland shores.
Thankfully, there were conservationists who succeeded in fighting to preserve the bay. In 1968, the bay was designated a national monument. A few years later, in 1974, Biscayne Bay was redesignated as a national park.
Plan Your Visit to Biscayne National Park
How to get to Biscayne National Park
The Dante Fascell Visitor Center, situated in Homestead, is the main access to the national park. From Downtown Miami, you can reach this gateway in 90 minutes or less. Just hit Exit 6/Speedway Boulevard and drive left on Southwest 328th Street.
You may also use Google Maps or any other navigational apps to reach the visitor center.
- Address: 9700 SW 328th St, Homestead, FL 33033, United States
- Contact number: (305) 230-1144
- Website: https://www.nps.gov/bisc/planyourvisit/the-dante-fascell-visitor-center-gallery.htm
Besides the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, there are other gateways and marinas to the park, including Crandon and Homestead Bayfront.
Nearby Marinas and Boat Launches
Even though it has a paddleboard, canoe, and kayak launch, there are no boat ramps or marinas at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center.
However, you may launch boats from a number of nearby access points flowing into the bay, including:
- Crandon Park Marina (Key Biscayne) 4000 Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
- Matheson Hammock Park Marina (near Coral Gables) 9610 Old Cutler Road, Miami, FL 33156
- Black Point Park and Marina (perfect for access to Elliot Key and Boca Chita) 24775 SW 87th Avenue, Miami, FL 33032
- Herbert Hoover Marina (Homestead Bayfront Park) 9698 N. Canal Drive, Homestead, FL 33033
Best Time to Visit Biscayne National Park
The best time to visit Biscayne National Park is summer when the weather is normally warmer. Furthermore, the seas are calm during these months, meaning it’s ideal for diving and snorkeling.
Still, visitors should be ready for thunderstorms and mosquitoes when visiting the park in summer.
How to Get Around Biscayne National Park
The best way to explore the park is by boat, especially since it’s mostly made up of water. If you have your own boat or vessel, you may explore the park on your own.
We recommend consulting with a ranger first before you venture into this exquisite natural wonder. That way, you’ll know where to go in Biscayne National Park, and ensure that your skills and knowledge are up to the challenge.
Alternatively, you may book a tour through Biscayne National Park Institute, which provides a variety of excursions within the park.
We booked the full-day sailing trip that departs from the Dante Fascell Visitors Center and with favorable weather and wind, were able to visit Boca Chita Key. The trip is very exclusive with only 6 visitors per trip.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Biscayne National Park?
There’s no admission fee for this national park. There are, however, fees for certain activities and tours within the park. Camping, for one, costs a few bucks per night for each tent on Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key.
Campers with boats that need to be docked will have to pay an overnight fee of $20. Additionally, group camping is available for $30 a night.
While the park itself doesn’t charge admission, you’ll need to book a tour or charter a boat to see the actual park. So actual costs will vary depending on your choices for exploring.
Best Things to Do in Biscayne National Park
There’s never a dull moment in Biscayne National Park. With an open mind and an adventurous soul, you can experience a world of adventures both in water and on land in this park.
For an unforgettable escape, check out these recommendations.
Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park
One of the most popular and top activities is to go snorkeling in Biscayne National Park. With the park being located at the starting point of the Great Florida Barrier Reef, there is no mystery about this favored activity.
You can expect to see healthy coral, plenty of fish species, and plenty of other marine critters when you hop in the protected waters of Biscayne Bay.
While the reefs here don’t compare to the ones we’ve seen in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, there is something special about experiencing the marine life that abounds in the only living reef off the coast of the USA.
Explore the Maritime Heritage Trail
The Maritime Heritage Trail is, no doubt, the national park’s undisputed crown jewel. Ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling, this underwater paradise is home to some of the numerous shipwrecks in Biscayne National Park.
There are five wrecks that span almost a century and a wide range of vessel types and sizes along this trail.
Take a Reef Cruise
Enjoying a reef cruise is one of the best and most fascinating ways to visit this national park. On this cruise, you’ll come in contact with over 320 kinds of fish, spiny lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.
Plus, you’ll spot tons of birds as you take this cruise, including cormorants and herons.
Boats depart from Convoy Point, and you’ll get an insightful orientation to the extraordinary fauna and flora of the bay before leaving.
There’s also a glass-bottom boat tour that lets you get a peek into the underwater world without ever getting wet.
Visit the Jones Family Historic District and Lagoon
Want to add a hint of history to your nature trip in Biscayne National Park? Then don’t forget to experience a kayaking escape on the Jones Family Historic District and Lagoon.
The area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it an amazing pit stop for history buffs. The area is made up of Totten Key and Porgy Key, in which the Jones family grew key limes and pineapples in the 19th century.
Stop by the Dante Fascell Visitor Center
Spend a few hours at this visitors’ center, and watch a short film that will take you on an eye-opening virtual journey through the national park. Afterward, appreciate the interpretive exhibits displayed inside the visitors’ center.
Before leaving the area, pause at Dante Fascell Gallery, and watch a variety of striking contemporary art.
Explore Boca Chita Key
No list of the best things to do in Biscayne National Park is complete without a tour of Boca Chita. Led by a park naturalist, this three-hour boat tour lets you climb the historic lighthouse of the island.
On a clear day, you’ll see the striking skyline of Miami from this lighthouse. While it has never been a working lighthouse, this man-made attraction is still a sight to behold.
You’ll learn more about the history of this lighthouse and island through the knowledgeable park rangers.
Kayaking in Biscayne National Park
Paddlers will have ample opportunities to explore and see the mangrove shoreline along Biscayne mainland. You can rent a kayak or canoe by the national park concessioner. Don’t forget to drop by the visitor center for suggested routes and weather conditions.
That said, kayaking from the mainland to either Elliot Key or Boca Chita Key should not be attempted. If you wish to kayak around these islands, you’ll need to book a tour that visits them with a kayaking option.
Enjoy a SUP Adventure
If you’ve booked a sailing or boat trip out to either Boca Chita Key or Elliot Key, then you’ll likely have the opportunity to hop on a SUP board. This is a great way to see the reef and get up close to the mangroves in protected waters.
We find using SUP boards to be more intimate than a kayak and you can also snorkel from them! Just be sure to hang onto the tether while swimming so your board doesn’t blow away.
Hiking the Trails
Even with its limited land area, the park does have a few trails for those who want to stretch their legs. Hiking trails within the park include the Jetty Trail, Adams Key Loop, Elliott Key Loop, Spite Highway Trail, and Boca Chita Key Loop.
You’re not going to put serious miles under you on any of these trails, so don’t expect that. However, it’s a great way to explore the islands looking for interesting flora and fauna while seeking unique vantage points.
Where to Stay in Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park has a couple of excellent campgrounds. One is located on Boca Chita, a popular island destination for day trips. The other sits on the park’s largest island, Elliot Key.
You’ll have to shell out $25 a night on any of the park’s campgrounds. The fee includes boat docking and camping. Both campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Although it has restrooms, there’s no shower or sink in Boca Chita Key’s campground. Also, there’s no drinking water available on this island. So, make sure to bring plenty of drinking water on your camping trip.
On the bright side, the campground is equipped with picnic tables and grills. But you’ll need to bring all of your own food and supplies to the island. With that in mind, be sure to pack out every single thing you pack in. Including your garbage. Leave nothing behind.
Meanwhile, Elliot Key’s campground has scores of convenient amenities. Not only does it offer drinking water, but it also has cold water showers, grills, picnic tables, and restrooms.
Where to Stay Near the National Park
Not fond of camping? Guess what? There are plenty of non-tented accommodation options near the park, ranging from upscale hotels to budget-friendly inns.
If you’re not planning to camp within the park, take note of our recommended places in nearby Homestead and Florida City below:
What to Pack for Your Visit
Not sure what to bring your vacation to this national park? Do yourself a favor, and check out our general packing list.
- Refillable water bottle
- Hiking sandals or boots
- Camera and tripod
- Bathing suit
- Rashguard or sun shirt
- Hiking shorts or pants
- Mosquito repellent
- Snacks and pack lunch
Looking for more information on what you should pack when visiting Biscayne National Park? Check out our Essential Packing List for Florida
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