1968: National Monument
About the SiteIn most National Parks, land is the dominant feature. Not so in Biscayne, where water and the ocean make up 95% of the 173,000 acres of this beautiful south Florida Park. It was first established as a National Monument in 1968, and then quickly expanded to National Park status in 1980. The Park preserves a subtropical paradise where mainland mangrove trees, a shallow bay, small islands (keys), and a living coral reef all mingle together to make up a pristine ecosystem and recreation area. This is a refuge for marine life, water birds, and people who enjoy snorkling, boating, angling and diving. The water is pristine and clear, and only Nature working together between the mainland, Biscayne Bay, the keys, reefs, and the Florida Straits keep it that way.
What You're Going to SeeIt's a water wonderland, all right. About 5% of the Park acreage is land; the rest is underwater, making it a very different experience from most National Park adventures. There are plenty of ways to see the underwater life, however. A private company offers glass-bottom tours of the Bay, during calm weather; the same boat will take visitors to explore Boca Chica Key when winds have churned up the Bay bottom and ruined visibility. Visitors can also snorkle and scuba-dive, and if you'd rather keep your feet dry, canoes and kayaks are available for rent as well.
Personal ObservationsI had time for a glass-bottom boat tour; unfortunately, I visited on a breezy day and the water was too murky. So the boat took us intead to Boca Chita Key, a 45-minute trip. As we puttered out of the harbor at Convoy Point, I saw plenty of red mangroves that guard the shoreline. There were plenty of men and boys fishing from the extended breakwater, and anhingas perched atop buoys, drying their feathers. The boat left at 10:00 and returned around 1:00. Lucky for fair-skinned me, there was shade on the boat, so the sun wasn't a problem. They charged about $27 for a three-hour tour. Yes, a three-hour tour.
Getting ThereFrom Miami, go south on Highway 821/Florida's Turnpike until you get to exit 6 (Speedway Blvd). Take exit 6 off and go south for about five miles. Turn left (east) onto S.W. 328th (N. Canal Dr) and go for about five miles; the Visitor Center is at the end of the road.
Nearby AttractionsEverglades National Park is about 30 miles directly west. Big Cypress National Preserve is about 70 miles to the northwest.