Boca Chita Island Experience
The three-hour Boca Chita tour is perfect for visitors of all ages. On the 45-minute ride to the key, the tour guide will tell you some of the history of Boca Chita Key and the other keys in Biscayne National Park. Once we arrived, we had about an hour and twenty minutes to explore on our own before returning to the visitor center.
Boca Chita Key is a small island in Biscayne Bay, once owned by Mark Honeywell. In the 1930s, he developed half of the island to include an ornamental lighthouse, a small chapel and a garage. The other half of the island was left natural and today includes a short walking trail.
The Honeywells often hosted parties, with guests making the trek from Miami Beach aboard luxury yachts. Many of the structures still stand today, including the cannon that was fired to announce guests when they arrived at the island! Visitors can climb the 65-foot lighthouse for an impressive view of the island and the surrounding water.
Spend Time On The Water Kayaking Canoeing Or Paddle Boarding
Biscayne National Park Institute offers many kayaking, canoeing, and/or paddle boarding experiences. They offer a Jones Lagoon Eco-Adventure, Paddle the Mangroves & Seagrass Meadows & many more. These tours start at $79 & range from 1.5 to 6 hours. Check out their list of paddling adventures to book your tour!
Key Biscayne Village Green Park
Key Biscayne Village Green Park is located near the center of town. Though its not as large as some of Key Biscaynes other parks, its a popular outdoor recreation destination, especially for those with kids.
Theres a large playground and splash fountain, and for parents whod rather watch from a safe distance than join in the fun, there are shaded seating areas nearby.
For dog owners, theres a dog park. Runners and walkers often follow the parks borders, especially in the morning and afternoon hours when its generally cooler.
The park is free to use, open from sunrise to sunset, and theres free parking nearby.
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Biscayne National Park Welcomes You Back
As marinas, parks and green spaces reopen in our city, Biscayne National Park is a fantastic place to come and catch some rays and fresh air while practicing safe social distancing guidelines.
Here’s what’s happening at the park:
- Park grounds are OPEN from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Visitor Center is OPEN
- Snorkeling Tours through Biscayne National Park Institute have resumed: only small-group and private tours are being conducted to comply with social distancing guidelines
- Guided Paddle Tours in single and double kayaks have resumed.
- The kayak launch and restrooms at Convoy Point are open on a limited basis.
- Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams Keys are also open on a limited basis and Boat tours have resumed with reduced capacity
- Park waters remain open.
For more info check out Biscayne National Park Institute: Keeping You Safe From Covid-19
Biscayne Bay National Park is unique as National Parks go as over 95% of the park is in the waters of Biscayne Bay. Naturally, most activities to enjoy what the park offers revolve around water-based activities: snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, scuba diving, boating, sailing… so it is in fact, a paradise for outdoor, nature and water lovers.
Biscayne National Park is a relatively “newer” National Park which was only established in 1980 in order to protect and preserve the marine ecosystem in and around Biscayne Bay.
There are four main components to this ecosystem:
And Its Got Shipwrecks Mangroves And Mermaids Probably
Some people believe Atlantis sank somewhere near the Strait of Gibraltar. Others think its hidden beneath the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We say theyre all dead wrong, and that the actual location is in Florida somewhere at Biscayne National Park. Considering Floridas reputation for being realfuckingweird, this shouldnt sound too out-there.
For starters, 95% of this national park actually sits underwater, where youll find all the stuff that made Florida magical long before the Magic Kingdom. Biscaynes got shipwrecks and lighthouses, mangroves channels and pristine coral reefs, abandoned ocean villages, and vibrant wildlife . For those with strong sea legs and an eye keen for mystery, visiting this oft-overlooked, 270-square-mile ocean paradise is the ideal way to experience the aquatic beauty of South Florida.
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Meet Sea Turtles At The Loggerhead Marinelife Center In Juno Beach
Turtle undergoing rehab at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center
One of my favorite things to do in South Florida is to visit Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Its jaw dropping to see the sheer size, resilience, and cuteness of the turtles as they rehab from injuries and illnesses.
After spending an hour or two in the center, be sure to stop at the playground for the kids before heading down to one of the most beautiful beaches in South Florida for the afternoon. Oh, and if you have extra time in the area, be sure to check out any of the awesome Jupiter area activities on my list of the best things to do in Jupiter, FL.
What You Need To Know Before You Visit
About an hour south of Miami, Biscayne National Park is best accessed by car. The lone visitors center is off a nondescript country road near Homestead, so keep an eye out. If youve got your own boator a buddy who doesyou can sail through the park at no cost.
Otherwise, youll need to book an excursion through theBiscayne National Park Institute, a nonprofit that runs eco-friendly, educational trips out to the wrecks, reefs, and mangroves. Park entrance is free, but tours are notthey run anywhere from $40 for a two-hour paddle tour to $475 for a two-day sailing/camping/kayaking extravaganza.
When to go: The cool ocean breezes keep things Florida-pleasant most of the year. That said, from mid-May to early October you run the risk of days-long thunderstorms or a hurricane blowing through. For your best shot at good weather, visit from November-April. The tradeoff is the water will be colder and trips will be a bit more crowded.
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How To Get Around Biscayne National Park
The best way to explore the park is by boat, especially since its 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, youll 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.
What Is The Biscayne National Park Institute
You will see me referencing to the Biscayne National Park Institute many times in 12 things to do in Biscayne National Park so here is some brief information about it.
The Biscayne National Park Institute is an official partner of Biscayne National Park & a nonprofit partner with the Florida National Park Association. Their mission is to connect people to Biscayne National Park through educating visitors during their guided tours to help gain a better understanding, appreciation & respect for this park. Almost all of the tours within the park are run through the Biscayne National Park Institute from snorkeling, sailing, paddling, & boat cruises.
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Visiting Biscayne National Park With Kids
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Heading to Biscayne National Park with kids and wondering what there is to do? Weve got you covered! Biscayne National Park is located between Miami and Everglades National Park, making it a great addition to your South Florida trip. 95% of the park is composed of water, making it a very unique National Park. Read on for what to do in Biscayne National Park with kids.
The Biscayne National Park Boat Trip To Boca Chita
The three-hour tour is on a 25-foot powerboat and it takes at least a half hour to reach the island from Deering Estate, 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Miami, FL 33157, where the tour begins.
As you approach, Boca Chita Island is a beautiful sight framed by the turquoise water. It looks like an island paradise, which is exactly what it was developed to be.
Purchased in 1937 by millionaire Mark Honeywell, founder of Honeywill Inc., Boca Chita was a private party island for Honeywell, his moneyed pals and their yachts.
Honeywell had a decorative lighthouse built, which you can tour and from its top admire the spectacular view of blues and greens.
Theres a cannon from the HMS Fowey, which sunk on the reef near here in 1748, on display, a cannon Honeywell fired off to get his party started.
To make the story even more Hollywood-worthy, it is tinged with tragedy. Honeywells wife suffered an accident boating at the island and died, and he sold it in 1945.
Today the island is still a party destination, but now its for powerboat owners from Miami who come to hang out for the day, barbecue and play their music, often loudly. Unfortunately, that noise does not contribute to a real national park experience.
Theres a small rocky beach on the island, and the ranger/guide told folks on the boat they were welcome to take a dip or wade in if they wanted. In the time allotted on the island, however, there is not a lot of time for swimming.
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Tram Road: Take The Tram Hike Or Bike
Tram Road Info: 15 miles round trip, paved road that loops around, wheelchair accessible Road begins behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
The main attraction at Shark Valley is the Tram Road, which starts right behind the Visitor Center. As the name suggests, you can take a tram tour here, which is a great way to see this 15-mile loop. The most popular stop along the Tram Road is the 65-foot observation tower, located about half way. From the top, you can get wonderful panoramic views of the unique landscape that defines much of The Everglades.
To book your tickets for the tram tour in advance, go to the Shark Valley Tram Tours Website. If you prefer to take on a greater challenge, you can choose to walk or ride a bike around the loop. The folks at Shark Valley Tram Tours also offer bike rentals, and you can find more information about this right HERE.
Take An Airboat Tour Along Tamiami Trail
One interesting experience would be to take a tour on an airboat. This is a type of boat that has a large fan in the back and is specifically designed for floating around the swamps. There are three businesses that are authorized by the National Park Service to give these tours: Coopertown Airboats, Gator Park, and Everglades Safari Park. All three are located east of Shark Valley along US 41/Tamiami Trail. Depending on your preferences, you may find this experience more interesting than riding the tram in Shark Valley. If this is the case, plan to come for an airboat tour after exploring the Flamingo area and skip Shark Valley altogether.
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Find Your Inner Zen At Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens In Delray Beach
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach are a window into Japan right here in South Florida. The culturally enriching destination is a tranquil step into Japanese life manifesting through art, a bonsai display, architecture, and cuisine.
Snorkeling Tours Of The Bay
Consider doing a snorkel tour since the vast majority of the park is underwater. Not only do you get to experience the Florida Keys Reef system, but you also get out on the water to see more of the actual park. A 30-minute boat ride takes you by Elliot Key, getting to the main reef. On the boat ride occasionally pods of dolphins ride the boat wake, other times you will see loggerhead turtles, stingrays, or even a shark! You just never know what to expect.
Upon arrival at the reef, they give a brief orientation. They outfit you with the correct gear before entering the water. Then it is into the crystal-clear waters for a little adventure. Everywhere you can look giant brain corals, swaying sea fans, unique sponges, and colorful fish surround you. The water depth is anywhere from 8 to 12 feet good for all levels of snorkelers, take care not to touch the delicate corals, this is a fragile ecosystem.
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Prepare And Have A Great Time
In the end, whatever you decide, remember to plan ahead and come prepared! Check the weather in advance, and bring sunscreen and bug spray, sun hats and sunglasses, and plenty of food and water. Follow the trails, pick up your trash, and observe wildlife from a safe distance. This way you can make the most of your time and truly enjoy South Floridas unique nature!
Dante Fascell Visitor Center
Your first stop of the day should be at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. It is 9 miles east of Homestead, Florida. The visitor center is the only part of Biscayne National Park Florida that is accessible by car on the mainland. The park rangers are a great resource for planning a trip into Biscayne National Park.
Inside the visitors center, there are a few short videos in the auditorium and a variety of educational exhibits. The exhibits show the habitats of Biscayne Bay from the mangrove shorelines to coral reefs.
dante fascell visitor center art gallery
Within the visitor center, there is an art gallery with rotating art exhibits. The artwork is inspired by South Florida wildlife and natural history. While in the visitor center, it is well worth taking a few extra minutes to admire the artwork inspired by this beautiful park.
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Take A Back Country Boat Tour
Begin your Everglades adventure with a 90-minute back country boat tour departing from the Flamingo Visitor Center. This is a great way to learn about the environment and wildlife in the park. You can buy tickets there, but its best to make your reservations in advance at the Flamingo Adventures Website to be sure you get the spot you want. Flamingo Adventures also offer boat, kayak/canoe, and bike rentals, if this is something you would like to try. For more information about their rentals, click HERE.
The back country boat tour will take you through channels lined with lush mangroves, where crocodiles, alligators, birds, and even manatees roam freely. You will also spend some time in the vast Whitewater Bay, or as our tour guide called it, the epicenter of The Everglades.
Alligators Vs. Crocodiles
If you are unclear about the differences between alligators and crocodiles, here are a few basics we learned:
- Alligators are generally a darker green or brown color than crocodiles.
- Alligators have a U-shaped snout, while crocodiles have more of a triangular, V-shaped snout.
- When their mouths are closed, alligators show only their upper teeth, while crocodiles show both upper and some lower teeth.
- In the US, alligators live in several Southern states, while American crocodiles are only found in Florida.
Hike The Trails In Shark Valley
Bobcat Boardwalk Info: 0.5 miles one way, out-and-back easy boardwalk, wheelchair accessible Trailhead located off of the Tram Road.
Otter Cave Hammock Trail: 0.25 miles one way, out-and-back rough trail with stones, NOT wheelchair accessible Trailhead located off of the Tram Road.
Besides the Tram Road, there are a couple of short trails you can take at Shark Valley. These are the Bobcat Boardwalk and Otter Cave Hammock Trail. If you are looking to do more hiking, you might want to stay longer in the Flamingo Area before heading over to Shark Valley.
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Feed The Tarpon At Robbies Marina In Islamorada
Feeding the tarpon attracts a few other animal interactions..
Feeding the tarpon at Robbies Marina is practically a right of passage as you make your way down the Overseas Highway to the southernmost point. These fish are huge and feeding them is certainly heart pumping. After feeding the fish, stroll around the grounds of the marina, stop in the boutiques, and grab a bite to eat at the tiki bar before heading back on your way.