Biscayne National Park
The largest part of the Biscayne National Park consists of water, about 95%. The total surface of the park is about 700 km2. Only a small strip along the coast and a few small islands exist of land. On the strip of land, you can find a seemingly impenetrable mangrove forest which has length of 14 miles. Between the coast and the islands is the shallow Biscayne Bay located, here the sweet water from land and the salt water from the sea meet. The water here is very clear and shallow. Making it ideal for coral and all types of tropical fish.
The park is a paradise for water lovers. You can go diving, snorkelling and sailing here. The park is also very popular with bird spotters.
A small strip of the park is located on the coast, the main place is Convoy Point, the Dante Fascell Visitor Centre is also found here. This place is accessible by car. The rest of the park can only be reached by boat. it is allowed to use private boats under strict rules. Boat trips that leave from Convey Point are available. There are also boat trips organized that leave from other places towards the park.
Biscayne National Park is familiar with warm and wet summers. In the summer months the temperature often varies between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius. There is a chance of short extreme rain fall in the evenings, and there is a possibility of tropical storms or hurricanes. Even in the winter the temperature is still pleasant, with about 25 degrees Celsius. On average, the park knows mild and dry winters.
The Mangrove forest is formed by trees on high stalk roots in between which sand and salt is held. The forests form an important habitat for a lot of birds, fish and other animals. They also form a line of protection for the hurricanes that regularly terrorize the area.
Exhibitions are held in the Visitor Centre, they focus on the different ecosystems in the National Park. Here you can also admire the work of local artists. A walking route starts at the Visitor Centre as well, this will lead you to a lovely place to picknick. Close to the Biscayne, the haven Black Point Park and the nuclear power plant; Turkey Point Power Plant, are located. Both of these locations do not belong to the national park.
Biscayne Bay which means large clear bay, is partly located within the boundaries of the Biscayne National Park. Sweet and salt water is mixed inside the bay. The sweet water partly originates from the Everglades National Park and the salt water originates from the ocean. The bay is restricted by a series of islands on the eastern side. The western part of the bay is located in front of Florida’s coast. Water in the bay is shallow, on most spots between the 1 and 3 meters deep. On these places the soil covered in seagrass is visible. Because of the water streams the water can be quite warm. This combination is ideal for coral riffs. This bay is protected so well that many tropical fish are able to live here. There are over 200 types of fish in the bay, like; The Parrotfish, the Queen Angelfish, the Green Morey Eel and the Wrasse. You can also see sea turtles and dolphins, which swim closely around the bay.
Sandbanks and islands
A lot of sandbanks make their appearance in the Northern part of the park. The narrow shipping channels between those sandbanks are called “Finger Channels”. As seen from the sky they look a lot like fingers of a hand. On the island Key Biscayne are seven on high stilts houses build, together these houses are called Stilts Ville. The houses were mainly used by the fishers. Unfortunately, the houses have not been kept in good condition and after the many hurricanes that have hit this area the houses are no longer in use. Although a fund has been established to try and restore the houses.
Dozens of small islands are located between the park boundaries. Most of them lie between 5 and 7 miles of the coast. These islands protect the coast and the Biscayne Bay against the waves from the Atlantic Ocean. The warm and humid climate caused a very diverse vegetation. On the islands large mangrove forests, palm trees and other subtropical flora is found. Tourists are not allowed on every island.
Boca Chita Key is one of the islands with a small harbour. On this island you can find a camping that is opened all year around. The island does not have any clean drinking water, electricity or washing facilities. Luckily, they do have toilets. You have to take your trash with you once you leave the island. On the island is a 20 meters high lighthouse located. This lighthouse gives a magnificent view of the other islands, the bay and the Miami skyline. The lighthouse was built in the 30s’.
On the larger and more stretched out island; Elliot Key, you can also find a camping and harbour, in addition to a ranger station. The camping is situated between the trees next to the water and is also open for the entire year. In the harbour you have access to drinking water. On the other side of the bay a special area for swimmers was created. Although you have to be careful since the coast can be very rocky. There are two hiking trails on the island. A short one, which starts at the harbour and is about 1,2 kilometres and a longer one, which is about 10 kilometres. If you walk the long trail you will cover the full length of the island. Part of this trail goes through the woods, they have built a foot path.
Next to Elliot Key is the smaller island Adams Key located, you can visit this island during the day. It is a lovely location to go picnicking and hiking.
Activities are organised inside the park as well as right outside of it. Inside the park you can turn to Dante Fascell Visitor Centre, this is also the starting point of many hiking routes. What activities are being organised?
- A trip in a Glass Bottom Boat. This way you can see the incredible coral riffs and gorgeous tropical fish that swim underneath the boat.
- Discovering the bottom of the sea with snorkels. You can swim right through the colourful corals and fish, under direction of a guide.
- Licensed divers can also choose to join the Scuba diving trips.
- Multiple canoe and kayak excursions are offered, this is an amazing way to discover the National park.
- You can also choose to go on a hike with a ranger, these are called the talks and walks. The ranger will explain about the nature which you walk through and animals that live there.
- There are multiple island excursions, under which excursions to Boca Chita Key and Elliot Key.
- Theme afternoons are held in the summer months especially for families. The different themes all fit the national park.