Biscayne National Park is located in Southeast Florida, just south of Miami, and is about 95% water. It preserves not only Biscayne Bay but also the mangroves and coral reef associated with it. This includes the northernmost portion of the Florida Reef, the third largest coral reef in the world. Further, several of the small, northernmost Florida Keys, such as Elliot and Adam’s Key, are part of this park. We recommend spending 1-2 days in this park depending on what you would like to see or do in it. Here is our quick guide on Biscayne National Park.
FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid-March
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What to do in Biscayne National Park
Take a day trip with the Biscayne National Park Institute
Since this National Park is 95% water, you need to get out on the water to really experience it. The best way to do this is to take a day trip with the Biscayne National Park Institute. This nonprofit company is the only company allowed to run day trips in Biscayne National Park. The Institute offers many different options for day trips depending on your interest. Be sure to book your trip far in advance so that you have your pick of different tours. We booked our trip about 3 months ahead of time for March travel with no issues; however, availability will likely vary depending on time of year.
Sail, Paddle, Snorkel and Island Visit
We did the Sail, Paddle, Snorkel and Island Visit day trip and highly recommend it. This day excursion is a great mix of activity and allows you to get a little taste of everything while in the park. First, this trip will take you on a sailboat ride across Biscayne Bay to one of the Keys within the park. Our trip took us to the secluded, peaceful and small Adams Key. On this island, there are only two houses for National Park Rangers and a small bathroom. Besides that, you have the island completely to yourself/group.
After relaxing and eating lunch (pack/bring your own) on the Key, you will take a kayak or a standup paddleboard into the mangroves where you will then have the opportunity to go snorkeling in the very clear blue and shallow water. While snorkeling here, we saw a lot of different pretty colored fish along the fringes of the mangroves and really enjoyed it. While kayaking through the mangroves, we saw a juvenile shark which was pretty neat too (avoid calling it a baby shark to avoid getting a certain song stuck in your head). After paddling and snorkeling for several hours, you will make your way back to the sailboat and then sail back to the mainland. We found this trip to be the right balance of relaxation and activity.
Other Excursions Options
The Institute also offers several other day trips that go to the Atlantic side of the park and into the coral reefs. On the same trip, we were also visiting Dry Tortugas National Park (see ***) and going to go snorkeling in the coral reef there. Therefore, we opted to stay in the calm, bayside waters near the mangroves while visiting Biscayne.
Make sure to look at all the daytrip options and pick one that suits your interests. You may consider doing two different day trips into the park to see two different parts of Biscayne as well. Once you book one trip with the Institute, you will likely get a small discount offer to book another. If you plan on purchasing two excursions, book your top choice first and wait to see if you get an email for a discount after booking to book another.
Where to Stay to Visit Biscayne National Park
Stay in Homestead or Key Largo
We opted to stay on the northern end of Key Largo, which is about 30 minutes from Biscayne National Park. We stayed at a cute Airbnb, perfect for two people, right on the Atlantic that we found to be an excellent place to unwind and would recommend it.
On our trip, we were also visiting Everglades National Park (see Everglades National Park Quick Guide), Dry Tortugas National Park (see Dry Tortugas National Park Quick Guide), the Florida Keys (see Florida Keys/Southern Florida Quick Guide) and Miami so we wanted a more central homebase than staying in Homestead. However, if only visiting Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park and/or Miami, you may want to stay in Homestead as it is closer to all three of those.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Biscayne National Park. Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Biscayne National Park? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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