Sunday, February 25, 2018

Easy Miami Day Trip: Biscayne National Park

South Florida's four national parks are our most valuable yet underrated assets. When I'm looking for something to do, I often forget that they're there. But they're there and they're majestic. For example, did you know Everglades National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? There's only 1073 of them on the planet and one of them is 50 miles from my front door. Similarly, Biscayne National Park, which is even closer, is the nation's largest marine national park and is home to some of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.

The South Florida National Parks Trust is a local non-profit that raises money to support the parks and works to better connect them with our community. Earlier this year, they selected young leaders in the Miami area as South Florida National Park Ambassadors and gave me the distinct honor of being among their inaugural class. As part of my "duties", I get to visit one national park a month to discover its riches and share them with you. Yesterday's visit took us to Biscayne National Park.

Biscayne National Park is unique in that most of us visit it on a pretty regular basis without knowing. The park is 95% water so it is hard to visualize its limits, particularly given that the visitor center is hidden all the way down in Homestead. Nevertheless, the park limits include all of Biscayne Bay south of Bill Baggs State Park to just north of Key Largo. If you've boated past Stiltsville or you've snorkeled Fowey Rocks, you've been inside Biscayne National Park. If you've ever gone from Miami to the Florida Keys by water, you've traveled through Biscayne National Park.

Another unique aspect of Biscayne National Park is that it's not just a sanctuary for natural resources, although it is comprised of four different types of habitat. It is also replete with culture and history. In addition to Stiltsville—I covered its place in Miami history ad nauseum when I announced the opening of Stiltsville Fish Bar in Sunset Harbour—the park's history also includes the remarkable story of the Joneses of Porgy Key, which we explored during my recent visit, and the shipwrecks along the Maritime Heritage Trail that I can't wait to dive next time.

If you're looking for something different to do, Biscayne National Park is an easy Miami day trip. For me, the biggest challenge has been finding a friend with a boat to take me. Luckily, the Biscayne National Park Institute has six boats and four more on the way that offer guided tours of Biscayne National Park from the visitor center. They are also working on partnerships with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami and Bill Baggs State Park to launch guided tours from there. The best part? Unlike most other national parks, they don't have an admission fee. Ergo, visiting Biscayne National Park is a no-brainer.


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