Spend a day in Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is a must see on any national park traveler’s bucket list. The park is 95% underwater with over 600 species of fish and over 300 species of birds. The number of different species of fish is more than most national parks have of all types of animals combined. Keep reading to plan the perfect day exploring Biscayne National Park. 

Biscayne National Park entrance sign

This is my fourth post in a series all about Florida National Parks, which included a general post on the three National Parks in Florida and two posts on the Everglades National Park Homestead Entrance and Shark Valley. 

There are four ecosystems to explore within Biscayne National Park. 

  • Mangrove forest 
  • Biscayne Bay 
  • Northernmost Florida Keys 
  • Coral reef 

The Basics – Biscayne National Park  

Address: 9700 SW 328th Street Sir Lancelot Jones Way Homestead, Florida  
Hours: Park waters are open 24/7  

Visitor Center  

  • Dante Fascell Visitor Center  
    • Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM 

Park District Convoy Point Grounds 

  • Launch your own kayak or canoe from the ramp 
  • Hours: 7 AM to 5:30 PM 

There is no entrance fee to enter the park. 

View from Boca Chita Key Lighthouse

How do I get to Biscayne National Park? 

If you live in Florida you can drive to Biscayne National Park, but if you are coming out of state you will want to fly into a nearby airport and rent a car to access the park. 

Driving distance from select Florida cities 

  • Miami: ~ 1 hour 
  • Orlando: ~ 4 hours 15 minutes 
  • Tampa: ~ 4 hours 45 minutes 
  • Jacksonville: ~ 5 hours 30 minutes 
Palm trees on Boca Chita Key

The closest airports to Biscayne National Park are Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. 

Driving distance from select major airports  

  • Miami International Airport: ~ 50 minutes 
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: ~ 1 hour 15 minutes 
  • Palm Beach International Airport: ~ 2 hours 

Where should I stay? 

I recommend staying near Homestead, Florida if your primary purpose is to visit Biscayne National Park. If you stay in Homestead, you can also visit Everglades National Park while you are there.  

There are plenty of Airbnb’s you can rent for reasonable prices in the area. We chose this Airbnb which was in Princeton, Florida. It was a deal at only $40 per night and it was the perfect place to get some sleep during our visit. It took us approximately 20 minutes to get to the park entrance.  

There are also plenty of hotels in the area if you prefer to stay in a hotel over Airbnb. Most places in the Homestead area should only be a 15 to 25-minute drive to the park entrance. 

If you also want to experience Miami nightlife you could consider staying closer to the city, but will have at least an hour’s drive to the park depending on the exact location in Miami, you choose to stay. 

Mangroves in Biscayne National Park

When should I visit? 

Biscayne National Park can be visited year-round, but there are a few things you may want to consider. 

  • Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th every year 
    • More active months tend to be September and October 
  • Frequent thunderstorms during the summer 
  • Hot and humid temperatures during the summer  
  • Water temperatures will be cooler during winter months 

You may want to consider all these factors and plan your visit based on the type of activities you want to participate in. Summer months may be better for snorkeling and scuba diving due to the warmer waters, but the weather outside the water will be milder and more comfortable between December and May.  

Shoreline of Boca Chita Key on the Boca Chita Key Loop Trail

How many days should I spend in Biscayne National Park? 

This depends on how many different activities you want to do, but I would plan for at least one full day in the park, or up to 2 to 3 days if you have your own boat and plan to camp.  

What should I pack? 

Since most of your time will be spent in the water there are several items I highly recommend packing. 

  • Microfiber towel: these fold up small and do not take up a lot of extra packing space  
  • Sunscreen: Sunbum is a high-quality brand for coral reef friendly sunscreen 
  • Bug spray: if you are going to spend time on the islands you want to have bug spray on hand 
  • Dry bag: ensure your personal items stay dry throughout the day 
  • Sun hat: this is a great option from Amazon 
  • Waterproof cell phone holder: keep your phone safe from the water 
  • Sunglasses: consider polarized brands, but any will work  
  • Bathing suit: I personally love Aerie bathing suits  
  • Sun shirt: keep yourself protected from the sun on a long day on the water  
  • Water sandals: Teva is my favorite brand of water sandals, they are lightweight and dry easily  
  • Rain jacket: I hope you do not need this, but it was crucial on our trip as it rained on and off all day 
  • Snorkel gear: if you don’t have a snorkeling set, rentals are available 
  • Wet suits: if you are planning to snorkel a wet suit is recommended, rentals are available  
My friend and I on the boat to Boca Chita Key in our rain jackets in Biscayne National Park

What activities can I do in Biscayne National Park? 

If you have your own boat, kayak, canoe, or paddle board you will have more flexibility in planning your day. However, if you do not Biscayne National Park Institute has several rentals and tour options to ensure you have a great experience. Reservations are strongly encouraged, and I recommend making them at least a few months in advance.  

Boating 

If you have your own boat, you can explore Biscayne National Park on your own.  

We did not have personal watercraft, so we chose to book the sail, paddle, snorkel, and island visit through Biscayne National Park Institute. We chose this adventure because it included a little bit of everything boating, paddling, and snorkeling. It is important to note, lunch is not included. We packed Publix subs for an easy lunch to have on the boat. Due to the weather we boated out to Boca Chita Key and were able to explore the Boca Chita Key Lighthouse.

Boat we took to Boca Chita Key

Below are additional tours you can book through Biscayne National Institute. 

  • Deering Estate Lighthouses Boat Cruise 
  • Stiltsville Guided Historic Tour from Deering Estate 
  • Heritage of Biscayne Cruise 
  • Stiltsville Guided Historic Tour from Coconut Grove 
  • Deering Estate Bird of Biscayne Boat Cruise 
  • Park After Dark Evening Sunset Bay Cruise 
  • Deering Estate Boca Chita Key Cruise
A picture of my legs outstretched on the front of the boat in Biscayne National Park

Kayaking and Paddle Boarding 

If you have your own kayak or paddle board, you can launch from Convoy Point from 7:30 AM to 5 PM daily. Guided paddling adventures are available from Biscayne National Park as well as unguided experiences.  

Paddling Trips available through Biscayne National Institute  

  • Jones Lagoon Eco-Adventure paddle clear, calm, waters 
  • Paddle the mangroves & seagrass meadows 
  • Snorkel & paddle eco-adventure 
  • Sail, paddle, snorkel, & island visit 
Kayaking near the mangroves in Biscayne National Park

Snorkel and Scuba 

One of the most popular attractions in Biscayne National Park is the Maritime Heritage Trail which provides the opportunity to scuba dive and see six different shipwrecks. The trail is underwater and can only be accessed by boat. Additional snorkel and scuba experiences are offered by Biscayne National Institute.  

Snorkel and Scuba Trips through Biscayne National Institute 

  • Small group snorkel experience 
  • Sail, paddle, snorkel, & island visit – this is the tour we booked! 
  • Snorkel & paddle eco-adventure 
  • Scuba and snorkel eco-adventure  

Explore the Islands 

There are three accessible islands within Biscayne National Park. Some of the tours through Biscayne National Institute provide access to the islands.

  • Adams Key: open for day use only  
  • Boca Chita Key: Boca Chita Key Lighthouse is on the island  
  • Elliot Key: largest island in the park  
My friend and I on Boca Chita Key near the small beach area

On Boca Chita Key Island a 65-foot lighthouse built in the 1930’s is available for viewing. If the park rangers are nearby, you may even be able to climb the 63 steps to the top of the lighthouse and take in the surrounding views.  

Boca Chita Key Lighthouse

Hiking 

Considering 95% of the park is under water hiking opportunities are limited within the park. There are four trails within the park, but most are located remotely on the islands.  

Trail entrance for Boca Chita Key Loop trail
  • Jetty Trail: ~0.8 mile out and back  
    • Located on the mainland near Dante Fascell Visitor Center  
  • Adams Key Loop Trail: ~0.9 mile 
    • Located on Adams Key 
  • Spite Highway Trail: ~6 miles  
    • Located on Elliot Key 
  • Boca Chita Key Loop Trail: ~ 0.5 mile 
    • Located on Boca Chita Key 

Camping 

Overnight camping is available on Elliot Key or Boca Chita Key. A camping fee of $25 per night is charged. 

  • Fees waived from May 1st to September 30th  
  • Reservations are not accepted 
  • Docking space is available on a first come first serve basis  
  • You will need your own boat to camp on the island  

Final Thoughts on Biscayne National Park 

Have you ever visited Biscayne National Park or are you planning a visit soon? What did you find most helpful in this article? Let me know below! Additionally, if you are looking for any food or drink recommendations in the Homestead, Florida area be sure to check out the end of this post with all my favorites from my recent trip.  

Biscayne National Park sign at the visitors center

The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. 

Looking for other National Park adventures? Check out this post on Hot Springs National Park.  
Are you interested in visiting other lighthouses in South Florida? If so check out this post on Gasparilla Island State Park.

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