Biscayne National Park is one of America's many national parks. It is a marine park that preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. 95% of the part is water but it also includes an extensive mangrove forest (as well as shipwrecks). It includes Elliott Key - the northernmost of the true Florida Keys.

While in Florida visit Dry Tortugas National Park and see one of America's largest forts in a tropical island paradise. While Florida may lack any mountains, it does have some extremely stunning marine environments.

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What To Know About The National Park

The park is home and a nursery to larval and juvenile fish, mollusks, crustaceans, seagrass beds, sponges, soft corals, endangered sea turtles, whales, hard corals, sawfish, American crocodiles, American alligators, and manatees. The National Park Service states:

"Within sight of Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs."

  • Florida Reef: One Of the Largest Coral Reefs in the World

Biscayne National Park is made up of four distinct ecosystems namely:

  • Shoreline Mangrove Swamp
  • Shallow Waters of Biscayne Bay
  • Coral Limestone Keys
  • The Florida Reef

Around 10,000 years ago the sea levels were lower and people of Glades culture once inhabited the Biscayne Bay region - but rising sea levels filled the bay. The islands were later inhabited by the Tequesta people up until the Spanish took control of the region. The reefs were the graveyards of a number of ships with there being more than 40 documented wrecks within the boundaries of the park.

  • Shipwrecks: There Are Over 40 Shipwrecks In The Park

Originally the proposal was for Biscayne Bay to be included as part of (must see) Everglades National Park, but in the end, it was removed from the proposal. And eventually, in 1980 it was designated a national park in its own right.

The park is heavily used by boaters and is only accessible by boat (apart from the visitor center on the mainland and the jetty at Black Point Marina).

Related: Florida Is More Than The Everglades, Try Exploring Big Cypress National Preserve Instead 

Visiting The Park

The Dante Fascell Visitor Center is less than an hour's drive from Downtown Miami at Convoy Point. This is the land-based launchpad to explore the park. One of the guided tours offered by the Biscayne National Park Insitute is a half-day cruise to the park's most visited island - Boca Chita Key.

Popular activities include scuba diving and snorkeling through the shipwrecks along the Maritime Heritage Trail.

Tip: Paddleboard Through Jones Lagoon (Teeming With Juvenile Sharks, Stingrays, And Turtles

  • Elliot Key: Once Home To Pineapple Plantations And Then A CIA Training Ground In The 1960s (Because of Cuba)

Small-Group Snorkel Experience

One of the top tours offered by the Biscayne National Park Insitute is the small group snorkel experience. On this tour, one can snorkel the reef, a wreck, or mangroves (weather-dependent).

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This half-day guided trip ventures out across the bay and as the group is small, there is plenty of room for social distancing. The exact sites are chosen by the captain based on the day's weather and sea conditions to ensure an optimal snorkeling experience.

It consists of an open ocean experience with a coral reef and snorkeling shipwreck sites (that range from a small collection of coral-encrusted ballast stones to the mangled metal structures of modern ships). During the winter and spring months, the second snorkel may be substituted with a visit to an island instead.

The experience is also educational with Institute and park staff explaining the local ecosystems beneath the waves.

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This snorkeling program is designed for active adults and children (over eight) who are good swimmers. Snorkel equipment is available for rent.

  • Cost: $99 Per Person
  • Private Trip: $575
  • Duration: 3.5 Hours
  • Start Time: 9:15 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
  • Available Days: Every day

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Related: Japan's Truk Lagoon is Home To An Extraordinary Number Of Wartime Wrecks, Still Visible Today

Jones Lagoon Eco-Adventure-Paddle Clear, Calm Waters

The Jones Lagoon tour is another experience offered by the Biscayne National Park Insitute. This is a guided exploration of the lagoon that is only inches deep and teeming with amazing marine life.

The tour uses stand-up paddleboards while in the lagoon because of their low profile that enables visitors to see more beneath the surface. One can kneel or sit on the paddleboard if one prefers.

On this trip, the equipment is included and the staff help with gear and educate about the history of the area and the local ecosystems.

This trip is also for active adults and children aged 12 and up who are good swimmers.

  • Cost: $89
  • Private Trips: $495
  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Start Time: 9 AM, 1:30 PM
  • Available Days: Daily
  • Age Limits: Age 12 and older (Private Booking Can Have Kids Aged 8 and Older)
  • Boat Ride: to Get To The Lagoon, Their is a Powerboat Ride For About 30 Minutes

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Next: How To Travel Safely To The Forgotten Tropical Solomon Islands