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Biscayne National Park

Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents.

Outdoors enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife or just relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay.

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Boating

Access to these magnificent resources is limited only by time and your skills as a boat operator.

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Indoor Activities

The park offers a variety of free programs and activities and most of them begin at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, gallery and museum.

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Outdoor Activities

Snorkeling, paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking are great ways to explore the park’s mangrove-fringed shorelines and shallow bay waters.

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Eco-Adventures

Guided educational eco-adventures depart from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. Biscayne National Park showcases 10,000 years of human history!

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Plan Your Visit to Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is located in southern Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. The park covers 172,971 acres (69,999 ha) and includes Elliott Key, the park’s largest island and first of the true Florida Keys, formed from the fossilized coral reef. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand. The offshore portion of the park includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

Biscayne National Park protects four distinct ecosystems: the shoreline mangrove swamp, the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the coral limestone keys and the offshore Florida Reef. The shoreline swamps of the mainland and island margins provide a nursery for larval and juvenile fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The bay waters harbor immature and adult fish, seagrass beds, sponges, soft corals, and manatees. The keys are covered with tropical vegetation including endangered cacti and palms, and their beaches provide nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. Offshore reefs and waters harbor more than 200 species of fish, pelagic birds, whales and hard corals. Sixteen endangered species including Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies, smalltooth sawfish, manatees, and green and hawksbill sea turtles may be observed in the park. Biscayne also has a small population of threatened American crocodiles and a few American alligators.

Ninety-five percent of the park is water, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. Being on – or in – the water is the best way to experience the park.

Learn About Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is located at 9700 SW 328th Street, Sir Lancelot Jones Way, Homestead, FL 33033. The Dante Fascell Visitor Center may be reached from the Florida Turnpike or from US Highway 1.

From the North

From the Florida Turnpike take exit 6 (Speedway Boulevard). Turn left from exit ramp and continue south to SW 328th Street (North Canal Drive). Turn left on 328th Street and continue for four miles to the end of the road. The park entrance is on the left just before the entrance to Homestead Bayfront Marina.

From US Highway 1 drive south to Homestead.Turn left onto SW 137th Avenue (Speedway Boulevard). Continue south for five miles to SW 328th Street (North Canal Drive). Turn left and continue for four miles to the end of the road. The park entrance is on the left just before the entrance to Homestead Bayfront Marina.

From the South

From US Highway 1 drive north to Homestead. Turn right on SW 344th Street (Palm Drive, the last light before the Florida Turnpike entrance) . After about four miles the road curves to the north near the Homestead Speedway. Turn right on SW 328th Street (North Canal Drive) heading east. Continue for four miles to the end of the road. The park entrance is on the left just before the entrance to Homestead Bayfront Marina.

Traffic & Travel Tips

Directions to the park. Heavy South Florida vehicle traffic can cause delays. Please allow plenty of time for driving to and from the park, especially on weekends, holidays and rush hours. The Florida Turnpike is the best route to avoid delays (U.S. Highway 1 is usually a slow and arduous journey).

Approximate travel times to the park from various locations:

  • Downtown Miami (1 – 1.5 hours)
  • Fort Lauderdale (1.5 – 2 hours)
  • Homestead (20 minutes)
  • Key Largo (40 minutes)

There are many more boats in the park than vehicles, and only one mile of roadway in the park.

Public Transportation

The award-winning Homestead National Parks Trolley runs every weekend from late November through April. The trolley departs from historic downtown Homestead to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center as well as the Homestead Bayfront Marina. The trolley may be boarded at Losner Park in Homestead at 104 N. Krome Avenue. There is plenty of free parking adjacent to the trolley stop. The trolley connects to Miami-Dade bus routes.

Since water covers 95% of the park, access beyond the mainland shoreline requires a boat.

Mainland

The Dante Fascell Visitor Center and park headquarters are located at Convoy Point, and ramps, elevators, and boardwalks make this area fully accessible to those with mobility challenges. Visitor center exhibits are bilingual English/Spanish, as are the wayside exhibits along the Jetty Trail. Haitian Creole translations for the wayside exhibits are available at the visitor center information desk. Audiovisual programs are closed-captioned and available in both English and Spanish. Park brochure translations are available in several languages. Junior Ranger Program books are available in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

Islands

On Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams Keys, restrooms are accessible, yet some of the buildings are not. There are no sidewalks on Elliott or Adams Keys. Boca Chita Key has sidewalks around the harbor and to the restrooms, yet the rest of the island is grassy lawn and rocky ground.

The park has no entrance fees.

Camping

$25 fee for each overnight stay at Elliott Key or Boca Chita Key. It includes the use of up to two tents and six people. A boat is needed to get to each remote island. Docking space is available on a first come, first served, basis. Reservations are not accepted. Any boat in the harbor after 5 p.m. is required to pay an overnight fee. There is no fee for day use. Camping and docking fees are waived from May 1 to September 30.

Boca Chita Pavilion

Available for half-day rentals at $100 for a four hour period of exclusive use plus an additional $100 refundable deposit. Docking space is available on a first come, first served, basis. The fee or deposit does not guarantee docking space. Call 305-230-1144 x017 to reserve the pavilion.

No pass or fee is required for entry into the park, yet some America the Beautiful passes are available including; volunteer, 4th grade, access and U.S. military passes. Senior passes are not available at the park, yet may be purchased at nearby locations including; Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

The park is a special place where watery vistas meet emerald shorelines. Its rich history is revealed in shipwrecks, reefs, wildlife, the stories of people that helped to shape this unique area and more. These resources combined with the closeness of Miami, make the park an ideal location for a variety of special activity requests. Each event, activity, research project and commercial operation in the park requires a permit. Permits are issued and approved after National Park Service employees follow steps needed for environmental compliance. This includes reviews to determine what activities will not impair park values, resources, and visitor enjoyment. Permits are required for:

Special Park Uses

The special use permit authorizes activities that benefit individuals, groups or organizations, rather than the public at large. Examples include; weddings, memorial services, special assemblies, First Amendment activities and athletic events. The National Park Service may permit a special park use providing the activity will not cause derogation of park resources or values, visitor experiences, or the purpose for which the park was established. Primary consideration will be given to potential resource damage, anticipated disruption of normal public use, and previously approved permitted activities. Review the superintendent’s compendium for guidance on your proposed activity before submitting a special use permit application.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: a minimum of 15 business days are required to review special park use permit requests. The clock begins the day the completed permit application and the $100 non-refundable permit fee are received. Applications will not be considered until payment of the $100 non-refundable application fee is received. Large or complex projects may take additional time. In addition to the application fee, other fees may be charged. A National Park Service employee may be assigned as an on-site monitor for the project or an employee may spot-check activities to ensure adherence to the conditions of the permit and rules and regulations. The permittee will be billed for all costs incurred including employee overtime.

First Amendment Activities

A special use permit is required for public assembly or the sale or distribution of printed matter in National Park Service areas when group size is greater than 25. All First Amendment activities must take place at the designated area. Contact the permit coordinator for details. All activities are limited to daylight hours. All park regulations must be followed, and no resource damage is allowed.

Complete a special park use permit application and send it to the permit coordinator’s attention at 9700 SW 328 Street, Homestead, FL 33033. The application must contain a statement of the goal of the organization and the proposed activity.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: permits for First Amendment activities may take up to ten days to approve or deny. Customary permit fees requirements are not applied to First Amendment activities.

STILTSVILLE: the seven stilt houses located in the northern part of the park are closed to the public. Special visitation permission can be obtained by contacting the Stiltsville Trust, which maintains the properties through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. Depending on the nature of your visitation request, you may require a special park use permit from the NPS in addition to permission from the Stiltsville Trust. For more information visit the Stiltsville Trust.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: a minimum of 15 business days are required to review Stiltsville permit requests. The clock begins the day the completed permit application and $100 non-refundable permit fee are received. Applications will not be considered until payment of the $100 non-refundable application fee is received. Large or complex projects may take additional time. In addition to the application fee, other fees may be charged. A National Park Service employee may be assigned as an on-site monitor for the project or an employee may spot-check activities to ensure adherence to the conditions of the permit and rules and regulations. The permittee will be billed for all costs incurred including employee overtime.

Scattering of Ashes: The park is a beautiful, unique place that has touched many hearts. To request to memorialize a loved one by scattering their ashes in the park, a special use permit for scattering ashes is required.

Commercial Filming & Photography

All commercial filming requires a permit. Commercial filming is defined as digital or film recording of a visual image or sound recording by a person, business or other entity for a market audience, such as for a documentary, television or feature film, advertisement or similar project. It does not include coverage of breaking news or visitor filming for private use.

Private individuals engaged in still photography for their personal use and enjoyment generally do not need a film permit. Commercial still photography may be exempt unless it involves product or service advertisement; the use of models, sets or props, or when there is a potential for resource damage or disruption of visitor activities, or when the activity requests access to an area not normally open to the general public.

IMPORTANT NOTICES: a minimum of 15 business days are required to review commercial filming/still photography permit requests. The clock begins the day the completed permit application and $100 non-refundable permit fee are received. Applications will not be considered until payment of the $100 non-refundable application fee is received. Large or complex projects may take additional time.

Most projects require a certificate of insurance issued by a United States company showing general liability coverage and naming the United States Government, National Park Service as an additional insured. The usual minimum amount of insurance is $1,000,000, but the required amount may be increased for certain high-risk situations. In addition to the application fee, other fees may be charged. A National Park Service employee may be assigned as an on-site monitor for the project or an employee may spot-check activities to ensure adherence to the conditions of the permit and rules and regulations. The permittee will be billed for all costs incurred including employee overtime.

Commercial filming and photography activities are subject to location fees.

Commercial Use Authorizations

An organization is considered a business if you provide goods, services, activities, or other things to the public using National Park Service lands. If you receive any form of compensation for the things you provide, you are conducting a business or commercial activity.

The Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) program authorizes the provision of non-exclusive, suitable commercial services to park area visitors, as long as certain conditions are met: the services must be appropriate to the mission of the park, compliment resource protection, visitor protection and interpretation goals, and not pose any potential for derogation of values or purposes for which the park was established. They must be consistent with the park’s plans as well as present operations. They should be compatible with the planning documents for the park, and consistent with all applicable park area management plans, policies, and regulations.

The superintendent may grant CUAs to businesses when there are no fixed commercial facilities within a national park area; the commercial activity originates and terminates outside the park; no money changes hands on park lands; no commercial solicitation occurs on parklands. At this time, CUA permits are available for the following activities: sightseeing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, salvage/tow and vessel transportation.

A business wishing to conduct any of these activities in the park must procure a CUA in advance and follow the terms and conditions of the authorization. A Biscayne CUA is valid for one or two calendar years. Requirements including, but not limited to, liability insurance, licensing, equipment and first aid must be met to be considered for a CUA.

  • CUA application packet
  • List of current CUA holders and others authorized to guide tours in the park.
  • Contact the permit coordinator for more information (786-335-3639).

Research and Collecting

It is the policy of the National Park Service to support and encourage natural science and social science studies, provided that these studies enhance understanding of park natural, cultural and social resources, processes and values, or serve to assess how the use of the park impacts an ecosystem.

Permits are required by those seeking to conduct scientific and social studies in the park. Although studies conducted by outside investigators are not needed to focus on specific NPS issues, all studies must be consistent with NPS statutes, policies, and environmental laws that govern research on NPS lands.

Research permit applications and proposals go through a review process to ensure that all proposed research studies for the park comply with NPS statutes and policies, that park resources and values are not impaired, and that park visitors are not unduly impacted by proposed activities.

Researchers working under park permits are expected to follow the SFNRC research data reporting requirements and be cognizant of their obligation to submit their final deliverables.

How to apply: the National Park Service developed the Research Permit and Reporting System website to facilitate application for scientific research permits. Investigators interested in conducting research in the park are required to submit both an application and a research proposal via this system. Proposals may be uploaded during the online application. Investigators are encouraged to review the NPS guidelines for research proposals before submitting an application and research proposal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: permit applications will not be reviewed unless a proposal is submitted. Review and processing of research applications and proposals takes a minimum of 60 business days.

Pets are welcome on the grounds surrounding the visitor center and the developed areas of Elliott Key as long as they are on a leash and attended. With the exception of service animals, pets are prohibited in other islands of the park.

Pets are not used to fending for themselves and need access to fresh water, food and pest-free habitat which the park does not provide. Animals abandoned in the park are likely to perish from dehydration or starvation. To help an animal find a proper place to live, contact a local rescue such as the Humane Society, This is the Dog!, Pet Partners Rescue Home, Marvelous Pet Rescues and Born Free Shelter. It is a crime to abandon an animal in Miami Dade County.Loose pets are a danger to park resources. Loose cats, for example, kill wild birds. Spay or neuter pets and keep them in safe habitat.

Explore 173,000 acres of aquamarine waters, emerald islands and vibrant coral reefs! Experience largely undeveloped Florida Keys. Encounter the scenery, wildlife, history and other amazing resources of the park at the following locations.

Boca Chita Key

The most visited island in the park. The iconic and historic lighthouse, built by Mark Honeywell in the late 1930s, is located here. The lighthouse was never meant to guide ships to safe passageways yet draws them instead to the beauty and wonders of the park.

Maritime Heritage Trail

The romance of shipwrecks always captures the imagination. This underwater trail offers exciting opportunities to snorkel and explore the remains of shipwrecks in a beautiful natural setting.

Dante Fascell Visitor Center, Gallery and Museum

Many boat tours, programs and events begin here, the museum highlights park ecosystems with exhibits, sound and video, and the gallery includes the work of contemporary local artists inspired by the beauty of the park.

Jones Family Historic District and Lagoon

The former home and farm of Israel Lafayette Jones and his family, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Jones Lagoon, nearby, is a wonderful place to paddle.

Elliott Key

The largest island in the park. It was once a thriving community of pioneers engaged in pineapple farming, sponging, wrecking and other pursuits. Today the island offers camping, picnicking, swimming, wildlife watching and a hiking trail.

Stiltsville

Submerged lands in the northern part of the park containing historic houses built on stilts beginning in the 1930s.

Check for any current alerts for the park.

Boating accidents claim the lives of many people every year. Reduce your chances of injury or death by keeping basic boating rules in mind.

The Zika virus is a viral disease transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. Florida is in a potentially at-risk area for the Zika virus. Park visitors should be aware of the potential risk for Zika and take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Click on the link above to learn more about Zika and how to protect yourself.

Become a better boater with free boating classes. The classes will help you improve boating skills, learn about coral reefs and other resources, understand navigation rules and get involved at local national parks.

Dante Fascell Visitor Center

  • Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Holidays – closed on Christmas

Convoy Point Grounds

  • Open daily from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key

  • Accessible by boat
  • Open 24 hours a day

Adams Key

  • Accessible by boat
  • Day use area only

The park provides a beautiful setting that supports opportunities for recreation and learning close to a large metropolitan area. Recreational opportunities include; fishing, diving, snorkeling, boating, paddling, hiking, camping, wildlife watching and cultural exploration. Visitors find inspiration in the tranquility, solitude, scenic vistas, underwater environment, sounds of nature and more.

Getting Around

90% of visitors enter the park by boat and 95% of the park is covered by water. Visitors without a boat may join guided boat tours, explore the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, attend ranger programs, walk the short jetty trail, watch a film or have a picnic.

To get beyond the visitor center area requires a boat. There are no bridges or ferries to the islands or campgrounds and only one mile of road in the entire park.

Where to Eat

Unless you have fishing and lobstering skills like those above, there is no food available in the park. There is, however, a restaurant next door in Homestead’s Bayfront Park and Marina, and there are a variety of full-service restaurants in nearby cities and towns.

Improve Fishing Skills at Free Biscayne National Park Class

The experience and wisdom of boat captains and scientists combine in free fishing classes taught by park experts. The classes are offered in both English and Spanish at Suniland Park, 8398 SW 128th Street in Pinecrest.

“By helping anglers in the community we are also improving the health of the fisheries and protecting the amazing resources of the park,” said Captain Gil Muratori. “Each depends on the other.”

A veteran fishing captain, a fishery scientist and a park biologist teach the free courses. They help people to identify the fish they catch, understand fishing regulations and get the most out of their fishing experience. Course benefits include:

  • Free fish identification guides and other materials.
  • Advice on tackle, equipment maintenance and fishing techniques including “catch and release.”
  • Understanding how improved fishing depends upon protecting resources.

Seats in the class must be reserved by calling 305-230-1144 x036 or sending an e-mail to fishingclass@yahoo.com (se habla Español). Please mention your language preference when registering.

Over a thousand people have benefited from the park’s fishing class since it began in 2007. The class is provided as a service to the community by volunteers as well as park employees and contractors.

Stiltsville
Elliot Key
Dante Fascell Visitor Center
Boca Chita Key

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