Kayak & Canoe / Southeast Florida

Boat tours are back at Biscayne National Park south of Miami

 

Lighthouse on Boca Chita in Biscayne National Park.

Lighthouse on Boca Chita in Biscayne National Park.

There’s no question: The best way to visit Biscayne National Park is by boat. Of the park’s 172,000 acres, 95% is covered by water.

Snorkeling on boat tour in Biscayne National Park.

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park.

Up until January 2016, that’s been a problem. It has been years since Biscayne National Park has offered any boat tours besides canoe and kayak rentals along the coastline.

Finally, however, two types of tours of available:

Tour boat, Biscayne National Seashore

Tour boat, Biscayne National Seashore

Three-hour group tours: A 45-foot power catamaran will show visitors the scenery and take visitors to the most popular island in the park, Boca Chita Key, where they can visit the park’s historic (and totally ornamental) lighthouse.

These tours cost $35 plus tax for adults and $25 plus tax for kids 5 to 12. The boats depart from the park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center on weekends. Check the park website for specific dates and times. The boat is ADA accessible.

Small, all-day sailboat excursions: The second tour is longer and pricier: All day excursions on a sailboat carrying six people for $149 per person. These tours will leave at 10 a.m. and return at 4 p.m. These trips will include opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, island hiking, kayaking or paddle boarding.

These tours involve sailing on the bay for a few hours, a stop at either Boca Chita or Adams Key, where guests can use stand up paddleboards or kayaks to explore mangrove tunnels and nearby waterways. Guests can hike on trails on the islands and swim at small beaches on each island.

Here are details about the sailboat excursions.

The third way to get out on the water is via kayak or canoe, which you can launch at the park. Kayaking is limited to the mangrove coastline. (The islands are too far to reach by paddle. A ranger estimated six hours of paddling over open water.) Paddle board and kayak rentals are available on weekends from Sports Stylee Paddling at Convoy Point (the location of the park visitor center). Call 786-389-2522 for more details.

Activities at Biscayne National Park

Both Boca Chita and Elliot Keys have campgrounds, but if you don’t have a boat, you have to arrange with a boat captain to get you there and back. (Neither of the boat tours listed above take campers; the park has no concessionaire for this service at this time.) Tent camping is $15 a night; boat camping is $20 a night, which includes dock space and use of a camp site. (Be warned: Mosquitoes are prevalent year round.)

Turkey Point nuclear plant is close to at Biscayne National Park

Turkey Point nuclear plant is near Biscayne National Park.

Convoy Point, Biscayne National Park headquarters, offers beautifully situated picnic tables — with shade and overlooking Biscayne Bay — and a scenic quarter-mile jetty. The visitor center offers exhibits and a movie.

Except as a picnic stop during a road trip to the Florida Keys, however, Biscayne National Park doesn’t offer many activities if you don’t have a way to go out on the water or take a boat tour.

Planning your visit to Biscayne National Park

Things to do near Biscayne National Park

  • If you’re driving to Biscayne National Park, you may want to keep going to explore the Florida Keys. Our Florida Keys mile-marker guide is an ideal companion to a roadtrip.
  • Everglades National Park is minutes away. Here are  our tips for visiting Everglades National Park. A free trolley connects the two national parks and the city of Homestead.
  • Robert is Here is a great stop in Homestead for milkshakes plus exotic fruit and variety of farm animals.
  • Drive down scenic Card Sound Road and discover Alabama Jack’s, a classic Keys tiki bar known for its conch fritters.
  • An attraction that belongs on the Florida funky hall of fame: Coral Castle Museum, is minutes away.
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4 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m going to Miami in mid-May and we don’t have the time to drive to the keys to snorkel. Is the snorkeling still available? It seems contradicting. Stating it started in January of 2016, but isn’t available anymore? Is that correct? Thank you. Please post a link odor phone number to book.

    • Bonnie Gross says:

      Michelle,

      Biscayne National Park offers boat tours to Boca Chita without snorkeling. In the past, they HAVE had snorkeling tours, which were very good, but they are not available at the moment.

      However, you can find snorkeling tours from a variety of dive shops in Miami, Broward and Palm Beach County. I have no first-hand experience with them, but there are a number of reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor.

      I should point out, though, that you can reach John Pennekamp State Park, which specializes in snorkeling tours, in 90 minutes from downtown Miami. It’s really not that much farther than Biscayne National Park in Homestead.

  2. You have typed a reversal in line 6 of this paragraph on the website. The word is “cruise”, not “criuse”.
    Biscayne National Park Institute provides in-depth recreational and educational experiences through guided boat tours and programs from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. Tours include an interpretive criuse to Boca Chita Key, relaxing sailing excursions, in-depth snorkel tours, and camping shuttle trips to Elliott Key.

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