Miami is known as a happening hot spot for the trendy, chic and celebrity set but the city has a lot more to offer if you just know where to look. Miami was once a lush tropical paradise, inhabited mainly by beautiful flora and incredible fauna. If you’d like a glimpse at what the region that is now known as Miami used to look like all one has to do is visit Biscayne National Park.
Biscayne National Park is a fabulous combination of the sparkling blue waters, lush green islands, and coral reefs that are dotted with brightly colored tropical fish. But this region wasn’t untouched by human hands, in fact humans have a history stretching back more than 10,000 years in the Miami area. Biscayne National Park features evidence of this human interaction from pirates and their shipwrecks to the more recent pineapple farmers.
This magnificent area has only been a national park for a little more than 40 years. Plans were established to destroy this natural wonder, and the northern tip of the keys, but opposition was creating its own plans and wanted to preserve the area for the future. Luckily the preservationists won out and the area is available for all to share and enjoy and there’s a bit of history at every turn. One of the most exciting historical features is the trail of shipwrecks and very soon Biscayne National Park will be offering visitors the ability to explore some of the six wrecks off its shores. But even today snorkelers can ride out to wrecks and explore.
Biscayne National Park offers a variety of activities for visitors to the park, not one of those parks where you have to stick to the trail and can only look, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the park with snorkeling, diving, boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, and exploring.
In addition to the activities that are regularly available to visitors, Biscayne National Park hosts a number of special events throughout the year that you can participate in and learn more about the region.
Family Fun Fest – Family Fun Fest at Biscayne National Park is a free program open to the public and it’s held on the second Sunday of every month from December through April. Every Family Fun Fest event is different and focuses on a different aspect of the park. The five hands-on activity stations are the favorite aspect for many guests and a passport is clicked as each station is completed, the full passport can then be traded in for a commemorative pin. Check the Family Fun Fest website to see what events are happening during your visit. In addition to the exploration stations you can take a glass bottom boat trip, an island excursion, try your hand at snorkeling, explore a canoe trip, listen to ranger talks and see a number of exhibits.
Guided Canoe Tours – One of the best ways to explore and really see what natural Florida is all about is by canoeing or kayaking through the shallow bay waters. Take that experience a little further by going on a Guided Canoe Tour. The guided tours are typically offered from January through April but there are a few tours open during the rest of the year, but sporadically. If you are interested in trying your hand at kayaking or canoeing but don’t necessarily want the guided tour you can explore the waterways on your own. Experienced boaters can take the seven mile trek and set up camp at Elliott Key or Boca Chita Key, then spend your time paddling through the lagoons, creeks, and channels. If you’re interested in seeing an exciting array of wildlife then Shallow Jones Lagoon is the place to go with its sharks, rays, upside down jellyfish, schools of tropical fish and the wading birds. Hurricane Creek is good for snorkeling and discovering the secrets held beneath the mangrove roots.
BioBlitz 2010 – BioBlitz 2010 will occur on April 30 and May 1, 2010 and is one of the biggest events planned for Biscayne National Park. National Geographic and the National Park Services have joined forces and will take up this 24 hour inventory of the park’s species. You can join this event to try to find and identify as many species as possible. This is a rare experience for people interested in ecology, national parks, and learning and helping conservation efforts. Following the BioBlitz will be a Celebrate Biodiversity Festival with demonstrations, discussions, hands on activities, exhibits and a finale of Xavier Cortada’s Endangered World art installation.
For visitors not going during one of the events there is still so much to see and do at Biscayne National Park. There are four distinct ecosystems that all sort of merge together or at least coexist harmoniously; the mangrove forest, the southern expanse of Biscayne Bay, the northernmost Florida Keys, and the very beginning of the third largest coral reef in the world. Each ecosystem has a smaller community within it that is constantly changing and the flow of wildlife is always in a state of flux, meaning each visit will offer you something new and exciting.
Before loading up your family and heading to Biscayne National Park there are a few things you should know about the park before you go. Most of the park is actually covered by water, so there will be transportation issues. If you have your own boat it is a lot easier to get around but you’ll need to know what areas are safe, what are protected and other rules of the water as they pertain to the park. If you own a canoe or kayak you’ve got a bit more flexibility to explore the park as you wish, and if you don’t own one of these crafts you can always rent them. Visiting the official Biscayne National Park website is the best way to learn about the park, what activities are best when you’ll be visiting and uncovering a bit of history and important facts before your trip. The more prepared you are the better your overall experience at Biscayne National Park will be.