The Guide to Biscayne National Park

The Guide to Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

If you’re craving an RV adventure like no other, south Florida’s Biscayne National Park might be just what you’re looking for!

This national park is one of the untapped gems of the United States, visited significantly less than other popular tourist attractions in the country. While most other national parks feature mountains, waterfalls, and glacial lakes, Biscayne is completely unique from the get go.

With 95% of the park’s 173,000 acres covered in water, Biscayne offers an adventure of a different kind. There are close to one hundred shipwreck hidden beneath the salty waves, some of the most colorful coral reefs in the world, and thousands of coastal birds taking refuge in the area.

At first glance, you might think that this national park is just a few islands and some waves. But there’s truly more than what meets the eye. It is the single largest marine park in the entire United States!

Although you can’t explore the park in your RV (unless your RV is amphibious), you’ll be delighted to find plenty to do during a visit to the area. 

Biscayne National Park
Photo by Evan R on Unsplash

Biscayne National Park is just 45 minutes south of Miami. In fact, it’s so close that you can see the Miami skyline from the coast!

Booking an adventure here includes renting canoes or kayaks, snorkeling in the reef, exploring islands, watching the sea life from a glass-bottom boat tour, and spotting dozens of types of coastal birds.

Plus, Biscayne National Park is a great place to visit during the winter, since temperatures typically average around 75-degrees.

 So, what are you waiting for?

Pack your swimsuit and your sandals, this national park is sure to amaze!

The History of Biscayne National Park

Human habitation began in Biscayne Bay nearly 10,000 years ago. At that time, the people of the Glades culture inhabited the area when the sea levels were much lover.

The islands we see today at Biscayne National Park were actually just gentle slopes to the early Native American’s inhabiting this area. Over time, as the sea levels began to rise, the culture began to change along with the environment.

From near 4,000 years ago, up until the 16th century, the Tequesta people occupied the islands and the shoreline of Biscayne. When Spanish colonists arrived in ships to claim the region, many of the indigenous were forced to move away. During the Spanish conquest, nearly 40 Spanish ships were claimed by the reef in Biscayne Bay.

In the early 20th century, many of the islands in the area became private destinations for some of the wealthiest residents in Miami. Multiple exclusive social clubs and getaway homes were built, attracting various millionaires and even some U.S. presidents. 

Eventually, the area was becoming increasingly utilized for industrial means. Dozens of refineries, cargo ports, and petrochemical facilities started to crop up. In an effort to conserve the region, Biscayne National Monument was established in 1968. 

Finally, the preserved area was expanded into Biscayne National Park on June 28, 1980.

Getting to Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is one of the few U.S. national parks that has no entrance fee.

That’s right—it’s completely free to enter!

Although you won’t be able to drive many places within the park itself, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center welcomes tourists seeking to learn more about the park. In fact, this is the only mainland-based section of Biscayne National Park, complete with a picnic area, nearby trails, and a boat launch.

While the park’s shoreline stretches for miles in both directions, it is covered by impenetrable mangrove forests to the north and south. Your best bet is to plan on renting a canoe or kayak to explore some of the islands in the area, and to look out for playful dolphins looking to say hello.

Since Biscayne National Park is practically near the southernmost tip of Florida, the most common way to visit is to drive down from the north. However, if you do happen to have a boat, you can also reach Biscayne National Park by following the coastline on the water.

From Miami, there are a variety of roads you can take. The easiest route is probably to just follow the coastal roads south until you’re able to take SW 328th Street into the park. 

If you’d like a slightly faster route, you can also take FL-836 W to FL-826 S. From there, you can hop on FL-874 S and take it to the Ronald Reagan Turnpike. Once you see exit 9A, take SW 112th Avenue and zig-zag south until you’re able to reach SW 328th Street to enter the national park.

From Fort Myers, it’s a three hour drive for roughly 170 miles. Your best bet will be to stay on 1-75 S through Naples until it starts cutting eastward across the state. Eventually, you’ll merge onto FL-29 S and then turn left onto US-41 S. From this road, you’ll be led to the Ronald Reagan Turnpike and will be able to follow this road south toward Biscayne.

Since you’ll likely have to camp a few miles away from the national park, you may need to catch a ridesharing service from your campground.

RV Camping near Biscayne National Park

There are a few campgrounds located in Biscayne National Park, but they are all located on islands within the bay. Therefore, the national park doesn’t accommodate to overnight stays for RVs.

Nonetheless, there are a variety of excellent options to choose for RV campgrounds outside of the park. 

One of the closest RV campgrounds in the area is the Southern Comfort RV Resort. This campground has full hookups, as well as both 50 and 30 amp connections available. Some campsites are back-in, while other RV parking spaces are pull-thru, making maneuvering for a Class A motorhome much more convenient. While most of the RV campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis, it’s recommended to call ahead and book a reservation.

Another fantastic option for camping within the region is at the Pelicay Cay RV Park. This campground has full hookups, access to free Wi-Fi, and is entirely pet-friendly. One of the real perks of this campground is it nearness to Manatee Bay. For RV adventurers with a tow-behind boat, it’s possible to launch your boat in Manatee Creek and take it north to Biscayne National Park.

If you don’t have any luck with either of those RV campgrounds, rest assured, there are still more options!

The Miami Everglades RV Resort is only about 15 miles away from the entrance to the national park. The campground is surrounded by tropical plants and towering palm trees. There are also a variety of activities within the campground, such as a swimming pool, mini golf, a spa, basketball and volleyball courts, and a playground. There are more than 200 RV sites available for reservation.

You shouldn’t have much difficulty locating gas stations or grocery stores within the area since the park is just south of Miami. 

Attractions at Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is certainly a national park that requires you to get up-close and personal. In fact, there’s almost no other way to explore the area.

One of the most popular locations is Boca Chita Key. This remarkable island is home to a 65-foot tall ornamental lighthouse, built by the form island millionaire, Mark Honeywell. The lighthouse is mostly open during the winter and allows visitors to hike up to the top for some truly scenic views of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay.

Elliott Key is another wildly popular location within Biscayne. This seven-mile island offers a swimming area, bayside picnic grounds, a campground, hiking trails, and fishing spots. The two top attractions on the island are the boardwalk and the Spite Highway hiking trail.

For landlubbers and early visitors to the park, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center is also well-worth stopping at. There’s an interactive informational exhibit, an art gallery, and a theater that shows films about Biscayne’s history. You’ll also find plenty of picnic tables outdoors, along with a jetty for fishing, and a short hiking trail. 

The visitor center is where you’ll also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards for day-long excursions out on the water. During the winter, canoe rentals usually go for around $35 per person for the first hour, and then half the price for the following hours. Kayak rentals are slightly cheaper. Keep in mind that you’re sure to find plenty of hidden gems if you’re going to be paddling within the bay, so plan accordingly.

Another great option for a day excursion is to take a boat tour out into the bay. These iconic boat tours will lead you to some of the incredible shipwrecks in the area. You’ll also be able to peer down to the ocean’s floor by looking through the glass bottom of the boat. There are over 600 species of fish that have been sighted at Biscayne, along with sea turtles and dolphins.

During the winter months, when the visitor’s count is higher, it’s recommended to reserve tours at least two weeks in advance. They tend to book up very quickly, especially when the weather is nice and the water is clear.

Furthermore, you should also check out Stiltsville for its sheer uniqueness. This set of small shacks about 10 miles north of Boca Chita Key features sights you won’t see in any other national park. Although only a few of the original 27 structures remain, these extraordinary shacks on stanchions were once popular hotspots for party-goers and wealthy tycoons.

Some additional popular activities include snorkeling and scuba diving within the offshore reefs. Since the reefs have been the cause of many shipwrecks, recreational diving and snorkeling allows you to get a little more up close to the wrecks. There are ranger-led snorkeling tours available for reservation. You might also want to purchase some snorkeling gar before going and consider renting a canoe to dive at your leisure.

A Submerged National Park 

Biscayne National Park is one of southern Florida’s greatest treasures. If you’re planning on visiting Everglades National Park nearby, you should definitely have time booked for Biscayne as well. 

RV travelers will get the most out of this national park by bringing gear of their own, such as kayaks, snorkels, fishing poles, and binoculars. There are so many spectacular sights to be had, and you wouldn’t want to miss any piece of it by forgetting to pack the essentials.

Another nice thing about this area too is that it is relatively close to one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. A day of fun in the sun wouldn’t be complete without a lavish evening spent around Miami Beach. There are plenty of delicious seafood restaurants to choose from nearby, meaning that you’ll be able to satiate that appetite worked up from the sun and the sea. 

Even if you don’t plan on heading into Miami, there are plenty of additional activities to do near the park. The Crandon Park Beach, for example, has some of the finest white sands for sheer relaxation. You could also check out the golf course in Key Biscayne for an exciting day swinging clubs.

This out-of-the-way national park is definitely worth stopping by if you plan on taking an RV trip to the southern tip of Florida. Its story lies is written on the land and beneath the waves, evoking stories of plundering pirates, hidden treasures, and underwater catacombs.

Although most RV adventurers might bypass Biscayne on their lists for mountains and waterfalls, Biscayne has an environment that most people don’t get to see. For that, the location is significant and special, and surely shouldn’t be missed.

So if you’re ready to learn more about what lies beneath the waves of south Florida’s coast, be sure to plan a visit for Biscayne National Park.

If you’re looking for more Florida campgrounds, check out our Best Florida Oceanfront campgrounds and Florida’s most family-friendly campgrounds.

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