Views, a lighthouse, and cuddly critters.


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by vampirefan on April 20, 2012

Not to far from Vizcaya and not to far from the hustle and bustle of Miami, you will find an oasis from modern day hassles at the Key Biscayne National Park.

While we were in the area I wanted to go see if I could climb the stairs of the Key Biscayne Lighthouse located in the Key Biscayne national park. This is a great place to bring the whole family. One can spend a few hours here or spend the whole day. No matter what, you will find plenty to do here.

While people have been settling in this area since the 1600’s, it was only in the 1960’s that this area was being settled! In 1961, 13 landowners decided to form the city of Islandia in Elliot Key in response to the growth in nearby Miami. But complications and environmental factors would cause problems with transportation to and from the islands. Today the city exists only on paper.

On October 18, 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson would sign the bill that would add Key Biscayne to the National Park Service. Today the park covers 172,971 areas. 95% of the park is underwater. Approximately 810 species floras, fauna, animals, and insects call this place home.

The park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Swimming is permitted only in certain areas. But you can lounge out by the beach and tan all day long. The park offers offer up fishing charters as well as diving charters. They dive 10 miles out from the shore. Snorkeling from the shore is permitted. There just isn’t much to see and the waters this close isn’t that pretty. They have glass bottom boat tours. You can kayak and canoes here. They have paddle boats for the whole family. They also offer daily boat tour to Key Elliot Island and Boca Chita adventures which includes the Boca Chita lighthouse. They also can arrange air boat tours. And you can book all this on line!

Within the park there are hiking trails, picnicking, camping, wildlife watching, ride a bike, or observe wildlife with your favorite wildlife. The park service does offer a number of events and classes throughout the year. They have a museum and art gallery in the visitor’s center. They do have concessions within the park as well as public restrooms. Enjoy a picnic at one of their many picnic tables and grills. Large groups can rent out covered shelters. They do offer programs for teachers and have a junior rangers program. Most of the park is accessible to all guests though keep in mind some of the smaller islands have no sidewalks.

After Nick and I climbed the lighthouse, we were headed to the car when I saw this adorable raccoon getting very close to a man who was hand feeding him. I just stopped to see how close this little guy would get. We went over and talked to the picnickers and they said they came there all the time and the raccoon had gotten used to them and would eat from their hand!!!

Websites:

www.biscayneunderwater.com for water rentals and trips.

www.nps.gov for the park website.

Cape Florida Light (Key Biscayne Lighthouse)

The first lighthouse was built in 1825. Seminole Indians protesting the white man kicking them out burnt it down 1836. From 1885-1886 the lighthouse was rebuilt and extended 65 more feet. The wooden steps would be replaced with the iron steps you still climb today. The light was in use until 1878 when it was replaced by Fowley Rocks light. It was retuned to aid in navigation in 1978. It marks the Floridian channel which is the deepest channel in Biscayne Bay. At one time James Deering owned the lighthouse. He restored the light and has studies done to see the extent of erosion on the nearby beach and set about to stop further erosion.

Today you can climb the steps for a spectacular bird’s eye view that overlooks the park the ocean, or look off in the distance and you can see the shimmering city of Miami. Rangers do lead guests on a guided tour that includes the keeper’s cottage and cookhouse which now houses a theater with a video on the lighthouse.

In 1971 the light was placed on the national registry. It was restored from 1967-1970 and then again from 1992-1996. The light has been seen several times in the TV shows Miami Vice and Burn Notice. It was also seen in the 1985 movie the Mean Season with Kirk Russell.

Tours are offered daily Thursday through Monday at 10 am and 1 pm for free. You must be at least 8 years old to climb the steps. Now when I was here we arrived around 1:30 and I was afraid I missed the chance to climb. But we got to the lighthouse and seen the door open and went on in. Now we didn’t get a tour but as soon as several people came back down, up we went. So I am not 100 % if they just have a tour of the lighthouse and other buildings at those times and then you can just climb in between. When we left around 2:30 it was still open.

It is so worth the 119 steps to the top. When you step out and look out across the ocean, it will take your breath away. Watch as boats sail lazy by….gaze out over Miami. or just watch the sunbathers. This would be Nick’s first climb up a lighthouse and he is afraid of heights. He did fine with the climb and I told him he didn’t have to venture to the outside but he braved it and came out for a few minutes. Then he left me to enjoy my views! And the path to the lighthouse is beautiful. It is lined with palms and beautiful flowers. Make sure you take your time getting here.

Recommendation: Very highly recommended.

Resources:

Here are some great lighthouse websites:

www.floridalighthouses.org. Info on lighthouses and you can help preserve these beauties

www.lhdigest.com. Listing of all lighthouses as well as the bi monthly magazine Lighthouse Digest, and all sorts of lighthouse items.

Book:

American Lighthouses. Bruce Roberts/Ray Jones. 1998. The Globe Pequot Press.
Biscayne National Park
9700 SW 328th Street
Homestead, Florida, 33030
(305) 230-1100

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