Biscayne Overview

Biscayne National Park, located in southern Florida, USA, is a unique natural treasure predominantly covered by water. Established as a national park in 1980, it encompasses approximately 700 square kilometers (about 270 square miles), with 95% of the park being underwater. Situated just a few miles from the bustling urban areas of Miami and Miami Beach, Biscayne National Park offers a stark contrast with its tranquil waters, vibrant coral reefs, and untouched islands.

The park is renowned for its remarkable marine ecosystem, which includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world. This underwater wonderland is home to an astonishing diversity of marine life, including over 500 species of fish, sea turtles, and manatees. The clear, shallow waters of the park make it an ideal destination for snorkeling and scuba diving, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the coral formations and the abundance of colorful sea life.

Biscayne National Park also includes several islands, such as Elliott Key, the park’s largest island, which was formed from coral reefs and offers hiking trails, camping facilities, and picnicking areas. The park’s maritime heritage is another key feature, with shipwrecks scattered throughout its waters, offering a glimpse into the past for divers and snorkelers exploring the park’s Shipwreck Trail.

Above the water, the park’s mangrove forests provide critical habitat for birds and other wildlife, making it a great place for birdwatching and kayaking. The park’s visitor center, located on the mainland at Convoy Point, offers educational exhibits about the park’s ecosystems, as well as boat tours that provide access to the park’s islands and reefs.

Biscayne National Park is a testament to the beauty and diversity of Florida’s natural environment, offering visitors the opportunity to explore a pristine aquatic landscape and discover the rich biodiversity of the region’s coral reefs and islands.

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Park Map
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Biscayne National Park Highlights

Land & Sea

Biscayne National Park, predominantly water, spans the northernmost region of the Florida Keys, offering a unique blend of aquamarine waters, coral reefs, islands, and shoreline mangroves. This vibrant marine park is a haven for an incredible diversity of marine life, providing habitats that range from shallow bay waters to deeper offshore environments. Within this submerged wonderland, visitors can encounter a spectacular array of creatures that thrive in and around the park’s coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests.

Manatee – These gentle giants, often referred to as sea cows, are a cherished sight in the park’s protected waters, where they graze on seagrass.

Bottle-nosed Dolphin – Playful and intelligent, bottle-nosed dolphins are frequently observed in groups, leaping and diving through the park’s clear waters.

Green Sea Turtle – Graceful swimmers, green sea turtles can be seen in the park’s seagrass beds, where they come to feed and sometimes nest on shorelines.

Spotted Eagle Ray – With their distinctive spots and long, slender tails, spotted eagle rays glide elegantly through the water, often seen near coral reefs.

American Crocodile – At the park’s mangrove-lined shores, the elusive American crocodile basks in the sun, a rare sight that highlights the park’s diverse ecosystems.

Lemon Shark – The shallow waters and mangrove habitats of Biscayne serve as a nursery for young lemon sharks, identifiable by their yellow-tinged skin.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle – Named for their large heads, loggerhead sea turtles are often spotted during their nesting season, coming ashore on the park’s sandy beaches.

Queen Conch – These large marine mollusks, with their beautiful spiral shells, are a common find in the seagrass beds, adding to the underwater mosaic.

French Angelfish – With their striking yellow-edged scales, French angelfish are a colorful presence among the coral reefs, often seen in pairs.

Nurse Shark – Typically found resting on the ocean floor during the day, nurse sharks are docile creatures, a common sight on snorkeling and diving expeditions.

Biscayne National Park’s rich marine life, from the majestic manatee to the vibrant coral reef communities, offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore and appreciate the intricate ecosystems that flourish beneath the surface of the water, highlighting the importance of conservation and stewardship of our natural marine heritage


Biscayne National Park, with its extensive marine and coastal environments, is not only a sanctuary for marine life but also a haven for bird enthusiasts. The park’s unique ecosystems, including its mangroves, shallow bay waters, and coral reef islands, provide critical habitats for a wide array of bird species. Over 170 bird species have been recorded in the park, ranging from vibrant wading birds to elusive shorebirds, each adding to the park’s biodiversity and offering birdwatchers and nature lovers alike a chance to observe avian life in its natural setting.

Brown Pelican – Often seen gliding over the water or plunging headfirst to catch fish, the Brown Pelican is a familiar and beloved sight along the coastline.

Osprey – Known as the fish hawk, the Osprey is a skilled hunter, frequently spotted hovering over the water before diving to snatch up fish with its talons.

Roseate Spoonbill – With its distinctive pink plumage and spoon-shaped bill, the Roseate Spoonbill stands out in the park’s mangroves and shallow waters, foraging for small fish and invertebrates.

Magnificent Frigatebird – Recognizable by its massive wingspan and forked tail, the Magnificent Frigatebird soars high above the water, often harassing other birds for their catch.

Great Egret – Elegant and graceful, the Great Egret stalks the park’s shallow waters in search of fish, its long legs and striking white plumage a common sight.

Green Heron – Smaller and more secretive than other herons, the Green Heron uses its sharp beak to expertly catch fish along the water’s edge.

White Ibis – With its bright white feathers and curved red bill, the White Ibis probes the mud for crabs and small aquatic prey, often in flocks.

Double-crested Cormorant – Frequently observed drying its wings on buoys or rocks, the Double-crested Cormorant dives underwater to catch fish, a testament to the park’s rich aquatic ecosystem.

Peregrine Falcon – The world’s fastest bird, the Peregrine Falcon, can sometimes be spotted in dramatic hunting dives, showcasing its incredible speed and agility.

Belted Kingfisher – Often heard before it’s seen, the Belted Kingfisher’s loud rattling call precedes its bullet-like plunge into the water to catch fish.

These bird species, among many others, make Biscayne National Park a vital area for avian conservation and a prime spot for birdwatching, reflecting the park’s importance in preserving natural habitats and biodiversity.

Biscayne National Park Pictures

Engaging Biscayne

Boca Chita Key

Rating: Easy to Moderate (water conditions vary)

Distance and Elevation Gain: Variable, as it is a water-based trail

Description: This underwater “trail” around Boca Chita Key allows snorkelers to explore a vibrant coral reef and see a variety of marine life. Visitors will experience the park’s clear waters and underwater beauty, including colorful coral, fish, and possibly sea turtles. Access is by boat, with guided tours available.


Jones Lagoon & Elliot Key

Canoe/Kayak Trail at Jones Lagoon

Rating: Moderate (depending on weather and currents)

Distance and Elevation Gain: Variable, with multiple routes available

Description: Paddling through Jones Lagoon offers a serene way to explore the park’s mangrove forests and shallow waters. Kayakers and canoeists can spot wildlife such as manatees, birds, and fish. This trail provides an immersive experience in the park’s quiet, natural beauty. Paddling experience is recommended due to potential currents and weather changes.

Canoe/Kayak Trail at Elliott Key

Rating: Moderate to Difficult (depending on weather and currents)

Distance and Elevation Gain: Various distances, exploring the island’s perimeter or to other keys

Description: Elliott Key offers a launch point for longer kayak or canoe trips along the island’s shoreline or to nearby keys. This trail is for more experienced paddlers, offering chances to explore coral reefs, mangrove fringes, and the open waters of Biscayne Bay, with camping available on the island.

Biscayne National Park Trails

Jetty Trail at Convoy Point

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 0.5 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: The Jetty Trail, located near the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Convoy Point, offers an easy walk with views of Biscayne Bay, the Miami skyline, and the park’s keys. This paved path is ideal for bird watching and sunset views, providing a brief but beautiful introduction to the park’s coastal ecosystem.

Spite Highway Trail on Elliott Key

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 7 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: The only traditional hiking trail in the park, Spite Highway, runs the length of Elliott Key, the park’s largest island. The trail offers a glimpse into the island’s history and natural landscapes, including tropical hardwood hammocks. It’s an easy, flat walk, providing a peaceful way to explore the island’s interior.

  • Britannica, Biscayne National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Geographic, Biscayne National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Park Foundation, An Aquamarine Paradise,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Park Service, Biscayne National Park,, retrieved April 2024.