Biscayne National Park

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OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Biscayne National Park's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts approximately 60 minutes.

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OVERVIEW: Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park, located off the southeast corner of Florida, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The 173,000 acre park is situated within the Biscayne Bay situated in the northern Florida Keys. Originally established as a national monument in 1968. In 1980 Biscayne was designated as a national park. Just over 700,000 visitors came to enjoy the unique experiences that only can be had at Biscayne National Park in 2019 alone. We invite you to explore the 33 islands or keys seated off the coast of Florida, approximately 21 miles east of Everglades National Park.

For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, visit the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, call 305-230-1144, or go to To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.

There is a $25 per night marina-use fee at Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key harbors, which includes a $15 camping fee. Group campsites are $30. All camping and docking fees are waived May 1–September 30.

For up-to-date weather forecasts, phone 305-229-4522 or monitor marine radio reports on VHF channels 1, 2, or 3. Channel 16 broadcasts special weather warnings.

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OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

The front of the brochure gives a visitor the full understanding of Biscayne National Park and all it entails. Starting at the top and moving down, there is a large image of the Boca Chita Key or Island looking over the Biscayne Bay. Continuing down the page is facts that explain the location, size, and year of designation as a national park. In the opening of the brochure it states "In most parks land dominates the picture. But Biscayne is not like most parks. Here water and sky overwhelm the scene in every direction..." The bottom half of the brochure briefly goes over the mainland, bay, and keys, then goes into much depth over the reef surrounding Biscayne and the wildlife living within.

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IMAGES and TEXT: Biscayne

IMAGE 1 of 2: Lighthouse on Boca Chita Key

DESCRIPTION: Bright blue landscape panorama of the Boca Chita Key aimed towards a tan stoned lighthouse with a dark blue dome on top. The lighthouse in the center of the image on a piece of land, that sticks out three fourths of the picture on the right side, surrounded by water one both sides. To the far left of the image is a small piece of land that does not connect to the land with the lighthouse. The water is bright blue with reflections of the lighthouse, trees, and clouds. In the distance the water combines with the blue sky. Through the entire top of the image is fluffy white clouds. On the land right of the lighthouse there are many clusters of palm trees with picnic benches throughout the area. In the far right of the image is a building facing the lighthouse. The building has similar tan stone as the lighthouse, however it has a light blue triangular roof. 

CAPTION: The 65-foot lighthouse on Boca Chita Key provides outstanding views of Biscayne Bay

CREDIT: Murry H. Sill

IMAGE 2 of 2: Seafan

DESCRIPTION: The seafan is a flat fan like coral that can be found underwater surrounded by other corals. This image has a pink branch like coral to the left and to the right is the dark green seafan. In the foreground is other coral ranging in sizes and shapes with colors of yellow, blue, and shades of green and pink. There is a narrow circular fish in the foreground on the left side moving towards another grouping of corals. The water above is a clear blue with the sun shining though the center top. 

CAPTION: Seafan.

CREDIT: John Halas


Biscayne National Park has the simple beauty of a child’s drawing. Clear blue water. Bright yellow sun. Big sky. Dark green woodlands. Here and there a boat, a bird. It is a subtropical place where a mainland mangrove shoreline, a warm shallow bay, small islands or keys, and living coral reefs intermingle. Together they make up a vast, almost pristine wilderness and recreation area along the southeast edge of the Florida peninsula. The park, located 21 miles east of Everglades National Park, was established as a national monument in 1968. In 1980 it was enlarged to 173,000 acres and designated a national park to protect a rare combination of terrestrial and undersea life, to preserve a scenic subtropical setting, and to provide an outstanding spot for recreation and relaxation.

In most parks land dominates the picture. But Biscayne is not like most parks. Here water and sky overwhelm the scene in every direction, leaving the bits of low-lying land looking remote and insignificant. This is paradise for marine life, water birds, boaters, anglers, snorkelers, and divers alike. The water is refreshingly clean, extraordinarily clear. Only the maintenance of the natural interplay among the mainland, Biscayne Bay, keys, reefs, and the Florida Straits keeps it that way. The Caribbean-like climate saturates the park with year-round warmth, generous sunshine, and abundant rainfall. Tropical life thrives. The land is filled to overflowing with an unusual collection of trees, ferns, vines, flowers, and shrubs. Forests are lush, dark, humid, evergreen; many birds, butterflies, and other animals live in these woods.

No less odd or diverse is Biscayne’s underwater world. At its center are the coral reefs. Unlike the ocean depths, which are dark and nearly lifeless, the shallow water reefs are inundated with light and burgeoning with life. Brilliantly colorful tropical fish and other curious creatures populate the reefs. Their appearances and behavior are as exotic as their names—stoplight parrotfish, finger garlic sponge, goosehead scorpionfish, princess venus, peppermint goby. An explorer can spend hours drifting lazily in the waters above the reefs and watch a procession of some of the sea’s most fascinating inhabitants.

Whether on the reefs, the keys, the bay, or the mainland, you leave behind what is familiar and become acquainted with another world that is strange and wild. Biscayne is a different sort of national park. Expect the unexpected.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Mainland

DESCRIPTION: The image is of a mangrove root system both above and below the waterline. The water is a clear greenish blue in color while light is being reflected onto the ocean floor. The mangrove roots are clustered together with mud pressed against the bottom half creating habitat for aquatic animals, such as the orange fish swimming around the roots in the bottom right of the image. On top of the water is a bunch of sticks moving in all different directions. In the distance is some green plants leaning over the water. On the top left of the image is a blue sky with white clouds. 

CAPTION: Red mangroves.

CREDIT: John Brooks


In Biscayne the mainland mangrove shoreline has been preserved almost unbroken. For many years these trees of tropical and subtropical coasts were considered almost worthless. Some were cut for timber or used to make charcoal. In the 1960s the mangrove wilderness was referred to as “a form of wasteland.” Like thousands of other wetlands, it was cleared or filled to make way for harbors and expanding cities.

Now we know that the mangroves are vital to the well-being of the park and surrounding areas. Without them there would be fewer fish for anglers and fewer birds for birdwatchers. Biscayne Bay would become murky. Areas inland would be exposed to the full violence of hurricanes.

Beyond the Darkness

It is hard to see what lives in the brackish waters of the mangrove swamps because this water is stained brown by tannins from the trees. Hidden in the maze of roots is a productive nursery for commercial, sport, and reef fish. Here young find shelter and food. Fallen mangrove leaves feed bacteria and other microorganisms, and so begins a food web that supports underwater life and birds that nest and roost in the trees.

Defending the Coast

The mangrove forest appears as a nearly impenetrable fortress. Perhaps a snake or mosquito can move through easily, but little else can. It makes an effective buffer between the mainland and Biscayne Bay.

Mangroves guard the bay from being dirtied by eroded soil and pollutants washing from the land by trapping them in their tangle of roots. The trees also stand as a natural line of defense against the strong wind and waves of hurricanes.

Freaks of Nature

Mangroves have been called freaks, and a close look reveals why. Roots of the red mangrove arch stilt-like out of the water or grow down into the water from overhead branches. Roots of the black mangrove look like hundreds of cigars planted in the mud—they are the breathing organs necessary for survival in this waterlogged environment.

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DESCRIPTION: Two youth, no older than fifteen observing and touching a model of a turtle. The image shows these two children at one table smiling and more children at another table to the right of them. The child on the left has one hand under the turtles head and the other hand pointing to the shell. The child to the right is looking down at the same turtle, there is a pamphlet, a book, and another turtle model in front of the second child on the table. The turtle is light brown with darker spots on its head, arms, and shell. It has a pointed mouth with its head looking upwards. 

CAPTION: Studying turtles.

CREDIT: NPS / Courtesy Kodak, Photo, Neil Montanus


“The water of Biscayne Bay is exceedingly clear. In no part can one fail to clearly distinguish objects on the bottom  . . . ,” biologist Hugh Smith wrote in 1895. Today these shallow waters are still remarkably transparent. They serve as a blue-green tinted window to a world of starfish, sponges, sea urchins, crabs, fish of all sizes and kinds, and hundreds of other marine plants and animals.

The bay is a reservoir of natural riches, teeming with unusual, valuable, and rare wildlife. It is home for many; a temporary refuge and feeding ground for others; and a birthplace and nursery for still others. It is a benign powerhouse, designed to draw energy from the sun and use it to support a complex and far-reaching web of life.

The manatee is one unusual animal that depends on this web. This gentle blubbery giant visits the bay in winter to graze on turtle and manatee grasses. The water’s warmth and ample food supply attracts this endangered marine mammal.

Sanctuary for Birds

Birds are drawn here year-round. Each follows its own instincts for survival. Brown pelicans patrol the water’s surface, diving to catch prey. White ibis meander across exposed mud flats, probing for small fish and crustaceans.

Large colonies of little blue herons, snowy egrets, and other wading birds nest seasonally in the protected refuge of Arsenicker Keys. Shallow waters surrounding these mangrove islands in the south bay are especially well suited for foraging.

History of Abundance

The coastal wilderness of south Florida was the first spot in North America explored by Europeans. Spanish explorer Ponce de León sailed across Biscayne Bay in search of the mythical Fountain of Youth in 1513. Later travelers like land surveyor Andrew Ellicott recorded the bounty of life in the region. “Fish are abundant,” Ellicott wrote in 1799. “[Sea] Turtles are also to be had in plenty; those we took were of three kinds; the loggerhead, hawk-bill, and green.”

In the 1800s and early 1900s, many settlers of the keys earned their living from the bay. Among them were Key West fishermen who collected and sold the fast-growing, “fine-quality” bay sponges.

Underwater Crossroads

Today commercial fishermen, anglers, snorkelers, and boaters still reap bountiful rewards from the bay. The bay’s good health is reflected in the over 200 kinds of fish that spend part of their lives in it.

Many of the fish that dazzle snorkelers and divers on the coral reefs by day feed in the bay at night. Like the mangrove shoreline, the bay plays a critical role as a fish nursery. The young of many coral reef fish, like parrotfish and butterflyfish, and sport fish, like grunts, snappers, and the highly prized Spanish mackerel, find food and shelter from big hungry predators in the bay’s thick jungle of marine grasses.

Images of the Bay

Peering into the crystal waters of Biscayne Bay, it is hard to imagine either its past or its future as clouded. The bay seems suspended in time.

While neighboring Miami-Dade County has mushroomed into a metropolis of millions of people, the bay appears to have captured the magic of the Fountain of Youth that eluded Ponce de León. It has remained beautiful and relatively unspoiled. Although thousands of years old, it is still vibrant with life. But this has not always been true.

Early in the 1900s, parts of the bay were dying. In some northern areas of the park, pollutants poisoned the bay, and construction runoff spilled suffocating amounts of sediments. Today after years of cleanup, the north bay is recovering and the rest of the bay remains nearly pristine.

In 1895, biologist Hugh Smith declared that Biscayne Bay was “one of the finest bodies of water on the coast of Florida.” In another hundred years—if well protected—it still could be.

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IMAGE 1 of 2: Silhouette map

DESCRIPTION: The image is a silhouette of the lower peninsula of Florida. On the left side of Florida the land creates an inverted circular edge with a rounded end then curves outward back to the top right of the image. Off of the rounded end is an incomplete curved line that moves in the direction of the lower left part of the image. 


IMAGE 2 of 2: Brown Pelican

DESCRIPTION: The brown pelican is a large off white bird perching on a wooden post. This pelican has a long brown neck that curves from the body to the head. It's head is round with a yellow tinge closer to the eye. Circling the eye is orange. The brown pelicans beak is long and pointed with a white coloration similar to it's wings. The neck is slightly smaller in length when compared to the head and the beak combined. 

CAPTION: Brown Pelican.



About 100,000 years ago the Florida Keys were under construction. The builders were billions of coral animals, each not much larger than a dot on this page. Together these animals built a 150-mile-long chain of coral reefs. When these reefs later emerged from the sea, they became the islands of the Florida Keys. Look closely—you can see fossil coral rock on the islands of Biscayne.

Tropical Paradise

Gumbo limbo. Jamaican dogwood. Strangler fig. Devil’s-potato. Torchwood. Mahogany. Satin-leaf. Only tiny pockets in South Florida contain this mixture of tropical trees and shrubs common in the West Indies. North-flowing air, ocean currents, and storms delivered the pioneer seeds and plants that grew into the islands’ lush, jungle-like forests.

Walking on a trail in these hardwood hammocks, you may see other tropical natives. Zebra longwing butterflies and endangered Schaus swallowtails find refuge in the leaves and vines. Golden orb weavers betray their presence with large yellow spider webs. Birds and a few mammals share these mangrove-fringed keys..

American Indians to Millionaires

Over the years the keys attracted people willing to risk the chance of a hurricane and the certainty of pesky bugs. American Indians were first. Tree-cutters from the Bahamas came later and felled massive mahoganies for ships. Early settlers on Elliott Key cleared forests and planted key limes and pineapples. Subtropical forests throughout the keys were destroyed. Biscayne preserves some of the finest left today.

The islands abound with legends of pirates and buried treasure. Shipwrecks, victims of high seas and treacherous reefs, lie offshore. Fortune hunters, bootleggers, artists, millionaires, and four U.S. presidents have spent time on the keys.

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IMAGE 1 of 12: Snorkelers

DESCRIPTION: The foreground of the image is a yellow and green coral reef. The corals closest to the foreground is called elkhorn coral which is in the shape of antler with bumps all over. In the top distance two scuba divers are swimming and looking down on the reef. The water is clear blue with light shining through the water. 

CAPTION: Snorkelers view elkhorn coral.

CREDIT: John Brooks


Dive into the undersea realm of the coral reefs, and you will discover a feast for the eyes. It is a living kaleidoscope of gaudy colors, bold patterns, intricate designs, and peculiar shapes. Alien, yet inviting, the life of the reefs excites and mystifies snorkelers and scientists alike.

Reef Builders

Among the most puzzling creatures are the corals. Early biologists suspected they were plants. But each coral—each brain, finger, or staghorn coral—is actually a colony of thousands of tiny, soft-bodied animals. These animals called polyps are relatives of the sea anemone and jellyfish. Rarely seen in the day, the polyps emerge from their hard, stony skeletons at night to feed, catching drifting plankton in their out stretched tentacles. These primitive, unassuming animals are the mighty master reef builders. The creation of one reef requires the effort of billions of individuals. Each extracts building material—calcium—from the sea and uses it to make itself a protective tube shaped skeleton. Hundreds of these skeletons make a coral. Many corals, growing side by side and one on top of the other, form a reef.

Corals are very particular about where they build reefs. Like the off shore seas of Biscayne, the water must be the right temperature( no cooler than 68˚F) the right depth (no deeper than 200 feet), and be clean and well-lit. Such conditions exist along the Florida Keys in and south of Biscayne and in the Caribbean, and in other tropical oceans.

Undersea Metropolis

Reefs are the cities of the sea. In and around them lives a huge, diverse population of fish and other marine creatures. Every hole, every crack is a home for something. Some inhabitants, like the Christmas tree worm, live anchored to the coral. There is food to satisfy all tastes. Fish and flamingo tongues (snail like mollusks) eat coral. Fish are food for other fish and, quite often, for sea food gourmets.

IMAGE 2 of 12: Sailboat

DESCRIPTION: The picture is a sailboat leaning to the right side of the image. The boat has two large triangular mases that are taut. The deck of the boat is white with two small windows closer to the front and the bottom of the boat in blue. There is three people on board, two of them are ware lifejackets. On the backside of the boat is a small American flag with a line leading from the boat into the water. The water is bright blue with a reflection of the boat. There are low hanging clouds in the distance. The blue sky gets gradually darker as the image continues upward. 

CAPTION: Sailing on Biscayne Bay.

CREDIT: NPS / Courtesy Kodak, Photo: Neil Montanus

IMAGE 3 of 12: Coral polyps

DESCRIPTION: The coral polyps resembles noodles sticking straight up. The coral is yellow with a white tip. These polyps are thicker on the bottom and come to a flat point. They are in clusters and all attached to the same yellow flooring. 

CAPTION: Coral Polyps.

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 4 of 12: Vase sponge

DESCRIPTION: The vase sponge resembles are stump of a tree by being short, brown, and bumps all over. The bottom of the sponge is thinner than the top. Surrounding the vase sponge is green and tan grass like plants. The water is more teal than blue or green. 

CAPTION: Vase sponge in a bed of seagrass.

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 5 of 12: Brain coral and Christmas tree worm

DESCRIPTION: The brain coral resembles a raised maze moving is all different directions and filled with curves. The coral is a yellowish tan with an orange Christmas tree worm on the bottom part. The Christmas tree worms body is nail shape with a flat head closest to the bottom of the image. On its back is two tree like shapes, one directed toward to top left and the other towards the top right. 

CAPTION: Brain coral and Christmas tree worm.

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 6 of 12: Tunicate

DESCRIPTION: The tunicate is a rounded ball like water invertebrate with a single stem out of the bottom and top. The rounded ball is covered in purple cylinders sticking out. On the top of each cylinder is a small white circular opening. In the center of the tunicate is a small fish that is clear except for a red and white stripe going up the spine. 

CAPTION: Tunicate

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 7 of 12: Rock Beauty angelfish

DESCRIPTION: The rock beauty angelfish is shaped like an arrow, the face being the point. The fish is mostly yellow with a black side and black lips. This fish has a line of blue both on top and below its eyes. Surrounding the fish is multiple colors of rocks and different corals. 

CAPTION: Rock Beauty angelfish.

CREDIT: John Brooks


Fish of the Reef

“In variety, in brilliance of color, in elegance of movement, the fishes may well compare with the most beautiful assemblage of birds in tropical climates,” Louis Agassiz, 1800s naturalist, wrote after visiting the Florida reefs. Reefs host the world’s most spectacular fish. Along Biscayne’s reefs are over 200 types of fish. Some are impressive in size, others in color. Some seem grotesque, others dangerous—or are they? Many behave in bizarre, unexplainable ways, at least to humans. Few places on Earth match the diversity of life in the reefs’ underwater wilderness.

A Sea of Color

Imagine the most colorful scene you have ever seen—a field of wildflowers, glittering city lights at night, a desert sunset. Whatever it is, the dazzling spectrum displayed by reef fish will equal or surpass it. The range extends from the flamboyant—angelfish, wrasses, parrotfish, and neon gobies—to fish that seem drab and ordinary.

There is much speculation about what role the colors play. An eye-grabbing wardrobe may serve as a kind of billboard, advertising a fish’s presence. Vividly colored wrasses attract other fish in this way so they can clean them of parasites and dead tissue, getting a meal in return. Multicolored bars, splotches, and stripes blur the outline of other fish, making it difficult for predators to see them against the reef’s complex background. Some fish are masters of disguise. Many turn different colors at night, presumably to hide from nocturnal predators. The camouflaged moray eel blends in with its surroundings. Unsuspecting fish that swim too close often get caught between the eel’s powerful jaws and needle-sharp teeth.

A Montage of Motion

Morays are sedentary creatures, but most fish swim freely about the reefs. Some, like the solitary angelfish, move with deliberate grace. Others dart about in schools of thousands, moving with the precision of choreographed dancers. Each closeknit group offers protection to its members. Reef fish are noted for their eccentric behavior. One is the sharp-beaked parrotfish. It can be seen, and even heard, munching on coral. Odd meal for a fish? Not really. Along with rock, the parrotfish is devouring algae and coral polyps.

IMAGE 8 of 12: Trumpetfish

DESCRIPTION: The trumpetfish is a long narrow tan fish. It has small black spot all over its body and onto its head. Surrounding the fish are bright colors of green, red, yellow, orange, and blue. 

CAPTION: Trumpetfish

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 9 of 12: Queen angelfish

DESCRIPTION: The queen angelfish is a teal blue fish with netting like scales. The fish is in the shape of a capitol letter D with the corners sticking further out, and the back fin in the center of the straight line of the D. The fins and the points of the back corners are all yellow. The fish has yellow eyes with a dark blue outline. Surrounding the queen angelfish is various rocks and corals, everything in the image has a blue tinge. 

CAPTION: Queen angelfish.

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 10 of 12: Foureye butterflyfish

DESCRIPTION: The foureye butterflyfish is a white fish with diagonal black lines. In the center back of the fish is a black circle. Surrounding the fish is a green and yellow rounded styrofoam like coral. 

CAPTION: Foureye butterflyfish

CREDIT: John Brooks

IMAGE 11 of 12: Parrotfish

DESCRIPTION: The parrotfish is in the shape of an elongated oval with its primarily color being green blue. Each scale on its side has a rainbow pattern. The back fin is in the shape of a backwards letter C. The fin is blue, green, and yellow. The front gills are a light pink. Behind the parrotfish is a large rock like object that has yellow and red algae. Below the fish is a shadow and another blue fish. 

CAPTION: Parrotfish.

CREDIT: Steve Simonsen

IMAGE 12 of 12: Southern stingray

DESCRIPTION: The southern stingray is brown and in the shape of a circle with wavy edges. It has two eyes on the top of its back. The stingray has a skinny narrow tail. The ground is tan sand with small grass fragments in the background of the image. 

CAPTION: Southern stingray

CREDIT: John Brooks

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OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

The backside of the brochure goes over the logistics of visiting Biscayne National Park. On the top of the page there is information on the mainland going over Convoy Point, Things to Do, Lodging and Services, and Camping. Then the brochure goes over general information such as the climate, safety and regulations, and how to access the park. In the top right corner is a overview map of the southeast region of Florida including the Atlantic Ocean. 2/3rd of the page is a detailed map of Biscayne National Park that should not be used for navigation. On the right hand side of the map is a detailed legend that includes facilities, water features, water landmarks, channel markers, channel aids, boating markers, and flags. Below the legend is need to know information on the water, on the keys, and on the reefs about restricted areas, weather concerns, presailing checklists, keys, and fees. 

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TEXT: Exploring Biscayne

On the Mainland

Convoy Point Park headquarters and Dante Fascell Visitor Center are at Convoy Point. The visitor center has exhibits, a theater/gallery, a store, and schedules of activities. Convoy Point has a picnic area with tables, fire grills, restrooms, and a short trail with views of birds and marine life. Call 305-230-1144.

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TEXT: Boat tours

Boat Tours, ranger programs, art exhibits, and special events are a few ways to explore Biscayne National Park. Enjoy the park’s rare combination of aquamarine waters,  emerald islands, and vibrant coral reefs. A current list of guided tours and activities is posted on the park website

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TEXT: Lodging and Services

Lodging and Services

Homestead, Miami, and the Florida Keys have lodging (reservations recommended), restaurants, service stations, groceries, and other stores. Nearby public marinas have boat launch ramps and fuel and often charter or rent sail and motor boats (listen to map).

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TEXT: Camping


There are no campgrounds on the park’s mainland. See “On the Keys” (below, right) for information about island camping. These campsites are reached only by boat. Fees apply. Nearby private mainland campgrounds and trailer parks in Homestead, Florida City, and South Miami have sites for tents, mobile homes, and trailers. Everglades National Park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and other area parks have year-round campgrounds.

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TEXT: General Information – Climate


Biscayne has warm, wet summers (May–October) and mild, dry winters (November–April). Expect sunshine and high humidity year-round. High temperatures average in the high 80s to low 90s°F in summer and mid-70s to low 80s°F in winter. Annual rainfall fluctuates, but 60 inches or more is common. Most rain falls in summer during brief afternoon thunderstorms. Summer and fall bring hurricanes and tropical storms.

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TEXT: Safety and Regulations

The park is a wildlife and historical preserve—do not disturb or remove natural or historical objects; all are protected by federal law. 

• Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet and are restricted to certain areas of the park. • Be careful when wading; coral rock is sharp. 

• Fires are allowed only in campstoves or designated grills.

• Protect yourself from the sun; wear waterproof sunscreen. Use reef-safe sunscreen when possible. 

• There are no lifeguards; do not swim alone.

• Mosquitoes and biting insects are here year-round but are least abundant January–April. Use insect repellent. When camping, use bugproof netting. 

• Fireworks and other explosives are prohibited. 

• Federal and state weapons regulations apply.

Emergencies call 911

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TEXT: Getting to the Park

The main north-south highways approaching Biscayne are Florida’s Turnpike and US 1. The most direct route to Convoy Point is via SW 328th St., which intersects US 1 in Homestead. Driving south on the turnpike, you can reach SW 328th St. by taking Speedway Blvd. south (Exit 6, SW 137th Ave.); then follow the signs. The rest of the park is accessible only by boat. For boat launches, listen to the map descriptions.

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TEXT: On the Water

The Florida Straits and Biscayne Bay offer great year-round recreation. Enjoy saltwater fishing in all seasons. Snappers, groupers, grunts, and triggerfish are popular catches. State of Florida fishing regulations apply for fishing license requirements, bag limits, size limits, closed areas, closed seasons, and allowable methods of take. Harvesting ornamental species is prohibited.

•Take stone crabs in season and blue crabs year-round.

•Lobsters are protected in the bay and tidal creeks but may be taken on the keys’ seaward side in season.

•Waterskiing is allowed; avoid mooring sites, and watch for swimmers and divers. Jet skis and personal watercraft (PWC) are prohibited.

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TEXT: Restricted Area — Legare Anchorage

Do not anchor vessels, stop, swim, dive, or snorkel. Underwater viewing devices like cameras and glass-bottom buckets are prohibited. Drift fishing and trolling are allowed.

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TEXT: Presailing Checklist

You must take this gear when boating: a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each passenger, a fire extinguisher, and signaling equipment. Take enough fuel for a round-trip. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Before leaving shore, check sea conditions, weather forecasts, and tides.

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TEXT: Caution! Be Alert!

Watch weather closely. Storms move quickly, bringing rough seas and dangerous lightning. Monitor marine weather radio broadcasts. When a storm breaks, seek the nearest safe harbor.

Use caution when navigating shallow waters! Water depths on nautical charts represent the average depth at low tide; levels may be lower or higher. In Biscayne Bay low and high tides occur later than the times listed in the tide tables for Miami harbor entrance. In the bay’s southern part, low tide occurs as much as 3½ hours later; high tide as much as 2½ hours later.

Boaters must know and use safe boating and navigation techniques.

•Your propeller can damage reefs, kill corals or grassbeds, and damage your propeller or engine cooling system or hull.

•Watch for manatees and sea turtles; collisions and propellers can cause injury and death to these protected animals.

•Watch for swimmers and divers near moored boats or in areas where they might be expected. Stay 300 feet away from a diver’s flag.

•When you leave your boat to swim, anchor it securely.

•Currents are strongest on the outer reefs and in cuts between the keys; do not let currents carry you or your boat away.

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TEXT: On the Keys

The keys can be reached only by boat. Developed recreation areas and services are limited to a few islands. Boat fuel, supplies, and food are not sold on any island; find them at mainland marinas. Only Elliott Key has drinking water.

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TEXT: Elliott Key

Docking is available at Elliott Key Harbor and at University Dock. A  campground (picnic tables and grills) operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Drinking water, restrooms, and showers are nearby. Overnight anchorage sites are offshore. The island has a self-guiding interpretive trail.

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TEXT: Adams Key

A boat dock, picnic area, restrooms, and a trail are available for day use (no fee).

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TEXT: Boca Chita Key

A picnic area, cleated seawall, hiking trail, and restrooms are available. A campground (grills and tables) operates on a first-come, first-served basis. An  ornamental lighthouse is open intermittently.

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TEXT: Sands Key

Overnight anchorage sites are located offshore.

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TEXT: Arsenicker Keys, Soldier Key

Some areas by the Arsenicker Keys and Soldier Key are closed to the public due to their particular importance as a bird nesting area; do not disturb these keys. 

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TEXT: Rules and Safety Tips

The entire park is a wildlife refuge. DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE. Raccoons can become pests when humans feed them.

• Pack out all trash on the keys. Some private property still exists on the keys; please respect owners’ rights.

• A few tropical plants can cause painful itching; do not touch plants you do not recognize as harmless.

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TEXT: Fees

There is a $25 per night marina-use fee at Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key harbors, which includes a $15 camping fee. Group campsites are $30. All camping and docking fees are waived May 1–September 30.

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TEXT: On the Reefs

Reef exploring is best on calm, sunny days. The patch reefs close to shore and the outer reefs along the park’s eastern boundary offer good diving and snorkeling.

•Reef guidebooks are sold at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center.

•Mooring buoys are available on some patch reefs; ask a ranger for mooring buoy locations.

•Ask about the Maritime Heritage Trail at the visitor center.

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TEXT: Safety First

Use caution when you visit the reefs. Strong currents occur on the outer reefs; unless you are experienced, stay on calmer patch reefs.

• Snorkelers and divers must display the standard regulation diver down flag to warn boaters of their presence and must remain within 300 feet of the flag.

• Be aware of other boats in your area; propellers have injured divers.

• Never swim alone—always have another person onboard.

• Reef animals generally will not harm you if you leave them alone. Attacks by sharks or barracuda rarely occur, but both animals are considered dangerous and should be watched carefully.

• Coral can cause deep, slow-healing cuts. It is good practice not to touch anything, even if it looks harmless.

• Ask a ranger about hazards before you venture out.

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TEXT: Protecting the Reef

The coral reef is alive. If your boat hits a reef, it will damage your boat, scar the reef, and kill coral animals. You will be subject to a fine and may be liable  for the cost of restoring the damaged resource. Watch for coral heads near the surface  when boating near patch reefs. Anchors damage reefs; anchor in a sandy bottom or use a mooring buoy. Standing or sitting on coral or grasping it can cause injury to you and the coral animals. Do not disturb reef inhabitants. Do not take home a souvenir—it is illegal! All cultural and natural resources in the park are protected by federal law..

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MAP: High-Level View of Park

DESCRIPTION: Overview map of the southeastern tip of Florida. The map is nearly split in half with the left side being Florida and the right side is the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is Biscayne National Park shown on the map, the Everglades National Park is as well. The majority of the state in this image is of the Everglades National Park. Biscayne National Park is south of Miami and Key Biscayne but located in the center of the map. This national park is mostly made up of water however there is a strip of the mainland and multiple islands that encompass the park. 40 miles south of Miami and within the park boundaries is Dante Fascell Visitor Center. Between the mainland and the islands that make up the park is Biscayne Bay. South of Biscayne National Park is Key Largo and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Off of the boundary of the national and state park is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary which spans from the top of Biscayne Nation Park and continues past John Pennekamp Coral Reed State Park and moves off of the map with a south west curve. On the mainland traveling from north to south there is Miami, Homestead, and then Florida City. Roads are represented by red lines and road numbers listed on top. Starting from the top and moving down: Route 41 goes from west to east, north to south is highway 836, 826, 874, 997, 821, and Florida's Turnpike. Route 1 travels down from the north, rounded onto the Key Biscayne, and continues south to the Key Largo. Highway 9336 travels from north east to south west through the Everglades National Park. 


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MAP: Legend

In the top left corner there is a distance scale depicting 10 Kilometres and 10 Miles.

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MAP: Detailed View of the Park


The purpose of the map is to provide key features, highlights, and park boundaries. Biscayne National Park is in the shape of a boat with the bottom of the boat towards the Atlantic Ocean and the top of the boat on the shores of south eastern Florida. The top of the map states not to use this map for navigation, while zones and regulations are able to change.

Within park boundaries, on the far left side of the park is, Fowey Rocks light tower, Pacific Reed light tower, multiple reefs, six ship wrecks (Arratoon Apcar, Erl King, Alicia, Lugano, Mandalay, and a 19th Century wooden sailing vessel), restricted areas, and multiple daymarkers and buoys.

Traveling in the center of the park boundaries from north to south is the Safety Valve which is shallow sand flats separated by tidal flow channels and scattered with daymarkers and buoys, stretching approximately 10 miles from the south end of Key Biscayne to the Ragged Keys. The northern part of the Safety Valve on the sand banks is Stiltsville, which is a group of wood stilt houses. Within the Safety Valve is Soldier Key which is noted to be a closed area. From the Ragged Keys, which is privately owned, is the Boca Chita Key. Continuing south is the Sands Key that leads in the Elliott Key, which is the largest island within the national park. In a cluster south of Elliott Key is Adams Key, Rubicon Keys, Reid Key, and Porgy Key. This cluster is followed by Totten Key and Old Rhodes Key which is separated by Jones Lagoon. Between these two and the southern park boundary is Swan Key and Gold Key.

On the western side of the park (closest to and on the mainland) is a barrier labeled Intracoastal Waterway. Along the shore numerous docking stations are lined with daymarkers and buoys. Halfway down the map on the mainland is Dante Fascell Visitor Center, located 30 miles south of Miami. Directly next to Dante Fascell VIsitor Center is Convoy Point or Park Headquarters that has a ranger station, restrooms, picnic areas, and self-guided trails. Scattered throughout is spoil areas. Before reaching the southern most park boundary there is West Arsenicker, Arsenicker Key, and Mangrove Key which are all closed areas. Below these three islands is Long Arsenicker, East Arsenicker, and Mangrove Point which is located on the mainland. 

All amenities are noted in the Keys and Amenities section. 

The map of Biscayne National Park also includes other attractions (state parks, botanic gardens, estates, and marine sanctuaries), keys (both north and south), and major roads on the mainland that are not within the park boundaries. These will be further described within the Outside Park Boundaries section. 


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MAP: Legend

The legend is placed in the top center of the map beginning with the words:

Do not use this map for navigation. Zones and regulations are subject to change. For safe boating, National Ocean Survey charts are indispensable. Use chart 11451 (purchase at visitor center) or charts 11462, 11463, and 11465.

There is 11 pictographs describing facilities including: Maritime Heritage Trail location, ranger station, restrooms, picnic area, restaurant, boat launch, gas dock, marina, self-guiding trail, primitive campground, and popular anchorage. 

There is three different colors separating water depths including white is 0-6 feet, light blue 6-12 feet, and a no color over 12 feet. 

Shallows and reefs have two designations, pink is shoal or spoil area and a snowflake like shape is coral reed near water surface. There is a note next to the two designations stating coral reeds also lie deeper below water surface. 

Continuing down the right side is channel markers (entering from seaward). The pictographs represent red starboard daymarker (even numbered), green port daymarker (odd numbered), starboard buoy, port buoy, other buoy, and daymarker.

Below channel markers is other aids and landmarks. The five pictographs in this section are danger shoal, mooring buoy, lighthouse, tower, and lights. The lights are separated into four colors; red, green, white, and yellow. 

Boating Markers and Flags are listed with a note, know these common buoys, signs, and flags. They are essential to safe navigation. The first set is of channel markers (entering from seaward) including port (odd numbered) lights flash green, starboard (even numbered) lights flash red, and diver's flag. Then there is three regulatory markers being keep out, danger, and speed limit (no wake-5mph). There is four storm warning flags; small craft advisory (20-38 mph winds), gale (39-54 mph winds), storm or whole gale (55-73 mph winds), and hurricane (74 mph winds or higher).

For up-to-date weather forecasts, phone 305-229-4522 or monitor marine radio reports on VHF channels 1, 2, or 3. Channel 16 broadcasts special weather warnings.

On the bottom of the page is a North arrow pointing to the top of the map. Beside that is three distance scale depicting one and two kilometers, one and two statute miles, and one and two nautical miles.

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MAP: Keys and Amenities

There is 33 keys or islands that make up Biscayne National Park. A number of the keys or islands are depicted but not labeled. This description is a list of the keys that are labeled and amenities when listed.

  • Soldier Key is noted to be a closed area due to the importance of the bird nesting habitat. There is no amenities listed.
  • Ragged Keys is privately owned. There is no amenities listed.
  • Boca Chita Key is the most visited key in Biscayne National Park. Located here is the Boca Chita Lighthouse or the Ornamental Lighthouse, as well as restrooms, picnic tables, self-guiding trails, and a primitive campground. 
  • Sands Key has a popular anchorage.
  • Elliott Key is the largest island within the national park being seven miles long. Located on the island is a popular anchorage, primitive campgrounds, restrooms, picnic areas, self-guiding trails, University Dock, Coon Point, Sea Grape Point, Point Adelle, Elliott Key Harbor, Ott Point, Billys Point, Petrel Point, and Christmas Point.
  • Adams Key is labeled as a day-use area with bathrooms, picnic areas, and self-guiding trails. 
  • Rubicon Keys is made up of two small islands pushed together. There is no amenities listed. 
  • Reid Key is located between Rubicon Keys and Porgy Key. There is no amenities listed.
  • Porgy Key is in the shape of a bubble letter C backwards. There is no amenities listed.
  • Totten Key is in the shape of an elongated oval with no straight edges. There is no amenities listed.
  • Old Rhodes Key is a long rectangle, almost twice the size of Totten Key in length, with the northern most part being wider then the rest of the key. There is no amenities listed.
  • Swan Key along the southern most park boundary in the shape of a ladle. There is no amenities listed.
  • Gold Key in the shape of a small bean.  There is no amenities listed.
  • West Arsenicker Key is noted to be a closed area do to the importance of the bird nesting habitat. This key is located closer to the mainland. There is no amenities listed.
  • Arsenicker Key is noted to be a closed area do to the importance of the bird nesting habitat. This key is located closer to the mainland. There is no amenities listed.
  • Mangrove Key is noted to be a closed area do to the importance of the bird nesting habitat.  This key is located closer to the mainland. There is no amenities listed.
  • Long Arsenicker Key is in the shape of a thick letter C that is backwards. This key is located closer to the mainland. There is no amenities listed.
  • East Arsenicker Key is directly east of Long Arsenicker Key and creates almost a perfect circle. This key is located closer to the mainland. There is no amenities listed.

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MAP: Waterways

Due to Biscayne National Park being 95% water, the park is scattered with bays, reefs, anchorages, cuts, banks, shoals, channels, creeks, lagoons, ledges, and passes. The description is a list of the waterways from north to south and west to east, as well as the direction in which the water is moving.

  • Biscayne Channel is located in the northern parts of the Safety Valve traveling from west to east.
  • Black Ledge is on the far west side of the park closer to the mainland traveling from southwest to northeast. 
  • Intracoastal Waterway extends through the entire national park continuing both north and south splitting the west side from the east side. 
  • Brewster Reef is on the eastern park boundary below Fowey Rocks light tower. 
  • Featherbed Bank is located northwest of Elliott Key and along the shores of a shoal or spoil area traveling southwest to northeast.
  • Lewis Cut is bordered between Boca Chita Key to the north and Sands Key to the south, Lewis Cut is traveling west to east. 
  • Bowles Bank is directly east of Lewis Cut, situated northeast of Sands Key.
  • Star Reef is on the eastern boundary of the park south of Brewster Reef. 
  • Biscayne Bay is located between the mainland and Elliott Key, occupying up the majority of the southwestern part of the map. 
  • Sands Cut is on the southeastern part of Sands Key and northeastern part of Elliott Key traveling west to east. 
  • Bache Shoal is southeast of Sands Cut with a light tower located near this area.
  • Legare Anchorage is on the eastern boarder traveling from the southwest and moving northeast. This waterway crosses over a restricted area. 
  • Triumph Reef is located directly south of Legare Anchorage and within the same restricted area. 
  • Pelican Bank is southeast of Dante Fascell Visitor Center along the shore of a shoal area.
  • Elliott Key is along the eastern shore of Elliott Key the island. 
  • Margot Fish Shoal is on the east side of Elliott Key, separating Elliott Key from Hawk Channel.
  • Hawk Channel further east from Elliott Key and moving from southwest to northeast.
  • Long Reef is on the eastern boundary line parallel to Elliott Key.
  • There are three spoil areas following the southern Intracoastal Waterway boarder down to the southern park boundary line. The two most northern ones are squares and the south most spoil area is a long rectangle.
  • Midnight Point is located between Mangrove Point and Long Arsenicker Key traveling southwest to east.
  • Cutter Bank Shallows is located east of the Intracoastal Waterway, north of the park boundary, and west of Totten Key.
  • Jones Lagoon is surrounded by Totten Key to the northwest, Old Rhodes Key to the north and east, and other nonlabelled keys to the south.
  • Caesar Creek is located in the northeast corner of Old Rhodes Key and southeast of Elliott Key.
  • Caesar Creek Bank is south of Caesar Creek, however this bank continues further east.
  • Alex Reef is on the eastern park boundary line located directly east of Adams Key.
  • Anniversary Reef is located southwest of Alex Reef, there are mooring buoys here.
  • Pacific Reef is south of Alex Reef. Pacific Reef creates a triangle with Elkhorn Coral Reef and The Drop, with Pacific Reef being the top point.
  • Elkhorn Coral Reef is the left point to the Pacific Reef, Elkhorn Coral Reef, and The Drop Triangle. There are mooring buoys located here.
  • The Drop is on the eastern park boundary and is the right point to the Pacific, Elkhorn Coral, and The Drop triangle. There are mooring buoys located here.
  • Broad Creek is located on southern center part of the map. Broad Creek sits east of Gold Key and Swan Key.
  • Rocky Reef is south of the Pacific, Elkhorn Coral, and The Drop triangle, as well as northeast from the Ball Buoy Reef. There are mooring buoys located here. 
  • Ball Buoy Reef is the southeastern most reef. There are mooring buoys located here.

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MAP: Outside Park Boundaries

Along with Biscayne National Park, the map also includes the surrounding area of Kendall, South Miami, and Cutler Ridge as well as other local attractions. Moving from north to south and east to west.

Other attractions:

  • Matheson Hammock Park
  • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
  • Deering Estate at Cutler (Miami-Dade County)
  • Black Point Park (Miami-Dade County)
  • Homestead Bayfront Park, Herbert Hoover Marina (Miami-Dade County)
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (protected area)
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (protected area) is boardering the entire eastern park boundary of Biscayne National Park. 
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Key Largo Existing Management Area (protected area)


  • Cutler Power Plant
  • Turkey Point Power Plant

Keys to the North:

  • Key Biscayne
  • Chicken Key

Keys to the South:

  • Palo Alto Key
  • Angelfish Key
  • Pumpkin Key
  • Key Largo

Waterways on the mainland:

  • Black Creek
  • Goulds Canal
  • Mowry Canal
  • Little River
  • Cooling Canals (closed system)

Waterways south of the park:

  • Intracoastal Waterway
  • Spoil Area
  • Anglefish Creek
  • Card Sound
  • Little Card Sound
  • Whistle Buoy


Don Shula Expy, Route 1, and Old Cutler Road go from northeast to southwest. From north to south is Palmetto Expy, Ludlum Road (SW 67th Avenue), SW 57th Avenue, Florida's Turnpike (toll), SW 87th Ave, SW 107th Ave. Roads traveling from west to east include: SW 144th Street, Coral Reef Dr (SW 152th Street), SW 168th Street, SW 184th Street, Coconut Palm Dr (SW 248th St), Kings Hwy (SW 304th St), SW 328th Street (To Homestead and Route 1), and Palm Dr (SW 344th St). At the bottom of the map there is an unlabeled road that goes from the mainland east onto Key Largo. Perpendicular to this road is a road labeled 905 the goes north to south on Keys Largo. 

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

95% of Biscayne National Park is covered by water, access beyond the mainland shoreline requires a boat.

For more information and specific questions on keys, please call 305-230-1144, or go to

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OVERVIEW: More Information

For up-to-date weather forecasts, phone 305-229-4522 or monitor marine radio reports on VHF channels 1, 2, or 3. Channel 16 broadcasts special weather warnings.

There is a $25 per night marina-use fee at Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key harbors, which includes a $15 camping fee. Group campsites are $30. All camping and docking fees are waived May 1–September 30.

Biscayne National Park is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more, visit

ADDRESS: Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th St. Homestead, FL 33033-5634

PHONE: 305-230-1144


MORE: National Park Foundation Join the park community.

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