Florida – May 2017
An Ocean of Adventure
Biscayne National Park is a watery oasis on the east side of the tip of Florida. Come here to rest and frolic in the turquoise waters. Comprised of 95% ocean, it is perfect for kids to explore and enjoy the unique ecosystem. The shallow depth offers opportunities for viewing the ocean bottom and the myriad of life and sunken ships during boat tours. With minimal wave action, it’s a great place for kids of all ages to become proficient at snorkeling.
Boca Chita Key, accessible via boat tour, is a fun place to spend the day. The gorgeous white coral sands and sparkling clear water is paradise found. The architecturally pleasing lighthouse is a perfect background for photography. Let the kids climb to the top during a ranger tour to take in the exceptional view. The west side of the key is very shallow and snorkeling in the mangroves will give kids an opportunity to view nurseries teaming with little fishes. Bring along an underwater camera to entertain children for hours as they try to photograph this water world. If you would rather stay dry, just take a small chair or beach blanket to sit and soak your feet in the sparkling waters.
The Dante Fascell Visitor Center is an aesthetically pleasing facility perched next to the ocean on Convoy Point. Explore the museum and watch videos where you will learn about Stiltsville, and the fortunately lost city of Islandia. You can pick up junior ranger books and badges, maps, and speak with rangers at the information desk to plan your visit. Take a walk on the Jetty Trail and find a park bench to sit and enjoy the view.
- Unique biomes like mangroves, hardwood hammocks, sloughs, and estuaries
- Animal Adaptations
- Extinction and the early 1900’s feathered hat debacle
Protect skin from sun exposure! Please, remember to protect your children from the sun’s damaging rays. Fortunately, with such a variety of sun protection measures it is possible to enjoy plenty of sunshine without exposure so long as you are diligent. Maintain sun protection habits throughout your vacation to keep everyone comfortable and safe. Please, please remember that if your children have already developed a tan from sun exposure, they have already damaged skin. Suntanned skin does not equal healthy skin!
Wear wide brimmed hats. You might want to have your child wear them prior to leaving for your trip so they can get used to the feel.
Apply sunscreen while getting prepared in the morning. Then, reapply as necessary. Learn about SPF, and sunscreen ingredients. Many ingredients are exceptionally irritating to the eye. Consider sticking with zinc oxide-based sunscreens for the face. Our preferred facial sunscreen (worn daily) is Vanicream Broad Spectrum SPF 50. IT NEVER BURNS MY EYES! Our second facial sunscreen preference is Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple 50 SPF, it is easily found at most retail stores and pharmacies. My husband and son prefer Coppertone Sport Continuous Sunscreen Spray, or Bullfrog Mosquito Coast Sunscreen and Insect Repellent, but keep these away from eyes.
Cover up with Sun Protection (UPF) Clothing! We love these products. Like SPF, the higher the number, the better protection it provides against UV radiation. You can learn more about, and purchase these products from REI. You can also find them at many of the sun shops located in the Florida Keys. Our favorite is long sleeve technical shirts. They wick away moisture, dry quickly, and take up minimal space.
Find Shade. Bring an umbrella or small play tent with you when you know you will be in the sun for extended periods of time. Look for shaded places when boarding excursion boats or spending time outdoors.
This park is best enjoyed out on the water! There is a bay excursion perfect for everyone. The Biscayne National Park Institute provides a wide variety of experiences to learn and explore including guided boat tours leaving from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. Check out their website and book your excursion as soon as possible, as tours do fill up quickly. Additional companies authorized to operate within the park offer sailing, tours of Stiltsville, paddle boarding, kayak rentals, aerial tours, and bowfishing! With minimal wave action on the bay, sea sickness shouldn’t pose a problem but if you are particularly prone consider speaking with your physician prior so that you can maximize your enjoyment.
Bring a change of clean dry clothing on excursions. A well-maintained restroom is available on Boca Chita Key. If your excursion takes you to this island where you plan to get into the cool waters, consider wearing your swimsuit with comfortable cover-up on the way out. Change before boarding the boat. The kids will be more comfortable in clean, dry clothing for the return trip.
Where to Stay
Camping in this park is available on Boca Chita and Elliot Keys. Unfortunately, they are accessible via boat only. During this trip, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Florida City-Gateway to Keys. It offered us quick access to the Everglades and Biscayne.
Where to Eat
There are not many restaurants near Biscayne National Park. We were eager for more exploration, and up to the 50-minute drive to Alabama Jack’s (58000 Card Sound Rd, Homestead, FL 33030). This down to earth, eclectic place is located off 905A (the alternate to US Hwy 1) into the Florida Keys. It’s a great place to eat outside; watch for manatees and fish swimming in the water way; and eat conch fritters!
When to Go
Avoid peak hurricane season, between August and October. We went in late May, and it was perfect!