Stretching from Miami Beach to the north Florida Keys, Biscayne Bay is a boater’s paradise. The bay is protected from the Atlantic by numerous barrier islands, so on good wind days, the body of water becomes ideal for unfurling the sails.
Colonial explorers passed by the area when Tequesta Indians were coastal residents. Ponce de Leon sighted the expansive body of water in his journey from St. Augustine around the peninsula of what would be later called La Florida. The bay itself is said to be named after the Bay of Biscay, which flanks the coasts of Spain and France.
Today’s boaters needn’t worry about being shipwrecked — buoys clearly mark all channels — but some tall ships of yore met their end in the bay’s shallow waters. Legendary pirate Black Caesar is said to have also operated in the area, taking advantage of unsuspecting vessels that sailed into the bay to wait out storms. (Caesar’s Creek, a channel in Biscayne Bay leading to the Atlantic, is named after the pirate.)
Biscayne National Park, Miami’s backyard marine treasure, boasts 172,000 acres, 95% of which is underwater, an estuary for juvenile fish with grass bed flats and mangrove coastlines. Many of Miami finest homes — including heritage sites Vizcaya, the Barnacle, the Kampong and Deering Estate — face the bay along the lush tropical roads that border Miami-Dade’s coast south of Brickell all the way down to Homestead.
Above ground, the park features Boca Chita Key, with a historical lighthouse and anchorage for overnight stays. Visitors to Elliot Key can also enjoy a beach area and picnic spots. Crystal clear, turquoise-blue waters, ideal for swimming or fishing, abound. The underwater park also has a marine archeological trail and designated areas ideal for snorkeling – making for great one-day weekend getaways for any Miami boater.
Stiltsville, a collection of rickety home structures suspended above pilings just south of Key Biscayne, has become an iconic spot for watersports and fishing. Deep channels provide access to the Atlantic while surrounding shallows are ideal for flats fishing.
Just outside of the park’s jurisdiction, social boaters can pull up to Monty’s in South Beach or Coconut Grove, for great conch fritters, conch salad and other tropical eats.
Biscayne National Park is easily accessible via the Intracoastal Waterway for boaters navigating from the north. Access to the bay from Miami-Dade is possible through Coconut Grove, Matheson Hammock, Key Biscayne and Black Point public ramps or from private docks. For more information about the park, visit Biscayne National Park.
– Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith based out of Miami.