Posted Oct. 22, 2012
By BRANDON LUMISH
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — After running over the second bridge on Key Biscayne, Nancy Spears finally completed her long afternoon jog. Spears, a Key Biscayne resident, makes this run every weekend afternoon, stopping at Virginia Key’s beach when she is finished.
“For me, the beach is heaven. After finishing such a tiring jog I go right into the water and lay in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. There is no better reward for exerting so much effort!” Spears said.
Key Biscayne, surrounded by water on all sides is paradise for South Floridians.
In total, Key Biscayne is seven miles long and runs north to south from mainland Miami.
After leaving Miami visitors go through the tollbooth at Rickenbacker Causeway, which was built in 1947. Visitors then proceed through two major bridges to reach the northern end of Key Biscayne called Virginia Key, made up 863 acres of land. South of Virginia Key are the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, The Village at Key Biscayne and Bill Baggs Park.
“There is just so much to do in Key Biscayne. I can play tennis, go to an historical park and, of course, go to the beach. It’s incredible,” said Key Biscayne resident Christina Rodriguez.
Virginia Key Beach Park
Virginia Beach was founded after the construction of the Rickenbacker Causeway. It gained instant popularity as a hotspot for residents of Miami and the new flux of residents starting to inhabit Key Biscayne. The park was then closed to the public for many years because it was too expensive to maintain, but reopened in 2008.
“I have lived in Key Biscayne my whole life and Virginia Key has become a place for our family to spend the weekend,” Kathy Snow, mother to a family of four boys, said. “I feel like I’m vacation without having all the travel.”
Tennis Center at Crandon Park
The tennis center at Crandon Park has hosted the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament since 1987.
The tennis facility includes 12 courts used for competitive play, six practice courts, two European red clay courts, four green clay courts and two grass courts.
There is a 13,300-seat stadium court that is the centerpiece of the Sony Ericsson tournament.
The Sony Ericsson Open is a two-week event held each March. When the Sony Ericsson Open is not on site, the tennis center is open to the public. Two tennis academies, the Cliff Drysdale and Guillermo Canas academies run year round. By reserving a court a visitor to the tennis center can use any court, even the stadium court.
“Being allowed to play on the same court as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and so many other great players is an amazing feeling,” said Eric Ibarra, a Key Biscayne resident and tennis enthusiast. “The stadium court inspires me to play my best.”
The Village of Key Biscayne
Traveling a few miles further on Crandon Blvd; visitors reach the Village of Key Biscayne. With condominiums and hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, the Grand Bay, the Ocean Club, the Key Colony and the Towers of Key Biscayne, the Village of Key Biscayne has seen a steady population increase.
“Key Biscayne was such a quiet community until about 10 or 15 years ago until people started realizing how beautiful and relaxing it is,” 87-year-old Key Biscayne resident, Don Robinson said.
With new restaurants and attractions opening up every year, the Village of Key Biscayne is becoming the place to be in South Florida. Throughout the village of Key Biscayne, residents enjoy beaches, walking paths and beautiful sunsets.
Apparently, humans are not the only ones who enjoy Key Biscayne; huge iguanas make their home throughout Key Biscayne.
The most abundant iguana is the green iguana, easy to spot with its bright green color. “Iguanas are not scared of us at all. They scare the heck out of me and they are huge!” Robinson said.
The Village of Key Biscayne was also home to the Florida White House, a compound used by President Nixon from 1969 through 1973. He purchased three waterfront homes at the beginning of his presidency and visited them more than 50 times throughout his time in office. The house was then sold shortly after his presidency was completed.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Visitors that are able to break away from the tennis and village of Key Biscayne can travel a bit further; reaching the southern third of Key Biscayne where Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park awaits. It is home to the oldest standing structure in Miami, the Cape Florida Lighthouse, built in 1825. Named after Bill Baggs, the former editor of The Miami News, Bill Baggs Park consists of 400 acres. Established in 1957, the park is a popular tourist destination.
“Without a doubt, this beach is the nicest I have ever been to. Everything just seems so clean,” Mark Zuckerman, a tourist from Virginia visiting family in Miami said. “I think my boys had the most fun at this beach during our trip.”
The beach at Bill Baggs Park is listed as the 10th best beach in the country according to FAU Prof. Stephen Leatherman who is known as Dr. Beach. With one mile of beachfront access, visitors are often seen kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.
Picnic tables are located throughout the park and the park is home to two restaurants called Lighthouse Café and Boaters Grill. Other activities at the park include bike riding, golfing, boating and tours of the famous lighthouse.
“Because the terrain is much smoother than it is on the northern part of Key Biscayne, it is a much more enjoyable experience to ride a bike,” Brian Woods, Key Biscayne resident said.
IF YOU GO
Virginia Key Beach Park
- Lifeguard on call seven days a week, 365 days.
- Park open year round from sunrise to sunset.
- Vehicle weekday admission: $7.
- Vehicle weekend admission: $6.
- Cyclist admission: $1.
Crandon Tennis Center
- Reservations, 305-365-2300
- Mondays-Fridays: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Saturdays-Sundays: 8 a.m.- 7 p.m.
- All fees are hourly
- Hard court fees: Adults, $4 during the day, $6 during evening. Juniors- $3 during day, $4 during evening
- Clay Court Fees: Adults, $7 during the day, $9 during evening; Juniors, $3 during day, $4 during evening
- Grass Courts: Adults $11 per hour, Juniors, $7
- Stadium Fees: $13 per hour for adults, Juniors, $10
The Village at Key Biscayne
- Located at 88 W. McyIntyre Street. Key Biscayne, Fla. 33149.
- Open year round, 9 a.m. -5 p.m.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park
- Park is open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to sundown.
- Camping: $20 for an overnight stay.
- Reservations for camping: Call 305-361-8779 (reservations must be made).
- Bicycles can be rented for $3 a hour.
- Kayaks can be rented for $20 a hour.
- Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Toll is $1.50.
- Driving directions to Baggs Park, Crandon Center and Virginia Beach Key is Rickenbacker Causeway South.