Posted November 28, 2014
By CHELSEA HARRINGTON
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — With the constant noise and traffic in Miami, sometimes we forget the fact that we truly live in a tropical paradise. While tourist flock towards the infamous South Beach to soak up the sun, most locals know better.
A quick 20-minute drive from Coral Gables or 15 minutes from downtown Miami, Bill Baggs Florida State Park is truly a tranquil gem in this busy city.
Costing $8 to park for the day, the park is a true beach-lovers haven with over a mile long stretch of white sands, 18 covered pavilions for shade and grilling, two different restaurants, playgrounds for children and a stunning historic lighthouse.
Parking is easy and convenient, the long stretch of dirt road has places to leave your car all long the shore and close to your desired destination whether it be in the begging of the park near the hiking trails, the middle with the bathroom, showers and restaurant, or the very end near the lighthouse where the fishermen tend to gather.
Accessible by car, bicycle, and boat, the park also has a bike path that is 1.5 miles of unpaved roads with various pathways and allows boats to anchor overnight for a fee of $20. Be cautious when arriving by boat or using canoes, kayaks or paddle boards, as the only area permitted for all these activities is specially marked Beach Access #1 in Area A of the beach.
Pack a cooler, reserve a pavilion for grilling, or dine at one of the two restaurants located at park. The Lighthouse Café is very casual with a beautiful ocean view and very reasonable prices. The café has two different menus and is open seven days a week.
Breakfast is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and has everything from cortaditos to French toast and omelets. The main menu offers everything from chicken and fish to soups and salads. Boaters Grill also provides stunning scenery and a very similar menu with a slight stronger focus on seafood options.
Those looking to be adventurous will love the nature trails on the west side of the park. To the north, is a trail through the mangrove wetlands, beginning just north of The Boater’s Grill parking area. A trail through the coastal strand runs from 100 feet east of The Boater’s Grill parking area and travels south ending in Area D of the beach.
Constructed in 1825, the Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in South Florida and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. A U.S. Army fort was built here to protect the land and sea from Indian attacks. Tours run twice a day through the lighthouse on Thursdays through Mondays.
With full access to the structure, the view from the top is stunning.
If You Go
- While Bill Baggs has basic needs such as food and water, make sure to bring your own towel sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.
- The park offers chairs and umbrellas for a price, but you can also bring your own if you are avoiding having to pay anything extra on top of the $8 admission fee. Make sure to bring cash if you plan to rent any equipment, either chairs and umbrellas or bicycles.
- Cold showers are also available outside of the bathrooms, so if you plan on heading somewhere immediately from the beach of just want to clean up before heading to eat, make sure to bring a dry set of clothes.
- Click on this link to a brochure for the park that includes a well-marked map of the area and locations of amenities: http://www.floridastateparks.org/resources/doc/individualparks/brochures/bbc-brochure.pdf.