Posted October 5, 2021
By ALENA WILLIAMS
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Miami-Dade County provides its variety of beaches but taking the trip to Bill Baggs State Park in Key Biscayne is well worth it. The state park varies from all other Miami-Dade’s beaches.
William Calhoun Baggs, the man the beach is named after, was an American journalist and editor famous for campaigning on behalf of African-American civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and the famous site is booming with rich history and ancient land.
The sun booms down on Bill Baggs State Park. The weather is a breezy 84 degrees and only a few clouds grace the sky… It’s the perfect beach day. Located at the most southern tip of Key Biscayne, the beach has stunning 360-degree views and a beautiful lighthouse.
For only $2 a per person, you can enter the park and park your car right next to the beach. Take the winding wooden walkway to reach the soft, white sand.
The entire beach’s perimeter is covered by tall, hazy grass, creating a closed in and inviting atmosphere. As you enter the beach’s “bubble,” look to the right; it’s hard to miss the towering lighthouse, surrounded by the tall Savannah grasses and tropical palm trees.
Originally built in 1825, but destroyed during the Second Seminole War, the Cape Florida Lighthouse wasn’t completed until 1846. However, the structure remains the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County.
According to the park’s official website, the lighthouse served as a secret meeting place and housing for slaves and Black Seminoles waiting to board dugouts for a passage to safety in the British Bahamas.
Now a getaway for locals and tourists, the beach is often filled with families, couples, and college students looking for relaxation and enjoyment. You can even take a tour of the emblematic lighthouse for free with entry from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week.
The ocean flows a deep sage and feels refreshing yet warmed by the sun. The ocean waves move with the deep breeze passing by the beach. Seaweed dances ashore and children dance in the waves with their parents. Doves, pigeons, sea gulls, and other wildlife join the ball. The sounds of the ocean crashing, children playing in the sand, and people fighting over speaker dominance fills the ears of those all around. Eventually, ‘So Gone” by Monica wins the music war.
The mother of a local family of five said they all come to the beach often.
“Anything that distracts them,” laughed Luciana Fernández, the mother of the bunch. “Anything that gets them out [of] the house!”
Any hopes of another sentence coming out of her mouth was halted by her attention averting quickly back to her small children playing by the tide.
According to the official Key Biscayne Chambers for Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the beach has already received over 327,000 visitors in 2021.
Although COVID-19 pandemic restrictions remain in effect, few are seen following the rules: substituting the six-foot apart guidelines for three-feet. Many are laying on the plush sand getting a sleek tan, but some are resting in chairs under umbrellas.
The iconic bright blue umbrellas tease you as the sun shines high in the sky and beats down on your body. You can rent one, along with two chairs for $25 and keep it for the entire day.
Or, if you get lucky, a leaving beach go-er may gift you their umbrella and chairs for a dual experience … just don’t get seen making the switch by a beach patrol member, wearing their notoriously large sun hats and riding on their boisterous sand ATVs.
With activities upon activities besides just relaxing, Bill Baggs State Park allows jet skiing, paddle boarding, sail boating, hiking, fishing and more.
A fit couple holding an exotic-looking cat said they drove from Brickell for a “break away from the city.”
The two shacked up with their “cheetah-cat” in a small tent by the outskirts of the beach near the tall hazel grass. Although the pair’s rich-looking wet cat looked far from enjoying being dipped into the ocean, the couple sported a relaxed smile and calm demeanor.
However, for University of Miami student Luz Estrella Cruz, the simplicity of “walking along the coastline [of the beach] to see [their] footprints disappear with the waves” is their favorite part of the beach.
Sun-drained beach members slowly pack up their things and scatter back home as the sun sets on the horizon. The view becomes picturesque as the sky turns a fiery shade of pink and sailboats are outlined in the distance.
Miami-native Kay Ann Henry said Bill Baggs State Park is one of their favorite beaches.
“The beach makes me feel like I am truly apart of Miami.”
If You Go
CAPACITY: Arrive early on weekends! Effective June 1, 2021, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park often reaches capacity on parking spaces available. Also due to high volume, reservations must be made for the picnic pavilions at the ranger station Monday through Friday. For more information, visit the park’s official website: www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/bill-baggs-cape-florida-state-park
PARKING: Entry is $8 per vehicle with two to eight people inside, $4 for motorcycles and single-occupant vehicles, or $2 per pedestrian or holder of annual Individual Entrance Pass.
THE PARK: The entire park is open 8 a.m. to sundown, year-round.
THE BEACH: The Atlantic Ocean connects to the beach for a mile and a quarter. All that area is free reigns for swimming. Just be advised: Lifeguards and other beach patrol are not available 24/7, so swim with caution.
THE BLUE UMBRELLAS: Beach chairs can be rented at $10 each and umbrellas for $15. Get an iconic blue umbrella and two chairs for $25.
HISTORIC SITE: In September 2004, Cape Florida was officially designated a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. The lighthouse on Bill Baggs State Park served as the central point where boats from the Bahamas would pick up escaped slaves during the late 1800s and 1900s.
LIGHTHOUSE TOUR: Tours of the remarkable lighthouse is available 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Thursday through Monday. You must be at least 42 inches tall to climb the lighthouse stairs, but all ages are welcome inside. The lighthouse grounds are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
BICYCLING: Rentals for bicycles are available at the park’s concession located nearby the Lighthouse Café. Single bicycles can be rented for $9/hour or $15/hour and half. Quad bikes are available for rental for $20/hour and $33/hour and half. Quad bikes seat two adults plus two small children in basket. Large quads seat four adults and two small children, available for $30/half hour or $48/hour and half. Helmets are highly recommended for all cyclists and Florida law requires helmets for cyclists aged 16 and under.
BOATING: Visitors of Bill Baggs State Park are allowed to anchor overnight in No Name Harbor for a fee of $20 per boat, per night.
FISHING: All fishing regulations must be followed concerning size, number, method of capture and season. Fishing is only available along the seawall located along Biscayne Bay. A fishing license may be required. More information is available at the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Fishing in Florida.
HIKING: Nature trails are found on the west side of the park. The trail to the north travels through the mangrove wetlands and begins 100 feet north of the Boater’s Grill parking area. Another trail runs south through the coastal strand, starting 100 feet east of the Boater’s Grill parking area and ending in Area D.
PADDLING/KAYACKING: Newly launched paddling boats and kayaks are available at Beach Access #1 at the north end of Area A. There are specific parking spots reserved for boat renters adjacent to the walkway. The park recommends bringing an extra helper or a boat dolly for added convenience. Take off is allowed on the beach by the rental area or you can launch from No Man Harbor by lowering your canoe/kayak off the sea wall.
PICKNICKING: Want to have a party? The state park has 18 picnic pavilions up for rental. Reservations can be made up to a day in advance by paying the down-payment fee at the park’s entrance station. The $50 fee gets you 15 pavilions and six picnic chairs that accommodates 40 people. For $100, you can accommodate 80 people with three large pavilions and ten tables. Electricity is available for $15 per day at the large pavilions only. A $50 cleaning fee may be applied if the grounds are not received back in the same conditions as it was received.
PLAYGROUND: Bill Baggs State Park offers a playground perfect for kids located in the north center of Area A that features four swings, four slides and a climbing ladder.
LIGHTHOUSE CAFÉ: Spending a day at the beach and park is likely to work up an appetite. Eat some casual dining in a comforting environment and pick up some beach merch. The café is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and located right in the park. For more information visit: www.lighthousecafekb.com or call 305-361-8487.
PETS: Pets are allowed at the park only with a six-foot or less leash. They must never be unattended and must always be looked after and attended to. Park patrol is at its own discretion to remove you and your pet due to disturbances or unruliness. Pets are not allowed on the beach, wetlands, playground, youth camp, lighthouse, keeper’s cottage, Lighthouse Café or Boater’s Grill.