Posted Oct. 23, 2012
By RACHEL JANOSEC
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — There is no denying the fact that Florida is known for its white sandy beaches, breezy palm trees swaying in the wind and laid-back lifestyle.
Whether a person is lucky enough to live in this relaxing state or just visit there on vacation, he or she must visit the beautiful South Florida beach — Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
Baggs State Park is renowned for its natural beauty and unique 19th century lighthouse that stands tall in the middle of the beach, which is also the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County.
The state park was ranked 10th on the list of “Top Ten Beaches in America” by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach.”
And anyone who takes the time to travel to this park will recognize why.
This beach is one of the best in the country mainly due to its mile-long gorgeous teal blue Atlantic shoreline, but also because it is a host for numerous outdoor activities in and around the water. The state park is a definite on any South Florida to-do list.
Florida resident and realtor John Bowan said the park has much to offer.
“My wife and I love the state park. We ride our bikes into the park once a week, usually on a Sunday morning for exercise and it is very relaxing. The park is also reasonably priced and not too over-crowded. We enjoy the long biking trails because they are nice and flat,” he explained.
There are a handful of activities and amenities for families to enjoy together under the hot Florida sun at this park.
Swimming is the favorite of course in the 1.25 miles of shoreline; it is a perfect way to cool off after traveling and exploring around the park. The park doesn’t offer lifeguards, so guests are reminded to swim at their own risk, although this is usually not a problem because the ocean in this area is known to be fairly calm. The ocean on a good day has a sandbar for miles and is an ideal spot to hangout and bring beach chairs out to cool off in.
For the more adventurous travelers who aren’t just entertained by a body of water, there are plenty of other outdoor attractions. There is bicycling, hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. The seawall around this area has some of the best shoreline fishing in the region and it attracts many fishermen.
For those who want to exercise along this beautiful shoreline, there is a 1.5-mile paved bike path and an unpaved service and woods path where one can also enjoy easy cycling. One path offers a breath taking view of Biscayne Bay while another brings you beneath beautiful trees and into the wooded area. Both are quite relaxing and ideal places to cycle through under a warm sky. The park does offer bicycle rentals per half-hour or hour.
Kenneth Smith, a resident of Miami and University of Miami student, said the park is ideal for workouts.
“I jog and walk a lot here at the park because the paths are the perfect distance and the view and atmosphere is ideal to work out in. Working out is so much more enjoyable outside, I don’t know who wouldn’t access this beautiful area to exercise at, it is much better then being in a gym,” he stated.
For a nice relaxing day out on the water, the park offers canoeing and kayaking. Single or double person kayaks are available to rent, along with paddle boards for the less experienced. The new launch for the kayaking is available at Beach Access #1 at the north end of Area A. This is an activity well suited for families instead of just laying on the beach soaking up the sun; the whole family can enjoy this adventure. It will not take up the whole day also since rentals are only for an hour and are at very reasonable prices. Canoeing and kayaking is a rare event to find at beaches in Florida, so it is highly suggested when visiting.
Roy Lidor, a Miami native, is a regular visitor of the park.
“I brought my two boys here from when they were young and it was always their favorite spot to come. It is a close drive from anywhere in the area and the park is inexpensive and fun for the whole family. We always rented kayaks for the hour then had lunch at the Boaters Grill,” he explained.
Visitors at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park are allowed to anchor their boats overnight at the No Name Harbor for a flat rate of $20 per boat per night. This is a great alternative for families who have boats yet don’t have docks and just want to visit the state park for the day. Visitors arriving to the shore by boat but not anchoring have to pay an $8 entrance fee.
Once docked and ready to stay overnight at this astonishing park, visitors are welcomed by laundry machines, showers and most importantly restaurants. The Boater’s Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and overlooks Biscayne Bay from the No Name Harbor. This restaurant has a very casual atmosphere and is in a relaxed open-air setting. It has a large menu serving the freshest seafood around at inexpensive prices including the special whole fried fish.
Located in the heart of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the Lighthouse Café is also an open-air feel restaurant. It is nestled between the Atlantic shoreline and tons of ingenious plants and wildlife.
It is truly a unique experience dining at this café. It is only open for breakfast and lunch, yet provides a variety of freshly made appetizers, entrees and delicious hand-caught fish.
After eating dinner, one might want to go for a short hike on one of the park’s nature trials.
The trails are located on the west side of the park and to the north is a trail that runs through the mangrove wetlands that begins 100 feet north of the Boaters Grill parking lot.
Another trail travels through the coastal strand and runs from 100 feet east of the Boaters Grill parking lot. Both allows any traveler to experience the land in person and really feel at one with the beautiful nature and animals, especially the large green iguanas.
One must stop on this trip is at the park’s historic site. The Cape Florida Lighthouse was built in 1825 and is the oldest recognized standing structure in South Florida. Tours of the lighthouse are available Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Also, a warning to those traveling with young children, everyone can enter the lighthouse, but you have to be eight years or older to ascend the stairs. The lighthouse is a must do when visiting this land because at the top one can overlook the entire state park beach and can truly encounter the beauty of it all.
A playground for children is located at the north center of Area A. The park also provides picnicking. It has 18 covered pavilions that provide shade and overlook both the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. Pets are allowed in the park but not on the beach, wetlands, playground, lighthouse, or restaurants. There are showers and concession stands available along the shoreline strip for all visitors.
After a long day playing in the ocean and on the playground, large groups of visitors are able to pay to stay overnight and camp at the park. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t allow for individuals to camp overnight, but groups of six or more who are sponsored by some non-profit organization can pay to stay. The fees are reasonable, being only $1.13 for young people and $5.56 for adults per night. This is a fun activity to end the day with especially if the drive back home is a long one. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. until sundown.
IF YOU GO
- The address is 1200 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, Fla. 33149.
- Cruiser bicycle rentals are $3 per half-hour and $5 per hour.
- English bicycle rentals $5 per half-hour and $8 per hour.
- Quad bicycle rental seats for and is $10 per half-hour and $15 per hour.
- Beach chairs rentals are $7 each.
- Umbrella rentals are $10 each.
- Two chairs one umbrella for $20.
- Single person kayak rental $20 per hour.
- Double kayak rental $30 per hour.
- Paddleboard rental $30 per hour or $195 for 10 hours.
- Cold showers are available in outside restrooms in areas A, B, C.
- Admission to park $8 per vehicle, $4 for motorcycles, $2 for pedestrians and cyclists.