By Maria Arguello
Grab your snorkel, we’re headed to Biscayne National Park.
It’s about an hour away from Miami, but it’s a world away from the everyday rush — the perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy the clear azure bay waters, serene, quiet stillness and colorful sea life.
As you drive in — past the furthest reaches of new developments, nurseries and farms — the layers of stress seem to slowly evaporate. This is what South Florida used to be like: lush vegetation and small tropical farms, communities hugging the coast, no tall buildings or rush hour, no long strips of nightclubs or hotels.
This October will mark 40 years since the creation of BNP, originally known as Biscayne National Monument. The park stretches from the south point of Key Biscayne to the north end of Key Largo, and most of its 300 square miles are underwater. This tropical sanctuary was created after decades of struggles by local conservationists to prevent residential and industrial development on the bay’s chain of barrier islands.
The 42 barrier islands have remained untouched, dotting the bay, their mangrove roots providing natural nurseries for marine life. Visitors to the park can snorkel near these islands or several other points within the park, depending on weather conditions, and the snorkeling here is geared towards beginners. A daily afternoon snorkel trip includes a basic rundown of snorkeling instructions, from rinsing equipment to signaling for help.
The park also offers diving every weekend (weather permitting), and for those wanting to be on the water but not necessarily in the water, there’s a morning ranger-led boat tour of the park.
But wait, there’s more! Rent a kayak or canoe, or stay on shore and picnic or fish. And if you feel like making a weekend of it, set up camp on Elliot Key, where there are no nightclubs in sight.
Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328 St, Homestead; 305-230-7275; open daily, year round. The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For more info, click here.