Cape Florida Lighthouse Key Biscayne - Bill Baggs State Park
One of the Top Beaches in America
Located in the Greater Miami area and occupying approximately a third of the island of Key Biscayne, Bill Baggs State Park also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Americas. Home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse, in 2005 the park was ranked as having the 8th best beach in the country, and in 2013 Forbes ranked it at 7th.
The park has a rich natural history. The park was named after the editor of the Miami Herald (Bill Baggs, 1921-1969) because of the work he did to protect the land from development and to preserve most of the island in its natural state. Baggs was also a civil rights activist.
It was part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail, as hundreds of Black Seminoles and many fugitive slaves escaped to freedom in the Bahamas.
Cape Florida Lighthouse
- Watching the sunrise/sunset
- Wildlife viewing
- Boating (Kayaking, canoeing, etc.)
Things To Do
There are many things to do at Bill Baggs State Park.
Of course, the obvious attraction is seeing the Lighthouse. Cape Florida Lighthouse has tours that operate every Thursday through Monday at 10am and 1:00pm. The tours are guided and last 45 minutes. There is a short film and then a guided tour of the grounds and the lighthouse. Sometimes the lighthouse is left open for awhile after or between tours, depending upon staffing.
The tours are open on holidays as long as the holiday falls on the Thursday through Monday schedule.
There is also a Visitor Center and a museum with interpretive exhibits.
In addition, this is a favorite spot for kayaking, boating, canoeing, swimming, snorkeling and fishing from the beaches or small platform/pier beyond the parking lot. There is a seawall that many fish from that offers incredible views of the Bay. There are trails for bicycling and hiking, and wildlife viewing is possible along these trails and near the parking lot and picnic areas.
The park is open 8am until sundown every day, including holidays. There is a charge to get into the park. Check state park website for current prices. The lighthouse grounds are open 9am to 5pm Monday through Thursday.
Key Biscayne WildlifeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flora and Fauna of Key Biscayne: Wildlife, Wetlands and Marine Environment
There is diverse wildlife on the island. Many aquatic birds, both freshwater and saltwater, frequent the island. Osprey and other birds of prey hunt fertile grounds here. Occasionally, owls are spotted here, as well. Pelicans, seagulls, sand pipers, plovers and other shore birds are common here in the park. Herons, bitterns and ibis are seen here as well. There used to be as many as twenty different species of wading and shore birds present in the park. Unfortunately, with the mangroves slowly receding over the years, this number has become less. However, prairie warblers have been discovered in relatively recent years using the mangroves on the island.
Reptiles, such as lizards and snakes find refuge in the dense native and exotic underbrush. Everything from iguanas, geckos and anoles to the invasive tegus can be spotted hiding out under the twisted branches of the mangrove thickets with its prolific buttonwood or in the undergrowth of viburnum and the densely packed foliage of sea grapes. Other flora in the park include cordgrass, sawgrass, red mangrove, black mangrove, white mangrove, Australian pine, Virgina saltmarsh mallow and the rare white spikerush.
Squirrels, rodents, opossum, fox and other mammals are present also. In fact, because of habituation to humans and the irresistible lure of an easy meal, raccoons have become quite tolerant of humans here and are seen regularly, even during the day, begging food from humans or near the trash cans.
Wild peacocks stroll through the grounds randomly, as people are seen snapping shots of the beautifully arrayed exotic birds. You can hear their wild calls ringing through the thickets.
Marine life along the shorelines includes both saltwater and freshwater species. Blue crab and fiddler crab, among others crustaceans inhabit the beaches. Dolphins are spotted commonly and almost immediately in the bay, feeding on schools of fish. The rare privilege is to see a sea turtle lumber onshore to lay her eggs.
Fish directly offshore include barracuda patrolling the shorelines, pompano feeding on shoals of mullet and many others farther out.
The wetlands in the park and on the island are key to the survival of many species and act as nurseries for quite a few. Manatees have been seen from time to time around the bay.
Key Biscayne: Bill Baggs State Park
Cape Florida Lighthouse and Bill Baggs State Park, Key Biscayne
What animal, bird or marine life species would you most like to see if you visited Bill Baggs State Park?
For More Information...
If you would like to visit Bill Baggs State Park or need more information, please visit the Florida State Parks website here.
The lighthouse grounds have also been used for wedding parties, showers and rentals. For more information, please contact the park administration.
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