For those seeking a little peace and quiet outside of the buzz of Miami, Key Biscayne and Bill Baggs State Park is just the spot to getaway from it all. Don’t get me wrong, I love the energy, spirit and culture of Miami – it is definitely worth experiencing, but I also need and appreciate some quiet moments in nature. In my opinion, this might just be the perfect side trip to get in touch the native beauty of Florida, plus get in a dose of history. Bill Baggs State Park is home to the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County – the Cape Florida white lighthouse.
Jeremy and I arrived just as the park was opening at 8 am and we headed straight for the lighthouse. We spent a few minutes wandering the beach on the North side of the lighthouse as the pathway to the lighthouse didn’t open until 9 am. It was an overcast morning so the beach was quiet and for a while, we had it mostly to ourselves. Later in the morning, a group for an organized beach clean-up showed up, but aside from that, it was very tranquil. I imagine that on sunny, warm days the park can get much busier. We walked the powdered sandy beach along the calm waters (there is a reef just offshore that keeps it consistently wave-free) and explored the park before heading down to the lighthouse. I really wanted to go up the lighthouse, but the door was locked and we couldn’t get in. I later learned that if we had waited until 10 am, we could have done the guided tour and climbed the 109 steps to the top. After touring the lighthouse and the lighthouse keepers cabin, we headed back out towards the entrance to the park. Here we wandered out a boardwalk and found beautiful views of South Beach and Miami as we headed north on the beach. If we hadn’t had plans to get back to Miami, we easily could have spent the day relaxing on the beach, paddle boarding or biking around Key Biscayne. It was a welcome repose from the hubbub of Miami.
Orientation and Activities: The location of Bill Baggs State Park is at the tip of Key Biscayne and it is a nature and water lover’s dream. As you head out Key Biscayne you pass several other keys that are worth a stop , like Virginia Key, you wind through some undeveloped natural Florida sections and you get a panoramic view of the downtown Miami skyline. Bill Baggs is a popular destination for history buffs and beach lovers alike – you can enjoy some time at the lighthouse, plus relax on the beach, kayak, fish, snorkel, bike and more.
Most Iconic View: Definitely the lighthouse. You can start up close, but I think the best view is from the beach side or down the palm-lined path. We also ventured back down the park and headed out a few different boardwalks back to the beach and got some cool views from a little further out. The first turn off once you enter the park on the left hand side will give you a great view down the beach towards South Beach and Miami. I also recommend stopping as you head back off of Key Biscayne outside to park to take in the panoramic views of downtown Miami.
Ideal Way to Experience the Park: If I could plan the perfect way to experience Bill Baggs State Park, I would pack a picnic, strap it on my bike, ride out through the old Florida natural areas and finish with a sunset picnic on the beach next to the lighthouse.
The Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County – it was built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846.
The beach in Bill Baggs State Park is consistently ranked in the top 10 beaches in Florida. The calm beach is suitable for young children, but there are no lifeguards.
There are two on-site restaurants, great snorkeling, boating, canoeing, kayaking, plus you can rent bikes or chairs for a day on the beach.
This was the last stop on the Underground Railroad network – many slaves would escape here to try to find boats to the Bahamas.
Admission is $8 per car and $2 for walkers or bikers.
This park is natural and native – after Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami, the state decided to close the park and restore the native plant species while also removing non-native plants. You can now enjoy mangrove forests and maritime hammocks. The beach entrances tend to be wooden walkways to help preserve the seaoats and other native Florida foliage.
The park has a paved pathway perfect for bike rides that is approximately 1.5 miles long and the terrain is completely flat. If you are looking for a longer ride you can combine it with cycling some of Key Biscayne.
Conscious Note: Please try to be respectful and leave the beach nicer than you found it. There was a group there doing a beach clean-up while we were visiting and it didn’t take me but second upon arriving at the beach to start to notice the trash – from the ocean up into the seagrass. While I am aware some of it comes in from the ocean, there is always plenty that is left behind by beachgoers. Please do your best to leave no trace as you enjoy your time here in Bill Baggs State Park.
Our Take: This spot is definitely worth a visit and it is always helpful to support the Florida State Park system.