The largest of the marine parks in the USA, Biscayne National Park covers 700 km2 (270.2 sq mi). It lies 33.7 km (21 mi) east of the Everglades National Park in Florida and was designated as a national park in 1980. The climate is classed as subtropical – sunshine all year round with humidity in summer and dry, mild winters. The park is around 95% water and protects Biscayne Bay and the third largest living coral reef in the world.
Along the bay’s shoreline runs the longest stretch of mangrove forest on Florida’s east coast, home to species of rare plant life such as the semaphore prickly pear cactus and the endangered Sargent’s Palm. The park is also a natural habitat for rare and endangered creatures such as the Shaus Swallowtail butterfly, the least tern (bird), and if you are lucky, loggerhead and hawksbill sea turtles, which use the few sandy beaches in the park to lay their eggs.
The park is also one of the few remaining habitats for the threatened American Crocodile, of which overall there are only around 2,000 left in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, activities in the park are focused on the water: boating is an ideal way to explore its natural wonders, and canoers and kayakers can explore the lagoons, creeks and channels which are too shallow to be accessible to larger boats. Snorkelers and scuba divers will be rewarded with spectacular views of the underwater living coral reefs, remarkably preserved, and the marine life that lives there. There’s also a maritime heritage trail to explore some of the many shipwrecks dating back to the 1870s.