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 boasts some of the most beautiful beaches around. Home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse, the park was listed twice in Forbes magazine as one of the top ten beaches in America.

The park has a rich natural history. It 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
Cape Florida Lighthouse

Things To Do

The most popular attraction at Bill Baggs State Park is the Cape Florida lighthouse. Tours are available during select hours and there is also a visitor center and a museum with interpretive exhibits.

The location is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts for kayaking, boating, canoeing, swimming, snorkeling and fishing from the beaches. There is a small pier beyond the parking lot that provides handicap access for customers.

A seawall is located at the southern edge that offers incredible views of the Bay. There are trails for bicycling and hiking. Wildlife viewing is possible along these trails.

Cape Florida Lighthouse with Palms

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. Ospreys nest nearby in man-made platforms and in trees. The marine environment supports brown and white pelicans, seagulls, sand pipers, plovers and many other shore birds. Herons, bitterns, egrets, ibis and other wading birds are seen throughout the park.

Unfortunately, with the mangroves slowly receding over the years, the number of birds and diversity of species has continued to decline due to loss of habitat. However, the ever adaptable prairie warbler has been discovered in recent years inhabiting the area, which hadn’t been seen before.

Reptiles, such as lizards and snakes, find refuge in the dense native underbrush. Everything from iguanas, geckos and anoles, to the invasive tegus can be spotted hiding out under the tangled branches of the mangrove thickets with its prolific buttonwood.

Creating even better cover and camouflage is 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.

The wetlands in the park and on the island are key to the survival of many species and act as nurseries for many animals. Manatees are seen around the bay.

Squirrels, rodents, opossum, fox and other mammals are seen in the park. 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 for food from humans or raiding nearby trash cans.

No, not rabid, just begging near a picnic table
On top of a trash can

Marine life along the shorelines includes both saltwater and freshwater species. Blue crab, fiddler crab, and others crustaceans inhabit the beaches. Dolphin are often spotted in the bay feeding on schools of fish. A rare but treasured sight is watching a lumbering sea turtle haul herself on the beach to dig out a nest and lay her eggs in the moonlight.

Species of fish that frequent the area directly offshore are barracuda, trigger fish, amber jack, and pompano, as they feed on shoals of mullet. Reef fish such as yellow tail and sergeant majors are abundant.

Florida Orb Web Spider
Other urban wildlife you may encounter while walking along the sandy trails at Bill Baggs State Park include this beautiful Florida Orb Web Spider. With its large size, mottled legs, reddish brown body and unusual contrasting white dots, you can’t help but stop and take a second look!

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.

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