February 19—I woke up to the sound of the air conditioning turning on and thought maybe one of the girls had accidently messed up the thermostat. That wasn’t the case, however. It was just going to be a hot day!
In the afternoon, we took the beautiful drive to Biscayne National Park. We were very disappointed to find out that most of the park is only accessible by boat (unless you have your own, it’s quite expensive to charter one) but we decided to go ahead and visit the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Convoy Point. We were so glad that we did!
Every National Park is so different from each other. We’ve visited historic homes, a ranch, preserves, battlefields, a park dedicated to New Orleans Jazz, and much more. Biscayne National Park opened a whole new world to us because it is centered around marine life and the aquamarine waters of southern Florida.
Even though we couldn’t go out on a boat, we found the Visitor Center to be worth the trip. We watched two of the three films that are offered. They were about the park itself and the direct hit that Biscayne took from Hurricane Andrew. The center also features a museum that explains the four ecosystems that make up the park. This is a must for those that don’t snorkel because it gives a great glimpse as to the marine life in the area. I especially enjoyed The Gallery which highlights the works of contemporary local artists that have been inspired by the park. The girls were drawn to the Touch Table where they could explore sponges, seed pods, sea turtles, conchs, coral, a shark jaw, various skulls of birds and sea turtles, and much, much more. I could hardly pull Eva away for her to complete her Jr. Ranger Badge.
Although most of this park is to be enjoyed underwater, there is a short trail at Convoy Point. We saw hundreds of fish from a boardwalk that goes out into the water but were told by a volunteer that had we been there at high tide, we would have seen much, much more. A trail continues off the trail that goes further into the Atlantic Ocean. This was the first time our girls have been on an ocean[1. Until this day, we had only been on the Gulf of Mexico]. We could see Miami in the far distance.
I mentioned before that the Jr. Ranger book Eva completed in this area of Florida was for three parks; Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. I wondered about that at first but as we completed the book, I could see the wisdom in it. The three parks, while very different, are also very much connected to each other. The book helped make that connection and she still got a badge from each of the parks. I believe she is up to 17 now!
We hated to leave the park but we needed to get some groceries before leaving the next day for the Keys. This park certainly prepared us for our experience on those beautiful islands as we gained a better understanding of the marine life in the area.