Visiting Biscayne National Park & The Keys…

During our visit to Big Cypress, we took a day and drove out to the east coast to visit Biscayne National Park.BISC&Keys 006Biscayne National Park is a unique National Park in that it is 95% under water!  Located just south of Miami, this park offers great snorkeling and diving opportunities.  Of course, being boatless, we just enjoyed the shoreline! LOL!  (tho, along those lines, we have been discussing a new adventure!  Before Christmas, we started researching changing our mode of transportation from an RV to a boat -and then exploring Central America (and maybe South America, if it agrees with us 😉 ).

Biscayne has a visitor’s center with fabulously friendly rangers and staff, and they also show several short films about the park and surrounding area.    They have A LOT of stuff for hands-on learning and the v.c. was super kid-friendly.BISC&Keys 012The kids turned in their Jr. Ranger work and earned their badges.  There is one Jr. Ranger booklet for all 3 parks: Big Cypress, Biscayne, and the Everglades.  Each park has certain pages within the booklet that correlate with a visit to their park, and if you complete the entire book, then you earn a special patch.  We didn’t realize that the only park that the kids could get the badge at was Biscayne, so we came here second instead of last, but it wouldn’t have mattered since Biscayne was out of patches anyway!  The kids will have to send in the page out of the books with the signatures from the rangers at all 3 parks, and then the ranger at Biscayne will send the kids their patches back to us in MT.   (so, if you do the J.R. program for all 3 parks, be sure to visit Biscayne last to receive your patch!)BISC&Keys 019The visitor’s center has a lot of informative displays labeling different local sea creatures, and they have movies playing of the ocean animals.  The building is colorful and tastefully done.BISC&Keys 029We didn’t watch any of the films here (surprise, surprise!), but instead opted to go outside and walk the boardwalk.  We saw crabs walking along the bottom of the bay and saw a ton of barracuda.   This was one more place where we desperately wished that we would have brought our kayaks along this trip instead of leaving them in storage back home!  You can take a glass bottom boat tour here if you are interested (for a fee).BISC&Keys 039We loved the rocks that the park used for walls and barriers…BISC&Keys 044There were fishermen fishing off of this boardwalk – it led from in front of the visitor’s center out to a long jetty. BISC&Keys 048It was such a beautiful day for a walk…BISC&Keys 062And we had fun exploring the park.
Before we went down to Big Cypress, I had made a run to Costco to stock up on groceries, and we also made sure that every stitch of laundry was clean before we left – as much as that is possible in this family!  While we were in the park for 12 days, we did not have to do laundry – tho it was a close call with all those muddy swamp walks, and I did have to stop on our way past a Walmart and buy the little girls more underwear (LOL!), but otherwise, we had enough clean clothes!  We were not quite so lucky with groceries!  But we ended up only having to stop for a quick restock once – 11 more loaves of bread and 6 gallons of milk. :)

Our planned day trip to Biscayne didn’t take nearly the time that we thought it would.  While we had planned to spend one whole day at Biscayne, and another down in the Keys, we finished up at Biscayne early and decided to check out the Keys that same afternoon since we were so close.  We were so glad that we did, and hadn’t made another trip!

We drove down into The Keys, through Key Largo and on for about 45 minutes.  It wasn’t really our cup of tea – way too commercialized for us!  😉  We turned around and went back to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for the afternoon.  If you go to John Pennekamp, don’t get too into car pooling!  They have entrance fee charges; they start at $4.50 for one/$9 for 2 people, then $.50 per person after that.  BUT, after you reach 8 people, then they are an additional $2.50/person!  That was a little weird! LOL!  But, Peanut and down were free, so it made up for Emma being so expensive (ROFL!)  – and it only cost us $14.50 to get in.

The park has a visitor’s center with a somewhat large aquarium in the middle that you could walk all the way around…BISC&Keys 085Then there were all sorts of smaller aquariums on the walls around the larger center one.  They all had different animals in them. BISC&Keys 095The park has several beaches that you can visit – with lots of parking spaces.  The park has a campground, but we couldn’t check it out since it’s gated.BISC&Keys 098There is a gift shop, which is also where you can purchase tickets for snorkeling tours.  Beth found some cute ‘beachy’ earrings, and Jake bought some new sunglasses – we found a bumper sticker! yay!  😉BISC&Keys 109We drove to the other end of the park (could have walked, it wasn’t far), where the little girls, Caleb, and I, played on the nice playground they have, and the others went on a walk…BISC&Keys 115

they didn’t see any animals, but the surroundings were pretty!  BISC&Keys 124We were really glad that we hadn’t pulled the rv down; one afternoon was just right for us to check it out – we are more ‘backwoods’ people! LOL!  And we were really tickled that we had been able to see Biscayne and The Keys in one day – which opened up another day to see more of Big Cypress!!!!

We did cheat on the way home and (in our restock trip) bought fried chicken, Pringles, and Powerade for dinner (food of champions, right? ROFL!)…duck girl…BISC&Keys 139It was a long, and fun day, but we were glad to get back home to our quiet little campground, surrounded by woods and sweet neighbors/hosts, and quiet.

We are so coming back to Big Cypress next year!!!   😀

Lilla Rose

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