Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is one of the best state parks in Florida. 

The state park has so much to offer: a historic Cape Florida lighthouse, beautiful beaches, amazing location near Miami, history and more. 

For all of these reasons and more, the state park is one of the best things to do in Miami.

Location

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is located at the southern tip of Key Biscayne, just south of Miami and Miami Beach.

The state park provides an oasis of natural, protected habitat and public beach access in an otherwise heavily developed region.

The state park address is 1200 S. Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne FL 33149

The state park covers the entire south end of the peninsula, and stretches from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the waters of Biscayne Bay.

The state park is also located south of Key Biscayne Beach and a residential area of Key Biscayne, which is one of the most luxurious neighborhoods in Miami.

Other nearby Parks and Attractions

  • The R Hardy Matheson County Preserve is located just across the waters of Biscayne Bay, on the mainland.
  • Key Biscayne National park is directly south of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
  • The popular Nixon Sandbar is located just to the north of the state park.

Parking

Visitors should know that the state park is often extremely busy during peak visitor times, especially weekends and holidays. 

The state park has a large amount of parking, but it is still not enough for the high number of visitors during peak times.

Parking lots often reach capacity and park entrance may be limited or restricted after the park reaches capacity.

Hours

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is open every day of the year (365 days) from 8am until sunset.

Admission

Admission to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park generally costs $8 per vehicle. 

Other prices and fee structures are in place for pedestrians, state park pass holders and other speciality groups.

Misc

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park has a fascinating history. 

Cape Florida was “discovered” by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513, when it was given the name “The Cape of Florida”. 

The lighthouse was built in 1825 during a time when maritime travel was vital to Florida’s existence, and very dangerous. 

At the time many ships were lost on coral reefs and shoals along Florida’s coastlines, especially the treacherous Florida Barrier Reef, which runs along Florida’s east coast after beginning in the Florida Keys. 

Cape Florida also belongs in the history books because of its significance for Florida’s anti-slavery movement and its significance in Florida’s underground railroad. 

The area of modern-day Cape Florida State Park served as a departure point for freed African American slaves as they fled to safety and freedom in the Bahamas. 

There are guided tours throughout the state park, including tours of the lighthouse keeper’s quarters and cottage, the historic lighthouse, kayak tours, walking tours, and bicycle tours.

El Farito

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is also known as the “Key Biscayne Lighthouse” and sometimes “El Farito” by locals, especially spanish-speaking residents of Miami.

“Faro” means light, or lighthouse in Spanish, so “El Farito” basically means “the lighthouse.

Activities

Cape Florida State Park offers a wide range of activities:

  • Bicycling on mixed-use trails
  • Boat camping
  • Fishing
  • Nature trails, hiking and walking
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • 18 covered picnic pavilions and other picnic facilities
  • Swimming
  • Beautiful beaches
  • Guided and self-guided tours
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Wedding venues
  • Museum
  • And more

The state park is one of the best places in Miami for riding bicycles, walking, running and roller skating.

Weddings

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is one of the most popular places to get married in Miami, and in Florida. 

Continue Reading:   Honeymoon Island State Park

Two places are especially popular wedding venues:

  • On the beach in front of the Cape Florida Lighthouse
  • In the coconut tree pathway which leads to the lighthouse

Some couples also have wedding ceremonies at the top of the lighthouse, although the small space imposes obvious constraints and requires an extremely small ceremony.

Beach wedding arrangements can be made through the Florida DEP and the state park department. 

Wedding fees to get married at the lighthouse venue start at approximately $500 plus extra fees. Beach wedding permits begin at approximately $150 plus extra fees.

The lighthouse is also a very popular place for wedding proposals, and it’s one of the best places for wedding proposals in Miami.

Amenities

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park has a wide array of amenities and facilities for visitors to enjoy:

  • Amphitheater
  • 1.2 miles of shoreline on the Atlantic coast
  • Walking trails in interior wetland habitats
  • Several miles of mixed-use pedestrian pathways
  • 1.4 miles of shoreline facing Biscayne Bay
  • Beautiful beaches
  • Kayak and canoe launch
  • Several fishing piers throughout the park
  • Two restaurants on-site
  • Restrooms
  • Bike rentals
  • Outdoor shower stations
  • Nature trails
  • Covered picnic pavilions, barbeque grills and other picnic facilities 
  • A protected boat harbor for boat camping
  • Numerous historical sites:
    • A museum
    • A historic lighthouse

Private vendors rent beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach. Beach chair rental prices start at around $10 and umbrellas cost around $20.

There are outdoor showers in several areas throughout the state park, including beach access points 4, 6 and 7 and restroom areas A, B and C.

Camping

The state park does not have traditional camping or land campsites, but boat camping is allowed. 

Boat campers are allowed to anchor in the protected No Name Harbor. The cost for boat camping is $20 per vessel per night.

Restaurants

There are two restaurants on-site in the state park: the Lighthouse Cafe near the beach and the Boaters Grill on the shores of No Name Harbor.

Boaters Grill

Things to know about Boaters Grill:

  • Located on the shores of No Name Harbor. 
  • Has great views of the boat anchorage. 
  • Indoor and outdoor seating. The menu specializes in seafood. 
  • Other non-seafood options are also available.
  • Menu: https://www.boatersgrill.com/menu/

Open 7 days a week.

Sunday thru Wednesday: 11am – 8pm

Thursday thru Saturday: 11am – 10pm

Lighthouse Cafe

http://www.lighthousecafekb.com/

Things to know about Lighthouse Cafe:

Open 7 days a week from 9am until sunset.

Beach

The beaches at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park are some of the best beaches in Florida. 

The beaches along the Atlantic ocean are long, wide and sandy. 

The water is generally calm and clear, with a slight greenish tint depending on conditions. 

There are sand dunes behind the beach which are filled with sea oats and other native foliage which protects the fragile dunes, and which helps protect the state park from erosion.

Despite the dunes’ protection, beach erosion still threatens to overwhelm the state park and the historic lighthouse.

The beaches in Bill Baggs state park have been named a “Best Beach” by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, AKA Dr. Beach, several times. The beaches have won awards for the best beach for swimming. 

The water is almost always calm because of a large sandbar offshore, and protection provided by the Florida Barrier Reef. 

The beach is very long and often has a distinct “feel” in different sections. 

  • The southern stretch of beach near the lighthouse typically feels more crowded, especially with families and children. 
  • The northern stretches of beach are usually less crowded.
Continue Reading:   Silver Springs State Park

There are no lifeguards in any of the beaches or swimming areas in the state park.

Lighthouse

The lighthouse is perched along the beach among palm trees and tropical foliage, giving it the feel of one of the most tropical places in Florida.

The lighthouse is 95 feet tall. The lighthouse has 109 steps in a narrow spiral staircase.

There are daily tours, provided by state park rangers, at 10 am and again at 1 pm from Thursday until Monday. 

Note: The lighthouse may not be suitable for people who are afraid of heights or confined spaces.

Today the lighthouse is actively lit, although it is not officially used for navigational purposes. Its light flashes a white light every five seconds, which can be seen from many miles away. 

The lighthouse keepers’ quarters are very small and modest by today’s standards. 

The house is detached from the lighthouse and is built of a dark brick with a wooden-shingle roof.

Interestingly the lighthouse keeper’s house was built using traditional New England home building techniques which would have been terribly ill-suited to the climate and weather in south Florida.

The house was built using low ceilings, small rooms with few windows and a general lack of ventilation and cross-flowing breezes for cooling, which would have been desirable in Florida’s hot history before air conditioning. 

Bizarrely the house also features two brick wood burning fireplaces at either end of the house; a feature which would make sense in New England’s cold winters, but which seem bizarrely out of place in Miami.

Nearby Lighthouses

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is one of the most famous lighthouses in Florida, and is widely visited by lighthouse enthusiasts.

There are two other prominent lighthouses near Cape Florida Lighthouse. 

The Fowey Rocks Lighthouse is located southeast of the Cape Florida Lighthouse roughly halfway between Key Biscayne and Sands Key. 

The Boca Chita Lighthouse is located 10 miles south of the Cape Florida lighthouse, just north of Sands Key.

Lighthouse tours

The lighthouse can be toured during specified times. Tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s cottage are provided at no additional cost, and without reservations.

Lighthouse tours take approximately 30 minutes and are given by knowledgeable park rangers and volunteers. 

The lighthouse and lighthouse keepers’ quarters are open for public visits, but during designated public tour times, and only with a guide. 

Lighthouse tours are conducted at 10 am and 1 pm Thursday. through Monday.

There is also an informative video in the kitchen of the lighthouse keepers’ cottage, which shares information about the lighthouse’s history and renovation efforts.

Lighthouse View

The lighthouse has beautiful views from the top, where a circular wrap-around balcony allows visitors to observe the surroundings from a high vantage point. 

The lighthouse has excellent views of:

  • Key Biscayne
  • The Florida Reef and Fowey Rocks lighthouse 
  • The Atlantic Ocean
  • The skyline of downtown Miami and the southern shores of Miami Beach
  • Mangroves, protected wetlands and natural preserves inside the state park

Miami’s famous stilt houses of Stiltsvillea can also be seen, along with the beautiful natural surroundings of the state park and Cape Florida.

Nature and Wildlife 

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a very large protected natural area with a very wide array of wildlife and habitats under its protection. 

The state park includes more than 500 acres of land, including upland and submerged areas. 

The state park is an oasis of nature in an area which is otherwise very heavily developed, especially because it is so close to Miami. 

The state park is also a refuge for many forms of native Florida wildlife, including numerous native bird species and many migratory birds. 

Migratory birds can be seen every fall and winter as they pass through along their migratory routes to and from the Florida Keys, Everglades and other habitats in south Florida.

Continue Reading:   Nixon Sandbar

More than 112 different bird species have been observed, cataloged and tracked as part of an ambitious project to study migratory birds and their presence at the state park.

The park is also an important resting place for:

  • More than 50 species of butterflies on their annual Florida Keys migration
  • More than 170 bird species have been documented in the park, including many song birds, Peregrine Falcon and many other of Florida’s most rare bird species
  • Sea turtles, including green sea turtles and loggerhead sea turtles, use the beaches as an important nesting site
  • Saltwater crocodiles have been spotted in the park, although sightings are not common
  • Manatees rely on the warm protected waters and abundant seagrasses

Awards

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park has been recognized by many awards and honors due to its deep and diverse significance.

The state park is part of the Florida Back Heritage Trail and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site

History

The Cape Florida lighthouse was first built in 1825, making it the oldest structure in south Florida and Miami. 

The lighthouse was heavily damaged and rebuilt in 1846 after it suffered damage in the Second Seminole War. 

The lighthouse damage was caused by a fierce battle and attack from Seminole native Americans. The attack included a raging fire, explosions and the death of a lighthouse keeper.

The building later survived military battles during the civil war, numerous severe hurricanes, other attacks by native Americans and other challenges.

The lighthouse was in active service until 1878 when a new offshore lighthouse was installed at Fowey Rocks. 

The lighthouse was turned on again for 12 years in the late 1970s to assist ships navigating in Biscayne Bay. It was decommissioned and taken out of service permanently in the early 1990s.

The lighthouse underwent extensive renovations in 1967-1970 and again from 1992-1996. 

Who was Bill Baggs?

The Cape Florida state park was named after William (Bill) Calhoun Baggs, who lived from 1923-1969.

Bill Baggs was an influential editor of the Miami News from the mid 1950s until 1969. Baggs was a leading advocate, and one of a small handful of brave southern newspaper editors, who advocated for African American interests and civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Baggs was also instrumental in recognizing the immense significance in the land of Cape Florida state park, and fought to have it preserved as a state park, so it could be enjoyed by citizens.

FAQ

Are dogs allowed on Cape Florida beach?

Dogs are allowed in the state park, but only in designated areas, and if they are on a leash of 6-foot or less. 

Owners must pick up pet waste and intimidating or misbehaved pets may be expelled from the state park. 

Dogs are not allowed at the beach, lighthouse, or in other areas in the state park.

Does the Cape Florida lighthouse still work?

The Cape Florida lighthouse still works, and flashes a white light every 5 seconds. Although it works and is operational the lighthouse is not an official aid to navigation, as it was replaced by the offshore lighthouse on Fowey Rocks

Contact

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Official Site

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Phone: 786-582-2673