Oleta River State Park

Oleta River State Park is a beautiful state park, and one of the best things to do near Miami. 

Oleta River State Park offers a wide variety of activities, ranging from relaxing beach days to heart-pumping mountain biking adventures.

Oleta River State Park is an extremely popular spot in Miami for both visitors and locals, and has something for just about everyone.

The view of Biscayne Bay from a beach in Oleta River State Park near Miami
The view of Biscayne Bay from a beach in Oleta River State Park

A Peaceful, Natural Oasis 

Oleta River State Park is surrounded by cities and concrete, but it’s surprisingly natural in many ways. 

Visitors can almost feel like they’ve escaped the city, but not quite. Tall condos are visible on the horizon, and airplane noise, traffic and other city sounds are noticeable throughout the park.

Oleta River State Park is largely waterfront, and sits on the banks of Biscayne Bay and the Oleta River. 

Visitors mostly enjoy the state park’s natural atmosphere, nice beaches and the calm water. 

Oleta River State Park is designated as an “Outstanding Florida Waters” location.

Location 

Oleta River State Park is located in North Miami Beach, about 30 minutes from Downtown Miami.

Oleta River State Park is surrounded by a dense urban environment in all directions. 

The park is an island of nature amid a sea of concrete, and some of Florida’s largest cities, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale. 

Oleta River State Park is located inside Dade County.

Nearby 

Oleta River State Park is located near many other popular attractions and things to do near Miami.

Visitors to Oleta River State Park often enjoy driving down highway A1A, a famous coastal highway lined with beaches, hotels, and restaurants. 

Miami’s famous South Beach is just 30 minutes to the south, accessed via highway A1A. South Beach is world-famous for its nightlife and beautiful art-deco buildings. 

The wildly popular Aventura Mall, a famous luxury shopping mall, is also just a few minutes from the park.

Visitors also enjoy visiting an ancient Spanish monastery – known as the “Oldest building in the western hemisphere”, which was relocated to Miami from Spain. 

The monastery is located about 10 minutes west of Oleta River State Park. The monastery is a great place to visit, and offers interesting history, beautiful architecture and lovely gardens.

Oleta River State Park is also located near other popular attractions including: 

Park Information 

Oleta River State Park is open year-round from 8:00 am to sundown. 

Entrance fees vary from $2 for pedestrians, $4 for single-occupancy vehicles, and $6 for multi-occupancy vehicles. 

Visitors are advised to check the weather and water conditions before visiting, depending on the activities planned during your visit.

The park may become extremely crowded on weekends and holidays. During these times visitors may face heavy traffic and delays to enter the state park. Visitors are advised to arrive early to avoid long lines at the park entrance.

The state park may also reach maximum capacity during busy weekends and holidays. When the park reaches capacity admission is closed to new visitors, and will not reopen until the next day. Visitors should beware of this to avoid disappointment!

Park Amenities

Oleta River State Park is Florida’s largest urban park, and covers 1,043 acres.

The park offers several waterfront recreation areas with views of the winding Oleta River and the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay.

Amenities in Oleta River State Park include:

  • Beaches
  • Pavilions (available for event rentals)
  • Restrooms
  • Outdoor rinse showers
  • Picnic Benches
  • Grills
  • Walking & Running Trails
  • Mountain Biking Trails
  • Bicycle rentals
  • Concession Center 
  • On-site restaurant
  • Kayak, Canoe, & Paddleboard Rentals
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Playground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Bath houses for use by cabin rental guests
  • ADA Accessible Beach Access
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Things to do  

Oleta River State Park is best known for its nature and watersports. 

Bicycles, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are all available for rent through the Oleta River Outdoor Center. 

The park concessionaire offers group tours, night kayaking tours, sunset tours and paddleboard yoga, and more. 

Current rental options, prices, and tour offerings can be found on the official website for Oleta River Outdoors.

Visitors may also bring their own kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and launch inside the park, although there is a separate launch area for people who bring their own.

Swimming

Swimming is popular in Oleta River State Park, especially at the sandy beach inside hte park.

Swimmers should beware of possible water hazards, including boat traffic, closures due to sewage leaks, presence of E.Coli bacteria or other water hazards due to Florida’s ongoing water pollution crisis.

Paths and Trails

There are approximately three miles of paved trails inside Oleta River State Park. The paths are popular for walkers, runners, and rollerbladers.

Kayaking Oleta River State park

Kayaking is one of the best things to do in Oleta River State Park. It gets extremely positive visitor reviews, and is the most popular activity mentioned among visitors.

Kayaking Oleta River State Park near Miami, Florida
Kayaking Oleta River State Park

Oleta River State Park offers several miles of coastline waterways to explore. 

Paddlers can explore serene mangrove tunnels, or venture out into the busy boat traffic of Biscayne Bay.

Paddlers are often happy to see dolphins, manatees, stingrays and other marine life.

Kayaks and SUP paddle boards are available for rent through Oleta River Outdoors and also from the Blue Marlin Fish House, which is also located on-site inside the park, but in a separate location closer to the Miami mainland. 

The Blue Marlin Fish House is only accessible via boat from the other section of the state park, otherwise visitors must exit the park and drive to another entrance.

Islands and Sandbars

There are numerous sandbars and small islands to explore in Biscayne Bay, including the wildly popular Haulover Sandbar. 

Paddlers enjoy using the islands and sandbars to swim and take a break from paddling.

The Beaches at Oleta River State Park

The saltwater lagoon at Oleta River State Park offers a relaxing spot to lounge on a nice sand beach, swim, or snorkel in the calm waters. 

The beach at Oleta River State Park near Miami
The beach at Oleta River State Park near Miami

Note: Visitors should be aware that the beach at Oleta River State Park is located on the waters of the intracoastal waterway, and not in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The beach is shaped like a crescent moon and has relatively nice white sand. Other sections of beach in Oleta River State Park can have large amounts of rocks and pebbles on the beach, in addition to sand.

The beach at Oleta River State Park is quite large. The beachfront stretches for approximately 1,000 feet, or approximately 300 meters. 

The beach does get crowded during busy times, but most visitors say they’re happy with the overall beach experience.

The water tends to be shallow just off the beach, before descending into deeper water. Small fish and crustaceans can be seen darting about under the water. 

The water is usually relatively clear, but can be murky depending on local water conditions. 

Overall, the beach at Oleta River State Park is relatively modest compared to other beautiful ocean beaches in Miami. 

On the upside, the water at Oleta River State Park is almost always calm because it is protected from waves, unlike other ocean beaches in Miami.

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Mountain Biking in Oleta River State Park

Oleta River State Park has more than 15 miles of bicycle paths and mountain biking trails. 

The bike trails range from mild paved roads to challenging offroad mountain biking trails for any skill level. 

There are more than 10 miles of dirt mountain biking trails inside Oleta River State Park. There are routes and trails for beginners, and also advanced trails.

One mountain biker describes the more difficult mountain bike trails in Oleta River State Park as being “very technical”. 

There are many narrow spots with trees on either side, narrow wooden boardwalks, rocks, tree roots and other obstructions to avoid. 

There is a surprising number of jumps and elevation variance on the trial system, especially for being in Miami.

Bike rentals are also available through the Oleta River Outdoor Center. Some visitors say that their mountain bike rentals were issued in disrepair – visitors are advised to thoroughly inspect rental equipment before using.

Camping and Cabin Rentals

Oleta River State Park does not have regular camping options for tents or RVs, but it does offer rustic camping cabins which can be rented.

The park has fourteen cabins available for rent. 

These cabins are air conditioned, but are otherwise very basic and rustic, and offer limited amenities. 

The cabins have simple beds, porches and outdoor picnic tables. The cabins do not have kitchen facilities. Restroom facilities are located in shared bathhouses, used by all of the cabins in the campground.

Campers must bring their own linens and towels. At the time of this writing cabin rental rates are $55 per night, plus taxes and fees. 

Reservations are required and can be made by visiting: www.reserve.floridastateparks.org

There is also limited primitive camping available, but only for organized youth groups.

Weddings and Events

Oleta River State Park is a popular destination for weddings and special events. 

Pavilions are available for rent throughout the park. Each pavilion can accommodate parties of approximately 12-150 guests. Many of the picnic sites offer beautiful views of waterways, or Biscayne Bay.

For more information on pavilion rentals visit the Florida State Parks website for Oleta River State Park.

Oleta River State Park also has some first-come, first-served picnic tables and grills throughout the park. These do not require a reservation, but availability is not guaranteed. 

Fishing in Oleta River State Park

The fishing pier in Oleta River State Park is currently closed for repairs, as of this writing. But, fishing is permitted in other areas along the intracoastal waterway (ICW). 

Florida state fishing regulations apply. For more information visit Florida FWC.

Food & Drink

There are food and drink options available inside Oleta River State Park via a concession stand, and also through an established restaurant, the Blue Marlin Fish House.

The snackbar and concession stand is located at the Oleta River Outdoor Center, in the main section of the state park. The concession stand offers a selection of drinks, ice cream and other “snack bar” items.

There is also a historic restaurant located in a separate section of the park, the Blue Marlin Fish House. 

Note: The fish house is not accessible from the main section of the park except via road access outside of the park, or paddling from one section of the park to the other.

The Blue Marlin Fish House offers a nice, casual atmosphere and more substantial meal options, including fresh seafood and local craft beers. 

Diners can paddle to or from the restaurant from the main kayak launch site to enjoy a meal, beer, and live music on some weekends. 

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Outside food and drinks are permitted inside the park so visitors may pack a picnic if they prefer. Alcohol is not permitted inside the park, except when purchased and consumed at The Blue Marlin Fish House. 

Downsides of Oleta River State Park

Oleta River State Park is a great spot, but there are some downsides.

The most common complaint about Oleta River State Park are about crowds and traffic, especially on the weekends. Many visitors become especially annoyed when they are barred from re-entering the park after it reaches maximum capacity.

Visitors are advised to arrive early and avoid crowded weekends and holidays, if possible, and if you enjoy peace and quiet!

Another downside of Oleta River State Park is that its waterways, along with all of south Florida, suffer from serious man-made pollution. Sewage leaks are unfortunately common, and water quality can be dangerous at times.

Visitors are advised to always check the most up-to-date water quality notices before swimming, and to remain aware of the local pollution problems.

Frequently Asked Questions 

The following are frequently asked questions about visiting Oleta River State Park

Are there alligators in Oleta River State Park? 

Alligator warning signs are posted inside Oleta River State Park. Alligators may be found in every body of water in Florida, including saltwater and brackish water. In addition to alligators, crocodiles have been observed in Oleta River State Park, and may be present. (Source)

Can you swim in Oleta River State Park? 

There is a designated swimming area in the saltwater lagoon inside Oleta River State Park, located on the southern end of the park. Swimming is also popular on sandbars and islands in Biscayne Bay, including the popular Haulover sandbar and Beer Can Island, also known as Sandspur Island. There are freshwater, outdoor showers to rinse off after swimming in Oleta River State Park. 

Is Oleta River freshwater or saltwater? 

The Oleta River was once a freshwater river. Freshwater was fed by the sensitive Biscayne Aquifer. Human alterations, including dredging, canals and other destructive modifications, have changed the natural water flow systems. Today the Oleta River and its wetland communities are saltwater and brackish

Can you bring your own kayak to Oleta River State Park? 

Visitors can bring their own kayaks, canoes and paddle boards to launch inside Oleta River State Park. The launch site for personal watercraft is separate from the launch site for rented watercraft, and is located just south of the main launch point towards the saltwater lagoon.

Final Thoughts

Oleta River State Park is a lovely oasis of nature, surrounded by the bustle of big city life.

For a relaxing beach day, a challenging mountain bike adventure, a wild sandbar party, or a kayak outing with friends, Oleta River State Park is worth a visit!

Additional Sources

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Florida State Parks: Oleta River State Park

Alligator Safety Information from the Florida FWC

Alligator Safety Fact Sheet