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Explore Boca Chita Island in the Florida Keys: a Fun Day Trip from Miami

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Venturing off the beaten path during her Miami getaway, our colleague Caroline had the good fortune to embark on a unique marine expedition that blends history and nature. Namely: day trip from Miami to the Florida Keys! Offered by the Biscayne National Park Institue, this brief and charming day cruise to the island of Boca Chita is a great way to discover the well-kept secrets of the vast Biscayne National Park.

The educational component, which is essential to the Biscayne National Park Institute’s mission, reflects its philosophy: appreciating the beauty of nature and understanding its mechanisms spontaneously leads to a desire to preserve it.

Soak up the sun, and breathe in the salty air of the Florida Keys: an exquisite day trip experience for the eyes and the soul!

Practical tips for the best day trip from Miami to the Florida Keys by boat

  • The excursion to Boca Chita Island departs from Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove
  • The motorboat generates minimal swell, but consider taking an anti-nausea medication if you are prone to seasickness
  • Bring some snack or lunch and a bottle of water
  • Insect repellent, hat and sunglasses are a must
  • You are welcome to bring a blanket and a cooler for a quaint picnic
  • Use reef-safe sunscreen
  • The cruise is a 3.5 hour round trip
  • This is the closest cay to Miami, but the Florida Keys are a lot bigger than that!

Boca Chita: the gem of Biscayne National Park

The day cruise immediately sets us in an atmosphere of exploration as the crystal clear waters gently ripple. The captain and tour guide share their boundless knowledge with sheer enthusiasm. The charming duo tell fascinating stories that infuse the park with a mystical quality and introduce us to the delicate ecosystems sheltered beneath the waves.

The privacy of small groups allows everyone to find answers to their questions.

The island of Boca Chita emerges from the turquoise embrace of the sea like a celestial vision, with shores of white sand and shades of blue-green worthy of an Impressionist painting. In 1937, the picturesque place was transformed into an exclusive retreat by its owner, the wealthy Honeywell Inc. founder, Mark Honeywell. He made Boca Chita his private oasis, hosting lavish gatherings of Florida’s elite and their yachts. The parties have since given way to Miami powerboat enthusiasts and a handful of tourists looking for their own slice of paradise.

phare Boca Chita lighthouse Florida Keys

Although purely decorative, the lighthouse stands out as the heart of the island. With its retro charm, it embodies Boca Chita’s glamorous past. As you climb its steps, you feel the echoes of a bygone era before being greeted by a stunning panorama. The timelessness of the natural splendor coexists perfectly with the fleeting character of ages and fashions.

There’s plenty of time to explore this National Register of Historic Places site. It comes as a welcome respite from the bustling city of Miami, though you can admire its skyline along the way.

Stiltsville’s historic houses and secret parties

Overlooking the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay and Soldier Key, the homes of Stiltsville seem to float on the lagoon. Suspended between sea and sky, this collection of wooden stilt houses is an odd and fascinating sight.

Each of these little cottages is inhabited by its own set of tales, hovering in the bay: toward the end of American Prohibition in 1933, “Crawfish Eddie’s” shack served as a sanctuary for those seeking the thrill of gambling and the buzz of alcohol. The Calvert Club and the Quarterdeck Club acted as sophisticated clubs. There were also fishing spots and quiet retreats, as well as refined hideaways for the high society to celebrate clandestinely.

Celebrities, politicians and local figures: the guest list was quite exclusive. Some sources claim that a dozen of these dwellings dotted the park’s seascape as early as the 1920s. Today, Stiltsville’s historic houses are mostly used for recreational and educational purposes.

Other ways to enjoy Biscayne National Park

croisière excursion dans les Florida Keys cruise day trip from Miami

The Biscayne National Park Institute is dedicated to environmental education and conservation, as well as heritage preservation. The Boca Chita Heritage Cruise experience is a great expression of their vision, and is particularly inspiring as you venture into one of Florida’s most pristine areas.

Biscayne is also the starting point of the Florida Barrier Reef, the fourth longest coral reef in the world at 322 kilometers. Also the biggest one in the continental United States! This makes it a dream destination for snorkeling to explore the underwater world, swimming with sea turtles or, for the more adventurous, admiring the depths from a canoe or kayak.

The Institute offers a plethora of other day trips in the Florida Keys that immerse visitors into the wonders of the park:

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