Boat tour shows off bay’s coral reefs

HOMESTEAD, Fla.— Guests taking the glass bottom boat tours at Biscayne National Park here expect to experience the usual things, coral, shipwrecks and marine life. These tours are all that plus more.

After boarding the boat and receiving a brief safety instruction from the captain, visitors are introduced to a park ranger, who is supposed to point out the things you are seeing through the bottom of the boat. A surprise to many, you also receive a brief, yet very informative history of Biscayne National Park.

The glass bottom boat tour at Biscayne National Park passes Elliott Key (Photo by Amy Salmanson).

The tour starts at Convoy Point and departs out through the mangrove forests. “The park is like a jigsaw puzzle, the smallest piece being the mangrove forest at 4,000 acres,” Park Ranger Gary Bremen described.

“They protect the land from the water and the water from the land,” Bremen described the protection the mangroves provide.

As the boat travels out from the marina, you begin to see some of the many different parts of this park. A glass bottom boat is the best mode of transportation to see the park as 95 percent of Biscayne National Park is underwater, making it the largest marine park in the National Park System.

Ranger Gary Bremen discusses marine life of the coral reef system within Biscayne National Park (Photo by Amy Salmanson).

The first part of the trip the boat moves slow to avoid hitting the manatees who make a home in the area. Although the boat will not stop to observe them, they are easily spotted from on board.

The journey to see Biscayne National Park continues across Biscayne Bay, which is a very shallow body of water at six to eight feet at the deepest points. Once you get through the inch and a half of sand on the bottom of Biscayne Bay there is nothing but solid rock.

After this is when the boat will make its first step and visitors gather around the railings to look down into the bottom of the water at a ship wreck. “Does anyone know what a shipwreck looks like?” Bremen asked the guests.

The unexpected answer was rocks. Ships used to carry rocks in the bottom to maintain the weight needed and after the wood and structure deteriorates this is all that remains.

Guests continue their tour seeing keys in the distance that used to be completely populated by key-lime and pineapple farms. Now, they are home to legends and places to stop and walk around.

Visitors take in the sights while cruising on the glass bottom boat in Biscayne National Park (Photo by Amy Salmanson).

At the second and third stop on the glass bottom boat tour, many different types of fish, coral, and plants were present and visible through the glass. And Bremen walked around with examples of different corals that he had for guests to touch and ask questions about.

With over 500 species of fish and 300 species of plants, including favorites like dolphins, coral, and manatees there is something for everyone to see. The boat tour draws crowds from all over the state, country and world.

“We wanted to see the marine life that was out here, we heard about it all the way in Germany from friends so we thought it was worth the trip while we were visiting,” Ingrid Hiesel said.

“I thought it was interesting and he had a lot of great information even though it wasn’t great photographically,” visitor Larry Boersma of Sarasota said.

Although the summer months are better for seeing the reefs then other times of year, the trip will at least give you a glimpse at the history of a wonderful area.

“I love the boat tours because I can get out with the public and enjoy the park. The best part is to be able to teach people and get them excited about something I love is great,” Bremen said.

The glass-bottom boat en route to the coral reefs of Biscayne National Park (Photo by Amy Salmanson).


If You Go

  • Biscayne National Park glass bottom boat tours leave from Convoy Point. The park is opened daily, 24 hours, but park personnel are available to answer questions between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The address is 9700 Southwest 328th St., Homestead, Fla. 33033. The telephone number is 305-230 -1100.
  • For reservations about glass bottom boat tours contact or call 305-230-1100. Trips run daily from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.. Reservations are recommended but not required. The fee is $24.95 for adults, $16.45 for children, and $19.45 for seniors, plus tax.

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