Need to escape the city? Go kayaking

HOMESTEAD, Fla.— One of the best ways to escape from the commotion of South Florida is by getting out on the water. If you enjoy water sports recreation, then kayaking in Biscayne National Park here may be worth experiencing.

The park is 95 percent water and allows you to rent kayaks for $16 per hour to explore the open waters of the park. You can leisurely drift along the shore line observing sea creatures, paddle across the seven-mile stretch to Elliott Key, or just wander around the waters and relax.

“We have open water kayaking here, its not like the Everglades, it is just to get in the water and pass the time away,” Park Ranger Carlos Mateo said.

Josh Hauptman, a student at the University of Miami, has kayaked in Biscayne National Park a few times. He loves recreational water activities and said that he visited the park to relax and escape from the city.

Kayaks and canoes are available for rental at the Fascell Visitor Center at Biscayne National Park (Staff photos).

“You could see the skyline way in the distance through the haze,” Hauptman said. “I was close enough to see the city, but felt so isolated out there on the water.”

Those who go kayaking in Biscayne National Park have a variety of experience based on the time and season that they go. Nicole Wilscore visited during a warm day last May.

“It was horrible,” Wilscore said. “You couldn’t see any fish because the water was dark, we went all the way out where we heard you could see sharks and we didn’t see anything there, and the mosquitoes bit us all over, I thought I was going to die.”

The summer months in South Florida are notoriously hot, humid, and uncomfortable. In the winter months, the park averages around 300 kayaking visitors, where the summer months only bring about 100 or fewer visitors. University of Miami student Brett Burnbaum visited the park this past January and had a pleasant experience.

“I don’t know much about kayaking to begin with, but I went with a friend, and he told me a few things and I got to kayak around the water. The breeze was cool and it’s a lot better than anything that I can do in New York in January,” Burnbaum said.

Hauptman has been there in both the summer and the winter time. He sympathizes with Wilscore, but says that you just have to be prepared for the season.

“Going in the summer can be bad because of the bugs. But you are on the water and if the wind is strong it doesn’t feel that bad at all. You just have to bring a lot of bug spray and be comfortable out there,” Hauptman said.

Something that people always want to see when they come to Florida is crocodiles. The cooling canals just south of the park are home to one third of the crocodile population in the state. Tours are no longer offered there due to a adjacent nuclear power plant, but there are still two crocodiles that roam Biscayne National Park: a seven-footer named Crockie and an unnamed four-footer.

“The one cool thing when we went was that we saw a crocodile,” Wilscore said. “He was right by us at first, but then one of us made noise and he got scared and swam away.”

If you want to be a little more adventurous and are a bit more experienced with kayaking, then you might want to try rowing seven miles east to Elliott Key. The park headquarters can supply you a map with navigational instructions, but the park ranger does not advise you take the trip during summer.

“You can kayak across seven miles to Elliott Key and camp out a couple of days,” Mateo said. “But no one in their right mind would go out in summer months unless they want to donate blood.”

If you get lucky you can also see manatees swimming in the water. Mateo says that you just have to be at the right place on the right day in order to spot these unique creatures. Burnbaum said that he would go back just to try and see them.

“When I found out that manatees were in the water, I got really excited. I didn’t get to see any when I went but I honestly would go back just to try to see them,” Burnbaum said with a laugh.

Despite the variety of reactions it is best if you go and experience it on your own. There is a wide variety of ways to utilize the open waters of Biscayne National Park. But the popular thought seems to be to come in the winter months and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Kayaks and canoes can be selected from the storage racks before renting. They are located  near the parking lot at the Fascell Visitor Center.



If You Go

  • Eco Adventures office 305-365-3018.
  • Hours are Mondays to Fridays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Reservations for kayaks and canoes, 305-230-1100.
  • Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th St., Homestead, Fla., 33033.
  • General information, 305-230-7275.
  • Visit in winter months, November to April.

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