Monday, January 7, 2013

Hike Convoy Point at Biscayne National Park

Red mangroves at Biscayne National
Park. Photo courtesy NPS.

Walk along, into bay offers tropical walk

A full 95 percent of Florida's Biscayne National Park sits underwater, a turquoise blue paradise laced with vividly colored coral reefs. So what do landlubbers with the kids do when the spouse wants to snorkel or canoe the shoreline?

The answer is simple: They hike and picnic the main land trail, Convoy Point.

Picture-perfect picnic
Reasonably close to Miami, Convoy Point also makes a great hike for local residents wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The park can be reached by heading down U.S. Hwy. 1. In Homestead, turn onto SW 328th Street – also known as North Canal Drive – and continue approximately nine miles to the road’s end. Park at the new Dante Fascell Visitor Center. The trailhead is on the lot’s northeast side.

The boardwalk trail is flat and easy, running along the mangrove shore that is Convoy Point. You’ll follow the blue-green waters of Biscayne Bay and be able to spot some small, mangrove-covered islands. Bring a lunch; there’s a picnic area below palms overlooking the bay.

The trail turns south as heading out onto the jetty. Part of the boardwalk takes you out over the water. As the bay is shallow, ranging from about 4-10 feet deep, and is quite clear, you’ll have no trouble spotting the bottom. Lush seagrass beds throughout Biscayne Bay help ensure the water’s clarity. Dip your hand in the water, and you’ll also find it’s nicely warm. Thank the Gulf Stream for that one.

Onto the jetty
During the walk, you’re likely to see fishermen. Florida spiny lobster, shrimp, fish, sea turtles, and manatees all inhabit the bay. About 175 species of waterbirds call the park home, and you’re certain to spot cormorant, anhinga, and the ever ubiquitous gulls.

The boardwalk eventually gives way to an unpaved path as the jetty turns east, stopping as the land dissolves into the bay.

Overall, the trial runs about 0.65 miles round trip. It also is uncovered, so you will need sunscreen. Mid-December to mid-April is the dry season and the best time to visit.

Upon returning to the parking lot, stop at the free visitor center. Kids can pick up bones, feathers, sponges, corals and more at the Touch Table. The park also hosts Family Fun Fest on select Sundays of the year, and the park service’s Junior Ranger program is offered as well.

Learn about other great national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.