Biscayne National Park | BOATING

Boating out to the Keys of Biscayne National Park

Boating out to the Keys of Biscayne National Park

I am not one to offer much boating advice, so if you have any questions on park rules or regulations, check out the Biscayne National Park Boating web page or call the park directly. About all I can tell you is that Biscayne Bay is shallow and protected by the keys, so it is much calmer than the open Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, you don’t need a large boat to get out and enjoy the bay, provided the weather is nice (people kayak from the mainland out to Elliott Key, which ought to tell you something).

I and my buddy Mike took his 13′ Boston Whaler out on a sunny day with mildly choppy water instead of running his large boat all the way down from Boca Raton at a few miles to a gallon. It wasn’t the smoothest ride, but you can’t beat the cost of operation. We traveled from Convoy Point to Adams Key, Elliott Key, and Boca Chita Key and didn’t use but a few gallons of gas (approximately a 30-mile round trip). However, you probably wouldn’t want to take such a small boat out into the open Atlantic unless the water is completely flat.

About the only thing you have to worry about with a small boat is that if you dock at the Boca Chita Key Harbor or the Elliott Key Harbor, it can end up under the dock at low tide. When the tide rises it can get trapped and sunk, sort of like going up in an elevator with your arm sticking out the door. At Boca Chita we had to tie an anchor to the side of the boat and toss it out towards the center of the harbor to keep the boat away from the dock.

Biscayne National Park does not have a mainland boat ramp that is open to the public, so you must use one of the Dade Country ramps. Check out the Boat Launches web page for a list of the ramps near the park.

Repairing the motor at Elliott Key harbor in Biscayne National Park

Repairing the motor at Elliott Key harbor in Biscayne National Park

If you need a nautical chart (NOAA Chart 11451), you can pick one up at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center or at any local marina or bait shop. This chart will help you find reefs, shipwrecks, and other islands in the park, plus it points out the shallow areas. It is easy to run aground if you don’t know the area. The photo below was taken during a southern approach to Boca Chita Key as we passed by Sands Key, probably a half mile from shore—turns out that you need to approach Boca Chita Key from due west. We had to get out and walk the boat until we found deeper water.

Shallow water off the shore of Boca Chita Key in Biscayne Bay

Shallow water off the shore of Boca Chita Key in Biscayne Bay

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Last updated on October 30, 2023
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