If you don’t make it to the Florida Keys, come to this park for a taste of their unique island ecosystems. The 494-acre space is a tangled clot of tropical fauna and dark mangroves – look for the ‘snorkel’ roots that provide air for half-submerged mangrove trees – all interconnected by sandy trails and wooden boardwalks, and surrounded by miles of pale ocean. A concession shack rents out kayaks, bikes, in-line skates, beach chairs and umbrellas.
At the state recreation area’s southernmost tip, the 1845 brick Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in Florida (it replaced another lighthouse that was severely damaged in 1836 during the Second Seminole War). Free tours run at 10am and 1pm Thursday to Monday. If you're not packing a picnic, there are several good places to dine in the park, including Boater’s Grill and Lighthouse Cafe.
Head to the southern shore of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and you'll see, way out in the distance, a collection of seven houses that stands on pilings in Biscayne Bay. The buildings, known as Stiltsville, have been around since the early 1930s, ever since 'Crawfish Eddie Walker' built a shack on the waves. More buildings were added over the years, and the 'village' was, at times, a gambling den, smuggling haven and, during the 1960s, a bikini club where women drank for free if they wore a two piece, and anything could famously go.
At its peak in 1960, there were 27 'homes' in Stiltsville, but as one might guess, hurricanes and erosion took their toll. No one lives in Stiltsville today, but it is possible to take a boat tour out here with the illustrious historian Dr Paul George.
In 2003 the nonprofit Stiltsville Trust was set up by the National Parks Service to rehabilitate the buildings into as-yet-unknown facilities; proposals include a National Parks Service visitor center, artist-in-residence colony or community center. Many years down the track, not much work seems to have progressed toward this idea, but if you’d like more information, check out the Stiltsville website.
Getting to Bill Baggs Cape
It takes under twenty minutes to drive to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park from Miami proper. Admission to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park runs $8 per vehicle with a limit of 2 to 8 people per vehicle. It's $4 for a single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.
If you don't mind a 17 mile bike ride round trip, the causeways out to the keys can make for a lovely cycling route, too. Bus Route 102 provides service from Brickell (near Brickell Station on SW 1st Ave) over the Rickenbacker Causeway and all the way down to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, too. It's a $2 entrance for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, and per passenger in a vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
This is Miami after all, so don't forget that you can boat in to Bill Baggs Cape, too. Dropping anchor overnight at No Name Harbor costs $20 per boat, per night.
Picnic facilities can be rented for $50 per day (plus tax) for one of the 15 pavilions that accommodate up to 40 people. A larger pavilion that can accommodate up to 80 people cost $100 per day (plus tax). Electricity to these larger shelters will cost an extra $15 per day.