BILL BAGGS CAPE FLORIDA STATE PARK
Cape Florida is the home of a historic lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846, the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Visitors come to the park to sunbathe, swim, and picnic on over a mile of sandy Atlantic beachfront. Biking and kayaking are also popular activities. Anglers can throw in their lines from the seawall along Biscayne Bay for some of the best shoreline fishing in the region. Guided tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper?s cottage are given twice daily, Thursdays through Mondays. The Lighthouse Cafe and Boater?s Grill offer casual waterfront dining, or picnickers can reserve a pavilion and grill their own dinner. Bicycles, ocean kayaks, beach chairs, and umbrellas are available for rental. Overnight boat camping is allowed in No Name Harbor, and a primitive campsite is available for organized youth groups. Located at the southern end of Key Biscayne off the Rickenbacker Causeway, south of downtown Miami.
Birds may be seen along the sea wall and the nature trails, depending on the season, weather and migration patterns.
When Ponce de Leon led the first Spanish expedition in 1513 to the land he called Florida, he visited this area and named it the "Cape of Florida." It was an area of ferocious storms and uncharted waters. Hidden sandbars and submerged reefs, were a hazard to early sailors, causing hundreds of shipwrecks along the Straits of Florida. For this reason, one of the federal governments first actions when Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, was to plan for the extension of a network of lighthouses along the east coast of Florida.
In 1825, the Cape Florida Lighthouse was built to serve as an important link in this network of navigational aids. The lighthouse is the oldest building in south Florida. With the outbreak of the Second Seminole War in 1835, bloody encounters between the Seminole Indians and settlers to the area spread throughout the peninsula. By July of 1836, the threat of attack had caused the settlers to flee the mainland and take up temporary residence on one of the better protected keys to the south.
Late in the afternoon of July 23, 1836, the Cape Florida Lighthouse was attacked and severely damaged by fire. The Assistant Lighthouse Keeper miraculously survived and was rescued by the crew of a Navy schooner. His helper, however, was killed. The lighthouse remained out of service for the balance of the Second Seminole War which ended in 1842.
By 1846, Congress had appropriated $23,000 for reconstruction of the lighthouse. On April 30, 1847, Cape Florida Lighthouse was "re-lit" for the first time. In 1855, the height of the structure was increased from 65 to 95 feet and a 2nd Order Fresnel lens was installed. In 1861, Confederate sympathizers removed the lamps and burners and smashed the crucial center prism so it could not be used as an aid to Union sailors who controlled the surrounding waters. The lighthouse was repaired and re-lit again in 1866.
Finally, when nearby Fowey Rocks Light was placed into service in 1878, the lens and illuminating apparatus atop the lighthouse were removed and shipped to Staten Island, NY. One hundred years later, on July 4, 1978, the light was reinstalled by the U. S. Coast Guard to again serve as a navigational aid.
Organized groups may access the Youth Camp by contacting the Assistant Park Manager at (305) 361-8779 to apply for a permit. Fees include entrance for all vehicles and the permit. Groups may have the fees waived in exchange for providing volunteer service to the park.
A mile and a quarter of Atlantic beach is open to swimming. There are no lifeguards, so swim at your own risk. The beach is accessible from access points in Areas A, B, & C by making any left turn once you enter the park. During the winter, please watch for Portuguese Man-of-War Warnings posted at the Ranger Station.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Our new launch is available at Beach Access # 1 at the north end of ?Area A.? We have reserved parking spaces directly adjacent to the walkway. Since the portage is several hundred feet, we recommend a boat dolly or an extra helper for your convenience. On the beach, you will notice a 'V-shaped' set of safety floats for your protection. This is the only area on the beach that you are permitted to launch and make land from.
You may also launch from No Name Harbor by lowering your canoe/kayak off the sea wall. However, depending on tidal conditions, there may be a significant drop to the water?s surface, providing a difficult launch and loading/recovery scenario. You must portage by hand from the parking lot at ?Boater's Grill,? to the sea wall.
Please arrive early on the weekends as parking fills up quickly. And please remember, you may not tie up to the fishing platforms anywhere in the park, and the only beach landing site is at Beach Access #1 in ?Area A.?
Some of the best shoreline fishing in the region is available from the seawall located along Biscayne Bay. Saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida.