Did you know that there are three major national parks within driving distance of Miami? These national treasures offer a wide variety of natural and historic beauty right under our noses. If you're looking for a great way to spend an afternoon or an entire weekend, make your first stop the Visitors Center of one of these parks where the dedicated rangers of the National Park Service are available to help guide your visit.
Covering over 1.5 million acres of South Florida, Everglades National Park provides a wide range of diverse animal and plant habitats and species. From Sawgrass prairies to tropical rainforests, there's no wonder that this region was designated as an international biodiversity site. This park is home to at least 14 rare and endangered species and is an incredible place to visit, whether you're driving through and taking the Tram Tour at Shark Valley or kayaking through the mangroves at Flamingo. Keep an eye open for manatees!
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park combines some of the natural treasures you might experience at Biscayne National Park with the historic Fort Jefferson, which was used to defend South Florida from pirates and confine one of the major players in President Lincoln's assassination. Be sure to plan ahead -- there are no roads leading to this park. You'll need to arrive by boat or seaplane. A personal favorite for us is a catamaran ride out of Key West. Get your tickets ahead of time and head out in the early morning. Snacks can be purchased on the boat and you can go and return in one day. The other option is to pack your own food and camping gear and stay on the island overnight.
Biscayne National Park features another type of wildlife unique to the South Florida region. Found under the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are beautiful coral reefs with tropical fish species like angelfish and parrot fish. The park is entirely underwater and features wonderful opportunities for boating and diving. It's no wonder that Biscayne National Park was designated as one of the Top Five Family-Friendly Parks in the United States. Don't be afraid to bring your kids along, but always put safety first. Life jackets, floaties and sunscreen are always a good idea.