As we were making our way to Miami, we were still a world away in the beautiful emerald waters of Biscayne National Park, which preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. 95% of the park is water and the shoreline is an extensive mangrove forest. Elliott Key is the largest island and is formed from a coral reef. The vast shallow water preserve has quite a history of pirates, shipwrecks, fishing, sailing and pineapple farming.
Two days and nights at anchor were spent at peaceful and secluded locations within the Park, where we experienced mild tropical weather, dramatic sunsets, dark star-filled evenings and more swimming than at any other time on our trip combined. I took advantage of the clear water to spend more time under the boat doing some cleaning of the bottom and running gear, which strangely enough, I find relaxing and fun. The absence of crowds and any development in the Park was quite a contrast to what we were about to encounter in the coming days.
As we cruised into Miami Harbor, auto-pilot was no longer an option. It was a busy place, to say the least!
Adding to the excitement, was an inter-collegiante sailing regatta taking place in the middle of the harbor with what appeared to be at least 200 small sailboats flying about, all of which had the right-of-way. We also passed Stiltsville, which is the remainder of an eclectic group of houses first built over the water by squatters between the 1930’s and 60’s. The buildings have a very colorful past, hosting fishing, drinking, social clubs for Miamians and gambling during the prohibition years. Due to several hurricanes and natural decay from exposure, only 7 of the structures still exist and are being preserved as part of the national park’s heritage.
From Miami to Boca-Raton, we traveled up the Intracoastal Waterway. It was quite a contrast to our passage through the remote Biscayne Bay, but was beautiful and awesome in its own way. The waterway, bridges, homes, landscaping and yachts were more than the eye could take in. Only the photos that we have included below can begin to describe what we experienced when cruising through this part of the country!