March 20-25, 2017: Key Biscayne, FL

On March 19 we sailed from Marathon to Rodriguez Key (8 1/4 hrs, 45.7 nm), anchored overnight, and then sailed from Rodriguez Key to an anchorage in Key Biscayne Bight (10 3/4 hrs, 48.7 nm).  This is where we anchored when we were on our way down the Keys, and we really like it.

We ended up staying in Key Biscayne a little longer than planned as we had some strong winds move in, closing an offshore weather window for a few days.  We had two days of strong northeasterly winds, but our anchorage provided enough protection to keep boat life pleasant.

There are three primary anchorage areas off of Key Biscayne, going from north to south:  the Bight (where we are), Hurricane Harbor, and No Name Harbor.  No Name Harbor is at the southern tip of the key and is contained within Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  We dinghied down to No Name Harbor to visit the park and found an absolute gem.

No Name Harbor itself is pretty tiny.  There were many sailboats and power boats anchored inside the harbor and a few outside the harbor in Biscayne Bay.  Things looked a little tight for me inside the harbor, and if we anchored at the southern end of Key Biscayne, I’d chose the anchorage outside of No Name Harbor itself.

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The harbor has a sturdy concrete seawall ringing it with many cleats and ladders; the sea wall was about four feet tall from the waterline.  Boats can tie up to the seawall, and there is a section marked “for dinghies only” although we saw them on all sections of the wall.  Dockage for any boat is $8 per day or $20 for overnight anchorage, and payment is on the honor system at a kiosk.

The park is 494 acres at the southern tip of Key Biscayne, with shoreline on both the Atlantic ocean and Biscayne Bay.  One of the things that we found most interesting about the park was its flora.  In 1992, Hurricane Andrew uprooted a forest of non-native Australian pine trees and left the park nearly treeless.  Some forward thinkers took the opportunity to reinstall only native plants, and the park is now a truly native ecosystem.  There are both sandy walking trails and asphalt biking trails all through the park.

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A view of the anchorage outside of No Name Harbor from a walking trail within the park.

Under the trees it is cool and shady, and the rich smell of heat and decomposition makes it feel intensely tropical.

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We saw many iguanas within the park, skittering around in the lower growth.

We walked the trails and then climbed the 109 steps to the top of the Cape Florida lighthouse.  It dates from 1825 and offers an amazing view of the key.

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After seeing so many lighthouses up north, it’s strange to see one framed in palm trees.

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A view of the southern tip of Key Biscayne from the top of the lighthouse.  

After sweating it up walking the trails and touring the lighthouse, we walked over to the beach and did some snorkeling.  The beach was pristine white sand and is noted as being one of the top 10 beaches in the United States.  I don’t know who rates them, but I’d say it was a very nice beach.  Although there are no reefs in the area, there are beds of sea grass to examine for smaller critters.  We had a fun time snorkeling and diving to the bottom to look at shells.

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Another aerial view thanks to the lighthouse.

The next day we again dinghied to No Name Harbor and then walked into town.  The entire town has an upscale tropical vacation feel; there are orderly palm trees planted in the median and many gated homes and condos.  We saw a clothing store that offered “fashion under $100,” which I suppose is the local equivalent of the Dollar Store.

There is a system of trails, bike paths, and paved sidewalks that run the length of the key called the Rickenbacker Trail, so the walking is safe and easy.  Crandon Blvd. on Key Biscayne offers most everything that a cruiser needs, all within a 2 mile walking distance of No Name Harbor:  a Winn Dixie grocery store, an Ace hardware store, a CVS pharmacy, a library with free wifi (no library card required), a post office, and restaurants galore.  The only thing I didn’t see was a laundromat, but I wasn’t really looking.  There are bus stops on practically every corner.  The Winn Dixie was large and very well stocked.  We got a few provisions and then had a great lunch at Sir Pizza.

The Captain and I both agree that this is a great stop.  This anchorage is quiet, even with the partying on The Sandbar.  There is plenty of room for boats, and the holding seems to be great even in 25 knot winds.  On a calm day we would be comfortable dinghying the 3 ½ miles across Biscayne Bay to Dinner Key.

But as much as we like it here, it’s time to keep going north.  Tomorrow we plan to head offshore overnight to the Ft. Pierce inlet and then through the ICW to Vero Beach.

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