Bahia Honda State ParkBahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys is a 524-acre spot in the Keys that is remote, yet easily accessible. I think it's one of the reasons that the Florida Keys is sometimes referred to as the "American Caribbean".
Ever wonder what the name Bahia Honda means? It means "deep bay". An excellent description, as the channel depth made the bridge to Bahia Honda Key the most difficult to build.
Let's take a look at Bahia Honda State Park.
Turquoise Waters, Blue Skies
Bahia Honda State Park has some of the most glorious water you've seen, great for all kinds of activies. Well, all things except maybe surfing. The waters at Bahia Honda's beach are generally calm, clear and warm.
And those qualities make Bahia Honda an excellent place for swimming, snorkeling, diving and boating.
Be on the Lookout For...
Birds of all kinds. The most interesting (in my opinion) are the hawks, ospreys, herons, ibis and egrets. Of course it doesn't hurt that they are the biggest birds (makes them easier to spot).
And this may sound kind of weird, but look for the gumbo limbo trees. Also known as the "tourist tree" (because of the peeling bark) you'll recognize them by their wonderful coppery sheen.
So What Is There To Do?
Bahia Honda is one of the those state parks that has tons of things to do:
Swim the Seas
Bahia Honda Key is unusual in that it has quite a bit of beach, something of a rarity in the Florida Keys. Three glorious miles of golden sands beckon. And what's beyond the sand? A turquoise ocean. It's the Atlantic you are seeing, and normally the waters are calm, clear and rather warm -- mid to upper 80s in the summer, to mid to lower 70s in the winter. I'm not someone who goes in the water if it's under 80 degrees (and my the way, this is Fahrenheit), but there are plenty of people who consider the 70's to be wonderfully warm. If that's you, there is some great swimming available all year long!
Just a note -- it can sometimes get a bit chilly in the winter. If you consider air temperature the 60's bathing suit weather, then you will likely be happy. Still, it would be wise to bring some sort of "clothing contingency" if it does get a bit too cool for you.
See the Reef - Snorkel and Dive
Bahia Honda State park is home to some wonderful snorkeling and diving. As always, a diver down flag is required. Nearby (well, relatively anyway) Looe Key has a wonderful coral reef. You will need some sort of boat to get to it though, as it's not accessible by roads.
If you forgot to bring your snorkel gear, there are a limited number available for rent at the park's concession. Costs are listed in the Tours! section.
There are snorkeling tours available to Looe Key (see the Tours! section for additional information).
Calling all canoes, kayaks and other boats! Those beautiful waters of the Atlantic are perfect for you as well. There is plenty of paddling to be done at Bahia Honda State Park.
There is a boat ramp in the park, for those of you bringing a motor boat. The nearby Bahia Honda Channel provides access to the Florida Keys "back country", which has a multitude of smaller keys for your boating and fishing enjoyment.
Boat slips are available in Bahia Honda State Park, at $2/foot with a $30 minimum. There are only 19 slips though. Overnight berthing is available as well, and includes full use of the park facilities. Of note - the controlling depth is 3.5 feet.
Didn't bring a boat of any sort? Don't be sad, kayak rentals are available at the concession. The prices are as follows:
Here Fishy, Fishy
First off -- you need a Florida saltwater fishing license in the following instances:
If you are fond of grouper and snapper, try the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, off the old sea walls. The shallow flats on the Atlantic side may call to you if you are a fly-fisher. Permit, bonefish and barracuda are popular targets.
Although not technically in Bahia Honda State Park, you can take a boat through the Bahia Honda Channel to the Florida Keys back country. You might only want to consider this if you have a motor boat though -- the currents through the channel can be mighty strong at times.
Know the rules! You can catch all you like, but you can only keep what is legal. What you can keep varies by species, size and time of year. Click for current rules and regulations for saltwater limits. Spear fishing, possession of spear fishing equipment and collection of tropical fish (by any method) is prohibited within the park. The boundaries of the park extend out into the water 400 feet.
A Walk (or Bike or Skate) on the Wild Side
For you skating fans, Bahia Honda State Park has 3.5 miles of roadway are available for your enjoyment. Bicyclists, you can take a ride round as well.
Bahia Honda State Park has two nature trails, only one of which is really named.
At Bahia Honda State Park, you have two options for camping:
The cabins come with linens and eating utensils, and they are a touch on the pricy side at $140 per night. Still, they sleep six and you are close to all the wonder that the park has to offer.
Note: There is a vehicle height restriction to get to the cabins. Because you will have to go under the new Bahia Honda Bridge, you only have 6 feet 8 inches clearance.
There are three campgrounds in Bahia Honda State Park, with a total of 80 sites available for RVs and tents. Not all areas are suited for both though!
It is highly recommended that you make a reservation for any of the cabin/camping areas in Bahia Honda State Park, and they can be made up to 11 months in advance. Call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 as the Florida State parks no longer handle the reservation booking themselves.
Picnics - Ya Gotta Eat
First off, while there is a snack bar selling food and drinks, you really are better off bringing your own. Of course grabbing an ice cream cone at the concession would be a treat...
Want to reserve your own pavilion for the day? There is only one available, so call ahead to the park office to check availability at (305) 872-2353. It's at the Sandspur area, located at the southeast end of Bahia Honda State Park. The rate is $53.75 for the entire day and it has 8 picnic tables as well as barbecue grills. As an FYI, neither electricity nor water is available at the pavilion.
There are two other free pavilions at the Sandspur area, but they are strictly fist-come, first served. Again, no electric or water but the barbecue grills are available.
In addition, the Calusa area at the northwest end of the island has several small shelters with barbecue grills.
Yes, there tours available at Bahia Honda State Park. (Please note that the times and cost may vary - check with the park first, if you have your heart set on a specific date.)
A Notice About Water, Weather and Insects
As always when in natural Florida, be aware of the strong sun, plentiful insects and possible rainshowers. Make sure to bring sunblock, sunglasses and at least have some insect repellent available. If you only plan to stay out by the water, then an insect repellant is probably not necessary.
A hat is also suggested -- it is so easy to get a sunburn on your scalp, along the part in your hair (ask me how I know...).
Time and Place
Bahia Honda State Park is open year-round from 8 AM to sunset. The entrance and other fees are as follows (please call ahead if you're on a budget - prices do change):
Bahia Honda State Park is on US 1, also known as the Overseas Highway on Bahia Honda Key. The official park address is 36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043 The phone number is (305) 872-2353.
To make camping reservations, please call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 -- they handle all the reservations. And reservations are highly recommended.
Bahia Honda State Park is 12 miles south of Marathon in the Florida Keys. The closest cities are Marathon to the north and Key West to the south,. The closest decent-sized airport is Key West (although there is a small one in Marathon).
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