Located at MM 37, just five miles north of Big Pine Key
, is beautiful Bahia Honda State Park. The Keys are known for their beautiful beaches, magnificent sunsets, and excellent snorkeling and diving, and you can enjoy all that and more at Bahia Honda State Park
Camping at Bahia Honda Key
When you think of a state park
, one of the first things you think of is camping. Bahia Honda has three different campgrounds. The Buttonwood campground accommodates everything from small tents to RV’s to pop-up campers. It has very little shade, but each site has electricity, water, a picnic table and grill. There is a bath house with showers, and a dump station for RV sewage. The Sandspur sites, though small, are the most beautiful, because they are all in a very rare hardwood hammock. This area is for tents and small pop-ups, and each site has electricity, water, a picnic table and grill as well. Bayside is the smallest campground, with only 8 sites and no electricity. There is a small bathhouse here with cold showers; this is the place for those who really want to “rough it." Bayside also has several cabins if roughing it isn’t your thing or if you have a large party. Bahia Honda accepts reservations up to 11 months in advance, which may sound like a long time, but these is beautiful camping areas tend to fill up fast.
The park offers many things to do and activities to enjoy. Swimming, in either the Atlantic Ocean or Florida Bay, is always popular because of the Keys' clear water. The water here is shallow, the currents are very mild, and temperatures in the summer reach the upper eighties.
Snorkeling at Bahia Honda Key
The shallow water near the beaches here is not ideal for scuba diving, but Bahia Honda has some of the best near-shore snorkeling in the Keys. You'll find a lot of sea life within a few hundred feet of the shore, and the shallow waters make it a great place for beginners. You may find soft coral, tropical fish, the queen conchs and spiny lobster, along with rays, barracuda, and maybe even a small nurse shark. The park offers 90-minute snorkeling excursions to Looe Key Reef, where divers also enjoy the deeper water. Snorkeling gear is available for rent at the park's concession.
Beaches on Bahia Honda Key
Bahia Honda has several beautiful white sand beaches. Calusa, the smallest beach, is located on the northwest side of the island. On the south side is Loggerhead, the shallowest beach, with a large sand bar just a few feet offshore. Sandspur, the largest beach, is located on the southeast end of the island. There are three pavilions here, with barbecue grills available to rent for parties and several areas for picnicking if you’re just passing through the park. Sandspur Beach was ranked #7 on the Travel Channel's Top Florida Beaches
During the summer, loggerhead sea turtles nest and hatch successfully along the beaches. The nesting season can be very active, so use caution. Human disturbance, predators, or beach lighting will keep the turtles away.
More things to do
Boating is also popular at Bahia Honda. Boat tours take visitors through Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. If you a have a boat of your own, take advantage of the park's marina with 19 slips for overnight rental. The fee includes water, electricity and full use of park facilities. Boaters have access to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.
Kayaking, which allows you explore the waters around the park in a quiet, relaxing way, is also popular. Stable sit-on-top ocean kayaks can be rented in the park.
If you’re looking to toss a line in the water, Old Bahia Honda Bridge is a great place to bottom fish for snapper or grouper. If you like to fly-fish, try the shallow sand flats on the Atlantic side of the island for permit, bonefish, or barracuda. You can charter a boat and hire a guide, if you like, but remember: saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida. Spear fishing is not allowed at Bahia Honda, and you may not collect tropical fish, live shells or queen conchs.
If you’ve brought your bike, Bahia Honda has more than 3-1/2 miles of hard surface roads for you to cruise.
Is walking more your thing? Bahia Honda has two nature trails: Silver Palm Trail at the southeast end of the island in Sandspur, and a trail on the southwest end of the island in the Calusa area. The Calusa trail takes you to the top of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, and offers a spectacular view of the park. When you're on the trail, keep your eyes out for butterflies. You may see the rare Miami blue butterfly. Although the Miami blue was thought to have become extinct as a result of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, it still lives here, in the only known natural colony still in existence.
The park has a gift shop and snack bar in the main concession building, where you can purchase a wide range of necessities from snorkeling equipment to T-shirts, pizza, ice cream and more. This is the place to get a souvenir of your trip to Bahia Honda State Park and the fabulous Florida Keys
Birding at Bahia Honda Key
Bahia Honda, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail
, is a great place for bird watching, home to both shorebirds and wading birds. Shorebirds you may see include sanderlings, short-billed dowitchers, willets, ruddy turnstones, and plovers. Wading birds spotted in the park include tri-colored herons, great white herons, great blue herons, snowy egrets, great egrets, and white ibis. From mid-September to mid-November you may see a variety of hawks. In the summer months, the endangered white-crowned pigeon can sometimes be seen.
At Bahia Honda State Park you can do it all: picnic on the beach, take a swim, dive the reef, snorkel the shallows or simply enjoy the gentle sea breeze on one of Florida’s top 10 beaches. You can fish from shore or from a bridge, hire a guide or bring a boat of your own. Bahia Honda is an excellent place to camp, hike, bike, bird watch or kayak--all while enjoying the beauty that is the Florida Keys.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com