By: Shayne Benowitz
Explore the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center.
Key Biscayne’s nature center, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park, is a beautiful facility and the best place in town to learn about all the natural wonders of Miami in Mother Nature’s classroom. See baby sea turtles carefully released into the wild to fend for themselves. Take a sea grass adventure with a naturalist tour guide and collect sea life in nets and buckets to examine up close.
This non-profit conservation project is a wonderful place to bring the kids to enjoy a family outing or to learn a bit of biology from the expert staff. The large white facility is a stunning addition to the otherwise natural green oasis of Crandon Park. Take advantage of the amenities like a central amphitheater courtyard, hands-on exhibits, art gallery, lab classrooms and more.
Crandon Park, the treasure of scenic Key Biscayne, is located on The Bear Cut Preserve. This sandy beach, with dunes and brimming with wildlife from butterflies to herons and underwater creatures like fish and crabs, is a glimpse Old Florida. Scout the mangroves and coastal hammock for rare birds and sea turtles in their nesting grounds. This kind of pristine preserved wilderness is just minutes away from Miami Beach, Downtown Miami and the rest of the bustling city.
What To Do Outside
At the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, you won’t run out of things to do and nature to explore, with the knowledgeable help of their passionate staff. Sign up for a group or individual outing and learn about the ecology of Bear Cut Nature Preserve.
Most Fridays and Saturdays you can sign up for the Seagrass Adventure ($14) where you can drag a net in the seagrass. This grounded grass grows naturally along the ocean floor around Florida. Your net might pull up all sorts of critters like urchins, pipefish and starfish just to name a few. This rich underwater ecosystem is just waiting to be examined by you and your skilled naturalist guide who will help you identify whatever your net pulls up.
Get a bit of a workout on the Hammock Hike ($14) and discover the Bear Cut Preserve by foot. See plants once used for medical purposes by the natives and learn about the importance of conservation to preserve areas such as this.
Give your tot a different kind of day and sign him or her up for Beach Babies, a fun and educational program for 3, 4 and 5 year olds.
For a truly unique experience, go back in time at the ancient Fossil Reef Tidal Pool ($14). During low tide you can see the tidal life that lives here and in the mangrove forest. The team of naturalists will be there to point out what’s what, give you the history of the area, which dates back thousands of years, and guide your walk along the mangrove boardwalk.
There are also kite-boards and kayaks available for rent and guided tram tours of the Bear Cut Preserve.
What To Do Inside
Inside the center there’s still more to be see and do. Learn about mangroves at the new indoor mangrove exhibit, including living mangrove trees and live animals. See the three saltwater aquariums where you can get an even better look at the sea flora, fauna, and the animals native to the area. Touch and feel the preserved and dried collection of seashells, sponges, turtle shells and more.
At the art gallery you’ll find art inspired by natural beauty. Sign up for a painting workshop and express your vision of Key Biscayne’s organic beauty with like-minded art enthusiasts.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is a great place to take the whole family. Kids will marvel at all there is to learn about the underwater world, and adults are sure to learn a thing or two as well. Past events include screenings of educational films like TURTLE: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY and beachside fundraiser galas.
Onsite Beach at Crandon Park
The two-mile long beach at Crandon Park shouldn’t be missed. While you’re on Key Biscayne, or simply “The Key” as referred to by locals, plan for all the adventures that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center has to offer. Take a few hours to lounge on the sand – it’s all the better knowing about the ecology of the area and the wildlife of the waters. This calmer alternative to some of the more popular beaches is no less stunning. In fact, it’s best for the naturalist who’s more interested in the pristine beach itself than the party-vibe of some of the other beaches. There are many amenities at Crandon Park, including the Family Amusement Center, kite board rentals, barbeques and cabanas available for rent.
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