Historic Virginia Key Beach Park

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Historic Virginia Key Beach
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Historic Virginia Key Beach Park

By: Dan Rios | June 4, 2020

The Hidden Treasures of Historic Virginia Key Beach Park and Beach

August 1st is the official Historic Virginia Key Beach Park Day

Year-round sunshine makes Greater Miami a beach-lover’s paradise — whether you enjoy quiet, palm-shaded oasis or the energy of popular see-and-be-seen sands, Miami serves up a variety of beaches to choose from. But none offer the rich history of Historic Virginia Key Beach Park; a beautiful stretch of surf and sand with a story that dates to 1896.

Located in beautiful Biscayne Bay, less than a mile away from the shores of Downtown Miami, is one of the most scenic beaches you can find here. A unique hidden retreat full of nature, with endless views of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic — the ideal location for visitors that enjoy swimming, lazing in the sun, and rich cultural history. Visitors to this hideaway can expect to enjoy a mile-long shoreline, ride an antique carousel with views of the ocean, be transported around the area by a miniature train, and explore coastal hammock trails on a nature boardwalk.

The newly reopened Historic Virginia Key Beach Park featured many of the amenities of the past. A beautiful stretch of sand and surf known for its natural landscape, swaying palms and mangroves, featuring the only replenished, mile-long stretch of shoreline within the City of Miami. Take a ride back in history aboard “Biscayne Virginia Rickenbacker Central,” a historic, miniature train that will take you on a wetland excursion. And no matter your age, you’ll delight in riding the historic antique carousel — the closest antique carousel to the sea. Other historic landmarks such as the bathhouse and the concession stand have also been renovated and are open for public use.

This stretch of paradise has picnic tables as well as several shaded pavilions. It is also vast enough to offer secluded areas to beachgoers that enjoy privacy and sunshine. Among visitor’s favorites are six pastel-colored beachfront cabins that can be rented for the day. Each cabin includes Adirondack chairs, a grill, and a picnic table; a perfect backdrop for that old-Miami experience.

Biking Trails Built by True Cyclists

This hidden gem is also home to some of the most adrenaline-racing bike trails in all of Miami. Built by biking enthusiasts from local bike clubs themselves, these trails offer all levels of riding excitement for the whole family. The mountain trails on the north end of the key were built to allow all levels of cyclists to enjoy the thrills of mountain biking while being surrounded by nature and water. Made for novice, intermediate, and advanced riders, each trail has a qualifier, so don’t worry — if you can maneuver your way through the first 20 feet of a trail, you should not have any problems with the rest.

The novice trail is flat and perfect for practice riding. The intermediate trail has climbs, drops, and elevation changes with bermed corners, immaculately designed to test your skills. However, if what you want is a challenge, then the advanced course offers technical climbs and fast descents. You’ll encounter bridges, exposed rocks, and hairpin turns to satisfy your addiction. All trails are continuously well-maintained with the help of dedicated bike club volunteers, so you know they will be ready when you are. You can even rent bikes here at the Virginia Key Outdoor Center in case you didn't happen to bring yours along.

Virginia Key Beach's Natural Ecosystems

Today, Virginia Key Beach Park is known as an ecological treasure containing one of the largest mangrove wetlands in the state. Rent a kayak or take a moonlight paddleboard tour of the area by water and enjoy a truly natural adventure just minutes away from the heart of Miami. Experience unique plant and endangered animal species as a testament to some of the oldest surviving flora and fauna varieties in the region. The Virginia Key Beach Park Trust is committed to the protection, preservation, and maintenance of the natural eco-systems.

Blended with its history, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is a magical and invaluable treasure that is concerned about preserving the environment. Working with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District, the Trust's goal is to protect, conserve, and manage its natural resources and enforce Florida’s environmental laws.

Experience Paradise Renewed

Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is located on a barrier island minutes from Downtown Miami, just north of Key Biscayne. The island is accessible via the Rickenbacker Causeway at 4020 Virginia Beach Drive. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to Sunset (except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). Admission is $8 on weekends and holidays per vehicle (car or motorcycle) and $16 per bus. On weekdays; $5 per vehicle (car or motorcycle) and $10 per bus. Barbeque grills are available throughout the park for picnics and vending machines are available on site.

The Story Begins in 1896

The City of Miami was founded in 1896, at a time where segregation was a reality throughout the south. The Black community had played a predominant role in the early building and development of the city which resulted in one-third of the signatures of the city charter being Black men. Nevertheless, the reality of segregation systematically excluded all people of color from Miami’s most famous attraction…its miles of beaches.

Some beach areas were “unofficial exceptions” which by mutual understanding were exclusive to the African American community. Virginia Key; at the time was only accessible by boat from Miami, was one of these areas. But it wasn’t until 1945 that Virginia Key became an “official colored only” site as a result of protest led by the late Judge Thomas. Led by Judge Thomas and with the intention of being arrested, Black men daringly entered the water at exclusively white Haulover Beach. Rather than facing costly embarrassment, County officials did not take legal action. Instead, they agreed to the demands of the protesters for the official designation of a swimming area for African Americans, and “Miami’s Colored Only Beach” opened on August 1, 1945.

From that point, Virginia Key Beach quickly became a popular gathering place for Greater Miami’s African American community, including a site for religious services. Although the beach remained segregated throughout the 1950s, that did not keep it from being the preferred go-to beach for many new immigrants coming from Cuba, the Caribbean, and South America.

Due to high operation and maintenance costs, the City of Miami closed Virginia Key Beach Park in 1982. The site was available for private event rental, but remained closed to the public until 1999 when a group of citizens established the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force in response to plans of private development on the park site. As a response, the Miami City Commission established Virginia Key Beach Park Trust to oversee the development of the historic property. In 2002, the park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and reopened to the public on February 8, 2008.

Be sure to follow @virginiakeybeachpark on Instagram or @historicvirginiakeybeachpark on Facebook to stay updated on the latest news, headline performer announcements, and much more!


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