Heritage in Miami-Dade Parks

Bill Baggs Lighthouse
Historic Virginia Beach Sand Castle

Historic Virginia Beach Sand Castle

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By: Jennifer Agress

Heritage in Miami-Dade County Parks

With its close proximity to Cuba, South America and the Caribbean islands as well as Native American history, Miami has been a melting pot of cultures, languages and lifestyles for centuries. Visit some of Great Miami’s parks and recreation spaces where you can experience the history of the diverse heritage first-hand.

Miccosukee Heritage in the Everglades

The Miccosukee have been in Florida since the early 18th century. During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) and Third Seminole War (1855-1858), the Miccosukee and other native tribes retreated into the Everglades. In 1947, the U.S. Department of Interior declared most of the Miccosukee’s land as part of Everglades National Park.

Miccosukee Indian Village Entrance
Miccosukee Indian Village Entrance

Explore Miccosukee history at Miccosukee Indian Village and tour the onsite Indian Village Museum, which is filled with art and artifacts such as tribal paintings, photographs of tribal members, Native American clothing, special cooking utensils, government documents and even a documentary that gives insight into their way of life. Visitors can get their adrenaline pumping when they watch live alligator wrestling or go on swamp buggy or airboat tours. For a real dose of tribal culture, check out the onsite chickee huts, where you can watch the art of doll-making, beadwork, patchwork and basket weaving. The Indian Village, Village Museum and alligator wrestling are currently on hold due to COVID-19. Contact Miccosukee Indian Village for information on attraction availability. 

Maritime and African American Heritage at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

The 442-acre Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park opened on January 1, 1967 on the southern point of Key Biscayne, or “Cape of Florida,” as Ponce de Leon called it when he explored the area in 1513. This beach park is known for the Cape Florida Lighthouse. Originally built in 1825 and destroyed during the Second Seminole War, this lighthouse was rebuilt in 1846 and remains the oldest structure in Miami-Dade County. 

Bill Baggs Lighthouse
Bill Baggs Lighthouse

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park also holds an important place in South Florida’s African American history. During the early 1800s, this part of Key Biscayne was used as a secret meeting place where enslaved people and mixed-race Native Americans could connect with sea captains and make arrangements to sail to safety in the Bahamas. Because of this, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park was designated a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site in 2004.

African American History at Virginia Key Beach Park

Listed in the U.S. Park Service National Register of Historic Places, Virginia Key Beach Park played an important role in South Florida’s civil rights movement. Even though South Florida’s African American community helped build and develop Miami, they were not allowed on its beautiful beaches. 

Historic Virginia Key
Historic Virginia Key

After a protest where African Americans entered the water at Haulover Beach (a “white” beach at the time), Miami-Dade County designated Virginia Key Beach Park as “Miami’s Colored-Only Beach” on August 1, 1945. The area remained an important gathering place for African Americans and immigrants through the 1950s and was the site of many African American religious services. The park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. 

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