Cruising to America's National Parks-Caribbean Ports of Call is a great way to see some of America’s National Parks! Florida itself has 11 National Park Sites and is the origin of most Caribbean Cruises. There are also National Park Sites located at several of the Caribbean ports of call. What other reason would you need to go ahead and plan an epic cruise to the Caribbean and cruise to some of America's best national parks?
Cruising to America’s National Parks- Caribbean Ports of Call
Florida is home to several iconic National Parks including 3 National Parks and a total of 11 National Park Sites. Florida is also home to 5 cruise ship port terminals and both provide recreation to millions of visitors each year.
Why not combine the two activities for an unforgettable vacation! I did not find much for cruise ship excursions to the Florida National Parks but they are easy to drive to as many cruise ship passenger drive to their cruise.
Those who fly to Florida can easily book a rental car and explore these parks at their leisure. Let's take a look at the National Park Sites in Florida!
Everglades National Park is located in Homestead Florida and is one of my all-time favorite National Parks! Bonus points for stopping by the Robert is Here fruit stand on the way out of the park for a Key Lime Milkshake! Here are 3 great reasons for visiting Everglades National Park:
- Hike the Anhinga Trail- make sure to keep your eyes out for wildlife along the trail including alligators
- Visit Flamingo and take a boat tour of the mangroves
- Take the tram rde in Shark Valley or better yet, ride a bike and go at your own speed on the 15-mile trail
For More Information, check out my article on Things to do Everglades National Park in Florida
How Far is Everglades National Park to Port of Miami Cruise Terminal?
Mapquest states that it is 56 minutes and 47.7 miles. You may be able to come close to this on a Sunday morning before everyone is up and going. Reality is that you should easily double this time and you would not want to risk cutting yourself short on embarkation day!
How far is Everglades National Park to Port Everglades Cruise Terminal in Fort Lauderdale Florida?
Mapquest states that it is 1 hour and 15 minutes and 71.1 miles. Again you may get this time on a Sunday morning but I would not push time on embarkation day. Miami Traffic can be brutal.
Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is located in Homestead Florida and is a park that is best seen on the water. Don’t worry if you don’t have a boat as there are guided boat tours that depart from Dante Fascell Visitor Center on select Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Here are 3 great reasons for visiting Biscayne National Park:
- Go Snorkeling
- Go Kayaking
- Take a guided boat tour to Boca Chita Key. Take a picnic lunch and have one of the best views of the Miami city line from another island!
For more information about Biscayne National Park, check out my article Things to do Biscayne National Park
How Far is Biscayne National Park to Port of Miami Cruise Terminal? Mapquest states that it is 1 hour and 59 minutes and 62.1 miles. Remember that you will be contending with South Florida traffic so allow yourself plenty of time for Embarkation
How far is Biscayne National Park to Port Everglades Cruise Terminal in Fort Lauderdale Florida? Mapquest states that it is 1 hour 5 minutes and 62.1 miles.
Big Cypress National Preserve is located in Ochopee Florida and borders Everglades National Park near Shark Valley on the interior portion of Southern Florida.
It is an easy drive from Miami, Ft Lauderdale, and Tampa. It oftentimes gets overshadowed by the bigger Everglades and Biscayne National Parks but it is equally impressive. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Big Cypress National Preserve:
- Some of the best birdwatching in Southern Florida
- Get lucky and see the elusive Florida Panther
- Ranger-led canoe trips
How Far is Big Cypress National Preserve to Port of Miami Cruise Terminal? MapQuest states that it is 1 hour and 59 minutes and 62.1 miles. Remember that you will be contending with South Florida traffic so allow yourself plenty time for embarkation
How far is Big Cypress National Preserve to Port Everglades Cruise Terminal in Fort Lauderdale Florida? MapQuest states that it is 1 hour 32 minutes and 76.3 miles.
How far is Big Cypress National Preserve to Port Tampa Bay? MapQuest states that it is 2 hours and 56 minutes and 197 miles.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is approximately 70 miles Southwest of Key West, Florida. This brings up the question of how do I get to Dry Tortugas National Park from Key West? After all, Key West is a cruise ship port of call. There are two ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park, by seaplane, and by boat.
- Seaplane Adventures is the only seaplane service permitted in Dry Tortugas National Park. They offer ½ day and full-day trips to Dry Tortugas
- The Yankee Freedom offers ferry service out to Dry Tortugas. Check-in is 7:00 AM and returns to Key West at approximately 5:15 PM.
The first thing you need to do is see how long you are in port at Key West. Most cruise ships will either get into port too late or leave too early to take the ferry. The other option is to simply drive down from Miami or Ft Lauderdale as many Caribbean cruises start/end from one of these two ports. Many people already drive to their cruise and if you flew in, simply rent a car near the cruise terminal. Now you can also experience driving the iconic Overseas Highway to Key West.
Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Dry Tortugas National Park:
- Go Snorkeling/be a beach bum
- Tour Fort Jefferson
- Go Birdwatching
How Far is Dry Tortugas National Park to Port of Miami Cruise Terminal? MapQuest states that Key West is 3 hours and 44 minutes and 163 miles. Driving the Overseas Highway between Homestead Florida to Key West can be anything from a leisurely drive to something of chaos, especially if there is an event going on in Key West. I would highly recommend staying one to two nights in Key West if you plan on taking the day boat tour over to Dry Tortugas National Park. The bonus is that you will also get to explore some of Key West and perhaps have some truly authentic Key Lime Pie!
How far is Dry Tortugas National Park to Port Everglades Cruise Terminal in Fort Lauderdale Florida? MapQuest states that Key West it is 3 hours 44 minutes and 189 miles.
Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore is located in Titusville Florida and borders the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Canaveral National Seashore also borders the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge providing a wealth of opportunities and an unforgettable park experience! Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Canaveral National Seashore:
- Tour the Black Point Wildlife Drive
- watch a rocket launch
- See Manatees at the Manatee viewing station
How Far is Canaveral National Seashore to Port Canaveral for Orlando? Mapquest states that it is 32 minutes and 24 miles.
How far is Canaveral National Seashore to Port Canaveral for Orlando cruise Terminal in Jacksonville Florida? Mapquest states that it is 2 hours and 8 minutes and 139 miles.
For more information on Canaveral National Seashore, check out my article Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument is located in St Augustine Florida. The Fort protected St Augustine's southern river approach as Central Florida was a major field of conflict as European nations fought for control in the New World. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Fort Matanzas National Monument:
- Hike the ½ mile nature trail
- Go Birdwatching
- Take the ferry over to the fort
For more information on Fort Matanzas, check out my article Fort Matanzas National Monument
Castillo De San Marcos National Monument
Castillo De San Marcos National Monument is located in St Augustine Florida and is a must-visit for anyone visiting the St Augustine area. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Castillo De San Marcos National Monument:
- Attend the Historic Weapons Demonstration (Canon firing)
- Explore Historic St Augustine
- Explore the fort
Timucuan Ecological Historic Preserve is located in Jacksonville Florida and is one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve:
- Go for a hike in the Theodore Roosevelt Area
- Explore Fort Caroline which memorializes the short-lived French presence in sixteenth-century Florida
- Visit the Kingsley Plantation where people like Zephaniah Kingsley sought to make their fortunes by obtaining land and establishing a plantation.
DeSoto National Memorial
DeSoto National Memorial is located in Bradenton Florida, just south of Tampa. It is here that Conquistador Hernando De Soto’s army of soldiers, hired mercenaries, craftsmen and clergy made landfall in Tampa Bay and were met with resistance from the indigenous people protecting their homelands. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit DeSoto National Memorial:
- Attend the Annual DeSoto Landing Reenactment
- Hike the 1-mile Memorial Trail
- Attend a Ranger Program (summer has guided Kayak tours and the winter has historic weapons demonstrations at Camp Uzita
Check out my Article on Desoto National Memorial
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on Sanibel Island. You may be asking why am I writing about a wildlife refuge in a national parks post, the answer is easy. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge:
- Take the Wildlife Drive Auto Tour
- Go Birdwatching
- Go Kayaking/Canoeing
Check out this article about J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore is located in Gulf Breeze Florida and is the cure for anyone suffering from ailments like Vitamin D deficiency or just a lack of beach time. Here are 3 Great reasons to visit Gulf Islands National Seashore:
- Watch epic sunsets!
- Spend the day at the beach. Whether you prefer swimming, fishing, going for a walk or perhaps just laying around there is incredible beaches to enjoy!
- Explore Fort Pickens
For more information on Gulf Islands National Seashore, Check out my article on Gulf Islands National Seashore
U.S. Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands National Park is located on St. John but is easily accessed by boat from St Thomas USVI. In fact, cruise ships typically have an excursion to Trunk Bay inside Virgin Islands National Park, and we even had time to run into the visitor center for a quick glance and get our stamp in our passport book! This was one of those cruise-ship excursions that you will be telling all your friends about! The beach is beautiful, good snorkeling and nice coral plus there is even an underwater snorkeling trail!
Puerto Rico National Parks
San Juan National Historic Site
San Juan National Historic Site is a great park to lay in the grass, fly a kite, discover the fort and it walls or perhaps take in a ranger-led program. The best view by far is to see the fort and lighthouse when you are cruising out of port in the afternoon and get a photo!
St Croix National Parks
The Island of St Croix typically gets two to three cruise ships per month. Danish heritage is evident in the towns of Frederiksted and Christiansted. This island not only has palm-lined beaches and turquoise waters, but it also has three National Parks Sites! I have yet to visit this island but covet the opportunity to visit these parks and island one day!
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument is located 1.5 miles from the island of St Croix. The uninhabited 176-acre Island and its 18,839 acres of submerged land and coral reef system make up this unique park! You can hike to the top of this island at 328 feet, enjoy the beach and follow the underwater trail.
Christiansted National Historic Site
Christiansted National Historic Site is a great place to enjoy the Caribbean breeze while enjoying a picnic or a walk around the grounds. The Park is seven acres centered on the Christiansted waterfront/wharf area with five historic structures.
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is jointly managed by the National Park Service and Government of the United States Virgin Islands and has some the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands.
Boarding a cruise ship provides several opportunities to get out and see some of the 59 designated U.S. National Parks and 400+ total National Park Sites. Hopefully, this has you ready to check out a new cruise and a few National Parks too!