This area divides north and south Biscayne Bay and provides access to both. Many paddlers like circumnavigating either Virginia Key (about 5-6 miles) or Key Biscayne (about 15 miles). See the Bill Baggs page for access to Stiltsville. The western part of the Rickenbacker Causeway is now known as Hobie Island Park, even though the only place you can launch a Hobie sailboat is on the eastern part. Crandon marina gets busy after 10AM on weekends, so plan to get there earlier to avoid traffic jams for the boat ramp. If you have your kayak on a trailer, there is one trailer parking spot on the eastern causeway just over the big bridge. It is not designated "trailers only", so spots fill up with cars without trailers if you arrive late. Tidal currents are present, but generally 0.7 mph or less, except around the mouth of the Miami River, where they are stronger. The map below shows the incoming tidal flow, currents reverse on the outgoing tide.
The south side of the Rickenbacker Causeway has been gentrified with brick pavers and landscaping. They also planted sea oats next to the parking area, so beach access is now limited to designated beach access points. The access points are numbered, which helps to meet at a specific spot. The designers had the brilliant idea of placing a horizontal row of rocks with some plants at each beach access point, so after passing the sea oats you must make a sharp right or left turn (until the landscaping grows, you can just step over the rocks). This will be a challenge for those using a kayak cart. The recommended put-in spots have adequate parking by the access site and the rocks/landscaping is configured in a way that is manageable. There are double rows of parking near both ends of the big bridge and also by access #9 by MAST academy, making them better for group outings. The north side of Hobie Island has not been redeveloped yet, so you can park and launch anywhere on that side.
Directions: Take I-95 south or US1 north and get on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Check the map closely for the entry sites to the parking lots. Hobie Island's parking lot road curves around under the bridge to the north side, which is how you turn around to leave. The parking lot access on the eastern part of the causeway is not continuous- the middle part is blocked off for pedestrians only. After the light by the MAST academy, the next left is the entrance to Virginia Beach. Turn right when you see the sewage plant. The entrance to Crandon Marina is the 2nd right turn after Bear Cut bridge. Watch closely for bicyclists as you turn into the parking areas.
Entrance fee/parking: $1.50 toll for Rickenbacker Causeway, $4 for Crandon Marina
Facilities: a bathroom on the causeway and at Virginia Key Beach. The marina has a small store and restrooms.
Put-in/Take-out: Sand or gravel, depending
Routes: To the north you can head to Brickell Key and see all the designer condos. Watch the current here, though. Avoid going past this to Government Cut/Bayside, as the currents, boat traffic and cross-chop make this area appropriate only for intermediate to advanced paddlers. Don't go near any freighters or cruise ships at the port unless you enjoy boats with flashing blue lights. Similarly, trying to go around Fisher Island to the north requires crossing a shallow sandbar with breaking waves and then going into Government Cut with a ton of boat traffic- avoid doing this. Going south takes you past Vizcaya and on to Dinner Key and Coconut Grove. From Crandon Marina you can go around Key Biscayne. Fossil Reef is a unique petrified mangrove reef that provides nice shallow water (0-4 feet) snorkeling- good for small children. Visibility is best on an incoming tide. The northwest side of Virginia Key is off limits for manatee protection.
Wildlife: Pelicans, cormorants, herons and if you're lucky, a manatee or two. Gannets, Mergansers and other ducks come down for the winter.
Map of Biscayne Bay with current flow on an incoming tide. Click on above map to link to MapQuest
Crandon Marina lot (above). Kayak parking is no longer at the south end of the lot on the grass next to the trees- you have to park in the area on the NE side of the lot. Kayak parking is $4, $12 for motorboats.
Maps from Mapquest.com
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