Florida State Parks 75th Anniversary Logo
A beautiful salmon-colored sky reveals a sunset over Biscayne Bay. This view from the lighthouse shows visitors enjoying the beach at low tide on a peaceful Sunday. The main entrance, shown here, was recently redesigned with the addition of coral rock, pilings and a solar powered light. This aerial photo, taken by Graham Hitchen in March 2004, shows Cape Florida, Key Biscayne, Biscayne Bay and the city of Miami.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
The white lighthouse is framed by a blue sky, blue ocean and green trees.

History and Culture

Ponce de Leon named this area `Cape of Florida' when he led the first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513. The Cape Florida lighthouse was completed in 1825 but was damaged during the Second Seminole War. The rebuilt tower, completed in 1846, remains the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. The island served as a secret meeting place and port for runaway slaves and Black Seminoles waiting to rendezvous with sea captains or board dugouts for a passage to safety in the British Bahamas. Although the lighthouse was built to save lives and ships, its unflinching light brought an end to this avenue of escape. In September 2004, Cape Florida was designated a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site.

Commodore Ralph Munroe took this photo of the lighthouse in the late 19th century. It shows the decommissioned tower and keeper's cottage.

Circa 1890

Commodore Ralph Munroe, builder of The Barnacle in Miami, was a frequent visitor and friend to the lighthouse keepers at Cape Florida. He took this photo of the decommisioned tower, already in need of a new coat of paint, circa 1890.

This original photo of the park entrance features the old sign, before the park was renamed in honor of newspaperman Bill Baggs.

Park Entrance 1960s

The original park was simply named Cape Florida State Park. In 1971, the Florida Legislature renamed the park in honor of editor of The Miami News, Bill Baggs. Baggs, who died in 1969, was influential in bringing about the land purchase that preserved this corner of Key Biscayne for future generations to enjoy.

This view of the beach in the 1970s shows a lifeguard and stand with Australian pines in the background.

Beach 1970s

This view of the beach in the 1970s shows a lifeguard and stand. Australian pine trees, an exotic species, grew throughout the park - even on the sand dunes.

Damage from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was extensive as shown in this photo of fallen palms near a park facility building.

Hurricane Damage

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew virtually destroyed the park with its 160 mile-per-hour sustained winds. Toll collectors said the ocean could be seen from the Ranger Station a mile away, with few trees standing to block the view. This view shows a beach-side restroom and the original concession located close to Beach Access #7 today.

Taken in 1996, young people enjoy themselves around the lighthouse with a surfboard and a guitar.

Cape Florida in 1966

Even before Cape Florida became a state park, people enjoyed its sandy beaches and clear waters. In this black and white photo of young visitors enjoying a day at the beach, it is evident from the condition of the brick and iron work that the lighthouse is in need of restoration.