No Name Harbor is known in the sailing world as a stop not to be missed before going to and from the Keys, as well as a place to wait for a weather window before crossing to the Bahamas. With only a bit more than 40 miles to Bimini, there is no need for an overnight passage, and many boats utilize this fact, leaving before the sunrise and arriving to Bimini in the afternoon.
We stopped at this little haven both on our way to the Keys and on the way back and honestly, we love this place. The cost of keeping the boat inside the harbor is $20 a night (honor system). You will rarely find this price in the Miami area. Even though it lacks some “marina” amenities, in my humble opinion, it offers so much more instead! Here are my thoughts about what makes this harbor a must to visit, especially by a sailboat.
1 – Strategic location to/from the Florida Keys and for the Bahamas crossing.
No matter where you are coming from, No Name Harbor has the best location to at least stop for the night and rest up before getting “back on the road”. If you are sailing south through Biscayne Bay, just follow the chart and avoid shallow spots and you’ll be ok. We were coming from the Keys, so with our keel we opted for the deepest channel to enter the Biscayne Bay from the Atlantic Ocean: the Biscayne Channel. It feels a bit weird to follow the markers so strictly, because you see open water everywhere, but there are some extreme shoals, only 1 foot deep in places! The channel, however, is well marked and very easy to navigate. There is also Cape Florida Channel, which runs along the shoreline, and people often use it to exit into the ocean before crossing to the Bahamas.
Either way, when you are on your final approach to the harbor, be careful and don’t forget to consult your charts and the markers. You need to be closer to the shore than you think, but there is enough water and the entrance itself is wide and deep.
2 – No Name Harbor is a good storm hideaway
In case of storms, or even hurricanes, No Name Harbor proved to be a great place to hide. Protected from three sides by land, and shoals behind the entrance on the forth side, you will never experience high waves. Lush mangroves, in turn, protect you from the winds. Be mindful about your anchor though: people say when it blows someone always drags. Two years ago we came here to hide from some bad weather. There were only a couple of other boats in the harbor besides us, so we spent a great week exploring the surroundings and felt very safe leaving the boat alone during the day. In the winter season, however, there are usually a lot of boats.
3 – You can spend a day at the seawall for only $8.
If you need a dock to do any boat work, cleaning, loading, unloading or to use the pump out station, you can spend the whole day at the seawall for only $8. You will have to leave at sunset, but it sure beats paying for a slip elsewhere!
4 – There is a laundry and a pump out station on site.
There are no hot showers anywhere (only cold water ones at the beach), nor is there a water hose. There is, however, a faucet at the harbor entrance pavilion, where the laundry room is located, and you can fill your jugs or even connect your own water hose. A long enough hose will reach the pump-out dock (self-service pump-out). In the pavilion, there are restrooms and a coin laundry room. Cruisers know how important it is to have a laundry room, sometimes even more important than a shower! It’s pretty good to have these amenities considering it is not an established marina.
2020 UPDATE: According to the recent visitors, there is no more laundry at the anchorage. The building was turned into a nice bar. Please share in the comments what you think about this change and where people do laundry these days! 🙂
5 – You can take a bus or Uber to Key Biscayne or even to Miami.
What Miami is famous for is cheap Uber. Like other big cities, it offers two kinds of service: regular Uber and Uber pool. The latter is usually really cheap, even though you have to deal with other people in the car and sometimes stop at their destinations first. But what are we in a hurry for? $3-4 dollars to Key Biscayne Village for two people or $7-8 to Miami downtown is surely worth it. Key Biscayne is a beautifully landscaped upscale village and it’s nice to spend a day there and stop for lunch at one of the trendy cafes. At the end of the day, we usually pick up groceries for the boat at the Key Biscayne Winn Dixie.
If you don’t use Uber, there is a bus that goes through Key Biscayne to Brickell Station, where you can take Metrorail anywhere in Miami. The bus costs $2.25 per person. You will have to walk to the exit of the park though. Here is the bus route and schedule.
6 – Bill Baggs Park is a great park and a place for a walk
If not for the Miami News Editor Bill Baggs, we would not be able to enjoy the park today. In the 50s, the area was planned to be sold for development: condos and hotels were to be built. Bill fought hard for conservation of the Cape and its nature, and finally in 1966 managed to convince the owner Elena Santeiro Garcia to sell the property to the state to build a park. In January 1, 1967, the new Bill Baggs State Park opened its doors to the public.
With the nightly fee for your sailboat comes the privilege to use the grounds of this beautiful facility. There are trails for everyone, from “wild” nature trails to paved bicycle alleys. You can take a stroll along the waterfront, watching fishermen, and make a loop back through the beaches. The park brochure says you can see as many as 50 butterfly species and 170 bird species in the park!
There are also bicycles for rent as well as “rickshaws” – 4-wheel “bicycles” with one of two rows of seats.
7 – On the other side of the park there is a beautiful beach
No matter what the weather is, the beach is a splendid place to spend the day. The water is clear and usually calm. Even in the colder weather, when you can’t swim, you can walk the endless shoreline, watch birds and breathe clean ocean air. The beach at Cape Florida was ranked by Forbes as 7th most beautiful beach in the country, and it will not disappoint.
8 – There is a lighthouse you can climb
During your walk in the park, you can actually climb this 95-foot lighthouse, built in 1825. There are certain times when you can take a guided tour or simply do it by yourself anytime!
Once you start going up the spiral staircase, you feel like you are getting vertigo. It is only because the stairs are actually slightly moving! What a spooky feeling! Once the walls start closing in around you and the stairs become smaller, you are near the top. And what a view! Breathtaking.
9 – You can explore Stiltsville
Have you ever wondered what those little houses on stilts are? Nestled about a mile offshore, this is the famous Stiltsville. It is worth it to take Biscayne Channel, just to sail between them. Otherwise, you can buy a guided tour or just take a boat out.
The village on stilts was built during the Prohibition Era, because once you are one mile offshore, you could drink and gamble. Later the shacks became trendy fishing and boating clubs, including the famous Calvert Club, Miami Beach Rod & Reel Club and Quarterdeck Club. Memberships to these elite clubs were often by invitation only. By the 40s and 50s the place became an elite party town, where bankers, politicians, lawyers, celebrities and other rich Miami residents enjoyed all kinds of fun and often forbidden activities.
But nothing lasts forever. A lot of the shacks were destroyed by hurricanes, and the seven remaining ones are empty and belong to the Biscayne National Park. Only tourists on boats can enjoy these cool historic objects and only imagine how wild and crazy it must have been!
Can you see them in the distance? Yes, every small dot is a Stiltsville house!
If you don’t have an opportunity to come close to them, there is a way you can still see them relatively well: at the southern tip of the park there is a small spot with benches and a free scenic viewer.
10 – If No Name Harbor is full, you can anchor outside and still use the amenities
When a lot of boats gather in No Name Harbor to wait for the weather window, especially in winter, the harbor is often quite full and a lot of people, especially novice sailors (like us LOL) have a so-called “swing anxiety” – the space is really tight! In this case you can anchor outside the harbor. There is a large anchorage with good holding. You will not be as protected in case of bad weather, but you can use the same amenities in the park including tying up to the wall during the day.
11 – No Name Harbor is a great place to meet fellow cruisers in preparation for crossing to the Bahamas
Especially if you are preparing to cross the Gulf Stream for the first time, the advice of experienced sailors proves invaluable. What could ease the worry better than to have a couple of beers at the nearby Boater’s Grille, discuss the crossing and find one or two buddy boats?
Needless to say, being first-time “Gulfstream crossers” ourselves, the possibility to meet other cruisers, waiting for the weather window, means a lot to us!
Hopefully we will find a buddy boat and safely cross to the Bahamas soon, as well! ⛵
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