Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote national park located in the Gulf of Mexico, about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The park is known for its crystal-clear water, beautiful beaches, and rich history. We visited the Dry Tortugas as part of our South Florida trip, as we explored Miami, Key West, and the Everglades. To take full advantage of our visit, we stayed overnight and camped on the island. A real, fun experience! But one needs to be prepared as there is no amenities on the island.
Find below how to plan your Dry Tortugas visit.
Visit Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas History
The Dry Tortugas were named for the vast population of sea turtles that lived in the waters around the island when Ponce de Leon first discovered it in 1513. The Spanish word “tortugas” means “turtles,” and Ponce de Leon himself caught over 100 sea turtles when he was on the island.
Once you arrive at the Dry Tortugas, here are some things to see and do at Dry Tortugas National Park Florida:
Fort Jefferson is a National Historic Landmark and is the largest masonry structure in the Americas. The fort was built in the mid-1800s to protect the United States from foreign powers and was used as a military prison during the Civil War. Today, Fort Jefferson is open to the public and offers a glimpse into the park’s rich history.
Dry Tortugas Snorkeling and Scuba-Diving
The waters around the Dry Tortugas are known for their crystal clear water and abundant marine life, making it a popular spot for underwater enthusiasts looking for awesome snorkeling and diving destination.
The Dry Tortugas are home to a wide variety of bird species, including brown pelicans, frigate birds, sooty terns, herons, and egrets. The park is a popular destination for birdwatchers and offers a number of trails and viewing platforms.
How to Get to Dry Tortugas National Park
Getting to Dry Tortugas can be tricky and takes some planning to reach the remote island. There are a few different options to travel to Dry Tortugas from Key West:
By Ferry to Dry Tortugas
The Yankee Freedom III is a high-speed ferry that departs daily from Key West and takes about 2.5 hours to reach the park. The Dry Tortugas National Park ferry provides transportation to and from the park and a guided Dry Tortugas tour.
Seaplane from Key West to Dry Tortugas
Seaplanes operated by Key West Seaplane Adventures offer flights to and from the park, with a flight time of about 30 minutes. This option is a bit more expensive than the ferry, but it allows visitors to see the islands from a different perspective.
Dry Tortugas National Park Tickets
The Dry Tortugas National Park‘s entrance ticket is US$15, which is included in the ferry ticket price. Owners of the National Parks Pass can show their pass at booking for the entrance fee to be deducted.
The Dry Tortugas tickets don’t include camping fees.
Camping at Dry Tortugas
Most people visit the island as a Dry Tortugas day trip from Key West. There is no Dry Tortugas hotel, but you can stay camping overnight. If you are planning on camping, make sure to book your ferry ticket early, as the ferry carries only a limited number of campers per day.
It’s important to know that overnight camping Dry Tortugas is only allowed in designated areas on Garden Key. Camping fees are self-service fees processed by the campground and can only be paid by cash or US checks. Individual campsites cost US$15 per night per site.
Bring everything with you as there are no amenities on the island. There is no water either, so you need to be self-sufficient.
Dry Tortugas Travel Tips
- You don’t need to book a boat tour to Dry Tortugas National Park to visit Fort Jefferson and for a chance to snorkel. But if you want to save time and energy, guided Dry Tortugas tours from Key West are available.
- To dive in the park’s crystal-clear waters, book your diving trip in advance.
It is important to note that there are no services on the island, so it is necessary to bring all necessary supplies, such as food, water, and sun protection.
Overall, traveling to the Dry Tortugas requires some planning, but the journey is well worth it for the beautiful scenery and unique activities the national park has to offer.
Have you been to Dry Tortugas? What was your experience or preferred thing to do from Key West? Share with us your adventures!
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