“take in the picturesque blue waters & superlative coral reefs and marine life”
Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
First named The Turtles, Las Tortugas, by Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513, these reefs soon read "Dry Tortugas" on mariners charts to show they had no fresh water. In 1825 a lighthouse was built on Garden Key to warn sailors of rocky shoals; in 1856 the present light on Logger Key was built. By 1829 the United States knew it could control navigation to the Gulf of Mexico and protect Atlantic-bound Mississippi River trade by fortifying the Tortugas. Fort Jefferson's construction began on Garden Key in 1846 and continued for 30 years but was never finished.
During the Civil War the fort was a Union military prison for captured deserters. It also held 4 men convicted of complicity in President Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 1865. The Army abandoned Fort Jefferson in 1874, and in 1908 the area became a wildlife refuge to protect the sooty tern rookery from egg collectors. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Fort Jefferson National Monument in 1935. The Monument was redesignated on October 25, 1992 as Dry Tortugas National Park to protect both historical and natural features. Not least among the natural treasures are its namesakes, the endangered green sea turtle and the threatened loggerhead turtle.
Excellent day trip and probably a great overnight camping trip. The Yankee freedom ferry ride was great. Fort Jefferson was great. Snorkeling was great. The only thing keeping this from 5 stars is the outrageous price tag on the ferry ride. Adults are nearly 200 bucks. If they offered gourmet meals it MIGHT be worth that, but the meals are barely continental in style.
We took the NPS-endorsed ferry for $170 pp and thought it was worth every penny. It takes 2.5 hours of travel to get there and the ferry crew feeds you breakfast and lunch aboard the boat. I recommend signing up for the fort tour when you arrive, grab lunch after that's over, and then spend the rest of the time snorkeling. The sea life along the moat was outstanding. We brought our own masks and snorkels but the ferry will lend you gear if needed. A friend carried a boogie board while out snorkeling which was helpful to take a rest and clear out our masks; you may want something that floats while you're out swimming and exploring.
So beautiful! Very remote, about 70 miles from Key West in the middle of the gulf. There is a ferry you can take ($170 for an adult) or you can take a plane. We took the ferry and you get a breakfast on the way there. It was small (eggs, toast, grapes, etc.) but filling. The Fort was great. You can sign up to take a tour or you can just walk around. You're there about 4 hours. You can also swim & snorkel which is absolutely stunning (so bring your swimsuit!). They also serve lunch which is sandwiches, chips, cookies, pop, etc. If you fly your travel time is a lot shorter but note that there are no bathrooms at Ft. Jefferson. If you take the ferry, you can use the bathrooms and the showers on board to rinse off sand. Very expensive, very remote but worth it to me. For me it was a once in a lifetime adventure so I'm glad I went.
If your indenpently wealth a day trip is the way to go. At $200 round trip per person, I wanted to get more out of it and decided to camp for 4 days. We brought our kayaks for an extra $20 which gave us the freedom to really explore. After the yankee freedom leaves at 3:30 it's your own private island. You can refill anything you forget including ice each day when the boat comes back. You can fish within a mile of the main island. Night stars are some of the best in the world.
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Dry Tortugas National Park
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