Guide to Dry Tortugas National Park

 

Dry Tortugas National Park lies 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. Dry Tortugas is comprised of several small keys, mostly uninhabitable. The main island and attraction is Fort Jefferson, built in 1847. The fort’s strategic position was chosen in early 1800’s shortly after Spain sold Florida to the United States to control piracy and protect America’s shores.

Dry Tortugas, while within the national park system, is unique island only accessible by ferry or seaplane. Most come here for a 4 hour day-trip from Key West. However, the best way to experience this park is by taking advantage of the beach side campsites.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Fort Jefferson on Arrival

When to Go

Temperatures are very high in the summer and hurricane season makes this a good park to visit during the winter.

How to Get There

Unless arriving by private boat, there are only two ways to visit the island.

Arriving by Boat

Yankee Freedom tickets can be purchased online or at their ticket office in person during specified hours on their website. Tickets cost $175 per person for day trips and $195 for campers. The boat departs at 8am. They request campers to arrive by 6:15 am to load gear, and all passengers arrive by 7am. It takes 2 hours 15 minutes to get to Fort Jefferson, arriving at 10:15am. The boat departs at 2:45pm back to Key West. The water on the boat ride can be very choppy. Dramamine is available on the boat.

Arriving by Plane

Arriving by plane is more flexible, as they come between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:30 pm. There is a half-day tour which give 2 hours on Fort Jefferson, as well as a full-day tour, giving roughly 6 hours. The cost for a half-day tour is $300, and a full-day tour costs $525 per person. Tickets can be reserved directly through fortjefferson.com. The flight is 40 minutes long on a small seaplane with no more than 12 passengers total.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Window View of the Sea and the Moat

Camping Reservations and Permits

Yankee Freedom is restricted to bringing only 10 campers on the boat per day and must be reserved in advance. Campsites are $15 per night, payable on site.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Campsite

ACTIVITIES

Exploring the Fort

Park ranger guided tours are available at 11 am and noon daily. However, it is best to explore on your own.  If you are camping, wander around in the early morning before the day crowd arrives.

Beach

There is a small beautiful beach with great views of the moat.  Snorkeling gear is included in your reservation on Yankee Freedom to explore coral reefs around the island.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Exploring the hallways in the Fort

CAMPING

There is plenty of space on the boat, and they have big wheelbarrows to help cart your stuff. Each campsite has a charcoal grill. Make sure to bring charcoal, food, water, and all of your camping gear. There is NO water on the island besides what you bring. In addition to the below camping list, here are some other suggested items to bring:

Fishing Poles and Gear

Bring your own or rent fishing gear in Key West. Fishing is excellent at Dry Tortugas. Fishing can be done off the dock or in designated areas by kayak.

Rent fishing gear from West Marine in Key West for $50

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Walking the Moat in Dry Tortugas

Kayaking

Rent a kayak in Key West and bring it on the ferry with you for an extra $10. Kayaks require a reservation with Yankee Freedom as they only allow two per day. Kayaking allows you endless fishing opportunities as well as an excellent day trip to Loggerhead Key. Loggerhead Key is a two hour kayak ride from Fort Jefferson. You can explore the endless beaches and the quaint lighthouse.

Rent a kayak from Marty for $195 for 3-days rental. Contact Marty at 305-741-1934.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Archways in the Fort

 

Night Photography

There is no light pollution, so evenings get very dark, allowing for great night photography. Bring a tripod and capture the stars.

What to Bring for Camping

  • Tent

  • Sleeping bags

  • Sleeping pads

  • Headlamp

  • Lighter

  • Snacks

  • Knife

  • Cooking/grill utensils

  • Plates/silverware

  • Garbage bags

  • Towel

  • Small utility rope

  • Sunglasses

  • Hat

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Food Recommendations

  • Water

  • Fish (catch of the day)

  • Lemon

  • Salt/Pepper

  • Curry powder or spices

  • Grilled vegetables (mushrooms, onion, eggplant, potatoes)

  • Bread

  • Peanut butter & jelly

  • Sausage

  • Rolls

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Ice

 

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Guide to Dry Tortugas, Florida. Check out more at www.beardandcurly.com

 

Published on 03/03/2016 by Beard and Curly. Visited from 02/11/2016 – 02/14/2016.

 

 

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