About the Dry Tortugas
The Dry Tortugas is a National Park about 70 miles west of Key West. It spans one hundred square miles and includes both open water and seven small islands. What makes this place so magical is that it can only be reached by boat or seaplane. Thusly, it is almost untouched and is home to picturesque views, coral reefs, birds, and unique marine life.
Discovered by Ponce de Leon in the early 1500’s, he aptly named the islands for their abundance of sea turtles and for the fact that they were “dry” in that they had no fresh water.
The largest island of the Dry Tortugas is called Garden Key, and it houses Fort Jefferson, a Civil War era fort built between 1845 and 1876. It is the largest brick edifice in this hemisphere and it is not even complete! While there are many distinguishing features that architects would enjoy, history buffs can also appreciate the history of the island and the fort.
The other keys, or islands, that make up the Dry Tortugas include Loggerhead Key, Bush Key, Long Key, East Key, Hospital Key, and Middle Key. The Dry Tortugas are open year round, although certain parts of the park are closed at times.
If you plan on visiting the park, there are many things to do including camping, birding, snorkeling, touring Fort Jefferson, or just relaxing on the beach. Make sure that you bring a camera with you to capture some of the gorgeous scenery the island offers and hopefully some of the wild life both on shore and in the water. The two main ways of getting to the island are by seaplane and by ferry.
The Yankee Freedom Ferry runs 364 days a year, weather permitting. This is by far the most affordable way to get out to the Dry Tortugas. Trips depart daily at 8:00AM and return to Key West by around 5:00 PM. It takes approximately two hours to travel the 70 miles to the Dry Tortugas. But on the way you will enjoy plenty of beautiful scenery while enjoying a complimentary continental breakfast aboard this comfortable boat. Once you arrive at the island, you are free to spend your time as you wish. There is a guided tour of the fort available, but you can tour it on your own if group tours are not your thing. After this you will enjoy a picnic lunch on the island. You can also snorkel the coral reef or walk some of the trails on the island while looking out for some of the wildlife that call the Dry Tortugas home.
Key West Seaplane Adventures are a great way to get over to the Dry Tortugas while incorporating some low altitude aerial sightseeing. It also takes much less travel time, about forty-five minutes, to fly from Key West to the Dry Tortugas this way. Soft drinks and and snorkel gear are provided to you on this excursion.