Dry Tortugas National Park is an island about 70 miles west of Key West, FL that is only accessible by boat or seaplane. It makes for a pretty expensive day trip, but visiting is worthwhile. The national park is technically 100-square miles and contains seven small islands. The main island, Garden Key, is the home of Fort Jefferson, one of the nation’s largest 19th century forts in the United States.
The rest of the park and surrounding waters are as blue as you could imagine and full of marine and coastal life.
Since the park is so remote, we took a 2.5 hour ferry ride on the Yankee Freedom II. It was $180 per person (you’ll get a $15 discount if you have an annual national park pass), but breakfast and lunch are both included, as well as snorkeling equipment if you don’t have your own. The ferry is way more comfortable than I expected, offering both indoor, air-conditioned seating as well as outdoor. On the return trip, the ferry also offers a full snack shop and cocktail bar!
You can also visit the park on your own boat or seaplane as well, but there will be an entry fee for the park ($15 per person). The ferry is, however, seems like a convenient option. Rather than paying the gas for a your own boat and being responsible for navigating such a long trip all day long, the $180 for the trip is worth spending (especially when you have an annual national park pass and only pay $165).
We boarded the ferry between 7 and 8am and the ride was comfortable all the way to Fort Jefferson. The ferry has comfortable seats, and breakfast was great. On the island, the fort stands magnificently. Fort Jefferson is one of the biggest forts ever built, and stood in a very strategic spot for trade.
The crystal clear beaches of the Dry Tortugas are just as picture-perfect as you could imagine. The water is teeming with life, and I only wish I could have spent more time there than we were able to.
If you are ever in Key West, or have the means to visit Fort Jefferson on your own, I highly recommend notching this beautiful National Park off your bucket list!