Dry Tortugas National Park–70 miles off the coast of Key West, Florida–is a park with a surprising history, with blue-green waters and tropical fish and wild birds–and it quite fittingly belongs to the sea turtles who lay their nests on the islands’ white sand beaches. On the last day of our road trip from Miami to Key West, Daniel and I were fortunate enough to visit this park. It was an incredible little adventure and by far my favorite experience in the Keys.
And it’s for these reasons you should add a Dry Tortugas Day Trip to your Bucket list:
1. There is a really cool fort on the main island.
And you can explore it on your own! Okay, so it is no longer in use, of course, but it is awesome all the same. There are archways, winding stairs, old cannons, and a lighthouse, AND you can walk along the top of the fort for the most fantastic views. You can take a tour as well (it’s included in your one fee), but we loved the freedom of roaming through it on our own, especially since we read up on it beforehand. All in all, trying to imagine the soldiers who once lived here over a century and a half ago is truly mind-boggling.
2. There’s a really cool moat around said fort.
And what more is there to say? It’s a MOAT. Walking along the walkway surrounding the moat (which surrounds the fort), we saw a bird posing for us (or so we believe) and a large starfish settled in the waters. On the oceanside of the walkway, as we shuffled along, we could also see brightly-colored fish and coral galore–as well as birds diving in and out of the water.
3. You can snorkel and swim outside of said moat–and beyond!
And you can get up close and personal with those fish and coral! Visibility is fairly clear also. If you’re lucky, there’s a chance you could see other sea life as well!
4. There are a couple of small, uncrowded beaches.
And they are dazzling, especially this one–it was considerably less crowded than the others (you’ll find this one to the left as you get off the boat, behind the trees). Keep in mind, the majority of the people on the island are the ones who came over on the ferry with you–so that’s the extent of the “crowd.”
5. The turtles.
And if the turtles wanna be there, you should, too! I’ll admit we didn’t see any–except one that I saw from the deck of the ferry on the ride over–but we did see turtle nests, which is pretty magical if you really think about it.
And let’s not forget about those cool birds.
Tips for Visiting:
- Book your tickets in advance. There are 175 seats on the Yankee Freedom and all were taken when we went. I recommend booking at least a month in advance–if not longer. I booked 2 months ahead of time because there was no way I was missing out! You can book here: Dry Tortugas
- Only bring what you really need (the bare necessities), as you’ll have to carry around whatever you bring.
- Tickets, which are currently $175 for adults and $125 for kids, include breakfast and lunch as well as snorkel gear.
- Bring sunscreen (that’s one of those things you really need). The sun there is unforgiving (in my personal opinion).
- Bring Dramamine or some other comparable product… I don’t typically get seasick, but I wasn’t feeling so hot on this ride. Perhaps it was the fact we ate breakfast first thing on the ferry; I’m not sure though.
- Bring something to read or to occupy yourself for 5 hours. 2 1/2 hours each way on the ferry is a long time to stare out at the ocean, no matter how magnificent it is! Let’s be real!
Did I mention this trip was for our 3rd Wedding Anniversary? Happy Anniversary, Daniel!