Dry Tortugas: 10 Things To Know Before You Visit
The Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most unique and beautiful national parks in the United Stares.
More than 80.000 adventurous visitors go there every year to snorkel in the stunning crystal-clear water, see the vibrant marine life, and, of course, explore Fort Jefferson.
In this post, you will find 10 things you should know before visiting Dry Tortugas National Park for the very first time.
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10 Things To Know Before Visiting Dry Tortugas National Park
in a hurry?
These are our favorite things to do in Key West:
- Key West Sunset Sail with full bar and live music
- Eating key lime pie
- Snorkeling on a Reef Half-Day Snorkeling Excursion
- Exploring Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
- Seeing sharks on a Shark and Wildlife Viewing Adventure
- Kayaking the mangroves
- Day trip to Dry Tortugas
- Sailing & Watersports (check out this tour!)
1- Where and what is Dry Tortugas
Dry Tortugas National Park consists of a series of islands located approximately 70 miles from Key West, the last of the Florida Keys.
With its 100-square mile territory, it is known as one of the most remote national parks in the United States and one of the best snorkeling spots in the country.
2- There are three main ways to get there
There are three main ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park:
By ferry boat
The Yankee Freedom III departs from the Key West Ferry Terminal early in the morning and will get you to the park in about two and a half hours.
The second most popular way of getting to Dry Tortugas is taking the seaplane. It is faster and way more luxurious than the ferry.
By private boat
The last and most exclusive way to get to the park is by taking a private boat. It is important to note that private boaters are required to file a boat permit at Garden Key before fishing within the park.
3- That it is not cheap to visit Dry Tortugas
If you are wondering how much it costs to visit Dry Tortugas, the answer is: not that cheap!
A day trip to Dry Tortugas is surely not the most affordable thing to do in Key West, but it is sure worth it. Very few people get to visit this remote piece of heaven and that makes it expensive.
Here are the costs of visiting Dry Tortugas:
The price of the ferry to Dry Tortugas is approximately $190 per adult. Seniors, students, active military and children have discounted tickets.
The seaplane to Dry Tortugas will cost you around $361 for a half-day excursion and $634 for a full-day excursion.
Park entrance is not included in the seaplane ticket.
4- Lunch, breakfast, and snorkel gear are complimentary
Your breakfast, lunch and even snorkel gear as all included in your Dry Tortugas excursion.
5- You have to book in advance
Tickets to the park sell out super fast. Make sure to book at least 3 months before your trip.
If you are already in Key West, it is worth trying to ask for any last-minute spots on the Dry Tortugas kiosk by the marina.
6- There are many fun things to do at Dry Tortugas National Park
You have your tickets? Great! Now it’s time to plan the perfect day at Dry Tortugas.
Here are some of the best things to do in the park:
Snorkeling in Dry Tortugas National Park is a must!
The water is warm and has amazing visibility. If you haven’t ever snorkeled in your life, don’t worry! I had never done it as well and I had a blast.
As previously mentioned, snorkeling wear is included in the day trip, so yay for that!
Exploring Fort Jefferson
Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. It the largest brick building in the western hemisphere and was built to protect one of the most strategic deepwater anchorages in North America.
It takes approximately one hour to fully see it and there is a free tour available in the morning.
Fishing in Dry Tortugas is allowed only on specific areas of the island, which include:
- The seaplane beach east of the main dock, when the seaplane is not present.
- The main dock.
- Two westernmost finger piers.
You can read all about the fishing regulations in the park here.
Dry Tortugas is an awesome place for bird-watching.
Some of the common and rare species you will encounter along the Florida Birding Trail at the Dry Tortugas National Park include: Roseate and Bridled Terns, Masked and Brown Boobies, Red-Necked Phalarope, Red-Footed Boobie, Double-Crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Frigate Birds, the Caribbean Short-Eared Owl, White-Tailed Tropicbird, Shiny Cowbird and the Golden Warbler.
Enjoying the beach
The beach at Dry Tortugas is one of the most gorgeous and peaceful I have ever been to. With its white sand and crystal clear water, it truly feels like paradise.
Have a picnic
You can totally have a picnic on the beach. Lunch is served on the boat, but it’s okay for you to take it to the island.
The lunch buffet was quite average: they had bread, chicken salad, and stuff like that.
Camping at Dry Tortugas is an amazing experience for star-gazing and all the night snorkeling you can get. The campsite has picnic tables, elevated grills, composting toilets, and hooks to keep items above ground.
7- You should spend the night in Key West
Since day trips to Dry Tortugas always leave from Key West, it is recommended to stay there to catch the ferry early in the morning.
If you haven’t booked a hotel in Key West yet, that’s okay!
Here are some of our favorites:
- Best Hotel: Pier House Resort & Spa
- Boutique Hotel: The Marquesa Hotel
- Pet-friendly: The Perry Hotel Key West
- For families: Southernmost Resort
- Hotel Pool: Hyatt Centric
- Oceanfront: Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
- Best Spa: Ocean Key Resort & Spa
- Adult only: H2O Suites
8- You can get your passport stamped
If you want, you can get your passport stamped for free at the visitor’s center. It makes for a really cool (and free) souvenir.
9- Watch out for seasickness
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get motion sickness quite easily. If that sounds like you too, make sure to take an anti-sickness pill about half an hour before you board the ferry.
10- What to pack
When traveling to Dry Tortugas, it is important to take a bathing suit, snacks, a good sunscreen and a fresh change of clothes.
Wrap-up: Dry Tortugas National Park Travel Guide
That’s a wrap! I am sure you will have an amazing time visiting Dry Tortugas. It is a truly memorable place to visit in South Florida.
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