Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote parks of the entire National Park System. It’s located 70 miles west from Key West, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it’s so far west, that you actually enter the Central Time zone when you get there! In order to maximize your visit, we’ve put together five can’t-miss activities at Dry Tortugas National Park.
Video source: GoTraveler
How to Get There
There are three ways to get to Dry Tortugas; on the Yankee Freedom III Ferry, by sea plane, or by private charter. The most cost-effective mode of transportation is the ferry. The $175 per person fee includes entrance to the National Park, breakfast and lunch, and access to snorkeling gear. If you have an America the Beautiful National Park Pass, you will get a $10 refund when you check in. If you do go the ferry route and are prone to seasickness, make sure to take some Dramamine before you set sail!
Activities at Dry Tortugas National Park
The history of Fort Jefferson is fascinating, and taking an hour-long tour will fill you in on all the details. You’ll learn about how the fort was made, including why some of the 16 million bricks were shipped all the way from Maine, what life was like living in the fort, and the key role the fort played during the Civil War, among many other interesting facts.
At the far end of the island sits a bird nesting area. Migrating birds traveling between South America and the United States flock to this beach to nest, making it a birders paradise. Roughly 300 different species of birds make their home or visit this location. You can’t get too close to the nests, as the beaches are blocked off, but with a long camera lens or binoculars, you will be able to see amazing species of birds at all times of the year.
The beaches here have some of the clearest waters found in the United States! With depths ranging from 5 to 15 feet, snorkelers of all levels will enjoy their time here. Definitely take advantage of the free snorkeling gear offered by the ferry, or bring your own and swim around with the many tropical fish and living coral that inhabit the area. You will be able to launch straight from the calm, white sand beaches next to the fort. Just remember to look and don’t touch! Coral reefs are in grave danger around the world and disruptions from humans are detrimental to their existence. Be sure to also double check that your sunscreen is coral safe.
You can bring a tent and camp overnight on the remote beach where the stargazing is absolutely incredible! You will be left on the shores after the crowds have gone, giving you your own semi-private tropical island experience. You’ll be one of the few who will see the gorgeous sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Make a reservation in advance, as there are only a few camping spots available and they fill up quickly.
Explore the Beaches
The white sand beaches next to the crystal clear, blue waters are some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the country. Take some time to stroll along the water. At the far end of the island, you’ll find a sailboat wreckage that washed onto shore during Hurricane Irma. According to the boat captain, it will likely be there forever, since disposing of it will be very costly and difficult to drag back to the mainland. Don’t worry, the person on board the boat made it onto the island safe and sound! Around the wreckage, you will find hundreds of conch shells that people have gathered. Please do not take any of these shells home with you, just take a few photos and leave them for the next explorers to stumble upon.
Where to Park Your RV
There are many RV parks in the Key West area and there are quite a few state parks along the keys as well. Depending on the time of year, reservations are difficult to get in the state parks. We stayed at Bahia Honda State Park around New Years and and had to make our reservation 11 months in advance, the second that they opened up online. Bahia Honda State Park puts you in an amazing spot right on the water. RV parks in the winter months down in the Keys are a little pricey, but worth it for the close proximity to all the Key West activities. If you come in the “off season” or the summer months, you won’t have a problem booking a campground reservation. Just make sure to bring bug spray!
So what are you waiting for? Rent an RV through Outdoorsy and go explore!