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Dry Tortugas National Park

Destinations

Visiting Dry Tortugas National Park

If you are looking for vacation spot that is beautiful, interesting, and family-friendly then you should consider Dry Tortugas National Park. The park is comprised of seven small islands located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. Dry Tortugas is a breathtaking tourist location with rich area history and great outdoor activities. You will be surrounded by the most beautiful, serene, massive blue waters you’ve ever seen, a plethora of marine life and other wild life, and nature at it’s finest.

Photo credit drytortugas.com

Getting To and Around Dry Tortugas National Park

There is no car access to or around the islands. There are a number of boat/plane options to get there. These include:

  • Charters
  • Ferrys
  • Seaplanes
  • Your own private boat/seaplane (must have proper permits)

If you use your own plane, you must have enough fuel and supplies to make a round trip as there are no stations at the park. If you choose to visit by a public ferry or seaplane, they depart from Key West daily.

Staying at Dry Tortugas National Park

It is important to remember that the Dry Tortugas is not a resort. There aren’t any hotels or restaurants, so if you are planning for an extended stay you will need to be prepared to bring your own food and be prepared to camp (for a small fee). You are able to fish, but it isn’t recommended that fishing be your only source of food.

Photo credit nps.gov

When camping at Dry Tortugas, you must be self sufficient. You must have your own camping supplies including a tent. The island is not accessible by road so bringing the RV is not an option. It is such an amazing park, however, it is definitely worth taking a day trip to the island or committing to a night or two in your tent.

Composting toilets are available on the island as well as grills for cooking. There are no camp fires allowed. In order to get around, you must bring your own boat. Kayaks and canoes are recommended since they are easy to use.

Activities at Dry Tortugas National Park

The Aquarius Undersea Lab at the Eco Discovery Center. Photo credit nps.gov

There is no shortage of activities at Dry Tortugas. In fact, there is enough activities to keep you busy for days if you want to have an extended stay at Dry Tortugas. Some of the activities you can participate in are:

  • Visit the 6,000 square foot Eco Discovery Center with interactive exhibits
  • Ranger guided tours, including tours of Fort Jefferson
  • Exploring Loggerhead Key
  • Snorkling, swimming, and diving
  • Geocoaching (treasure hunting)
  • Paddlesports
  • Fishing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Junior Ranger Programs

Photo credit keywestattractions.org

The park has outdoor activities geared towards young people. Kids can complete the fun, educational activities for each program and at the end, be awarded a Junior Ranger badge as well as become an honorary “family” member of the Park Rangers. There are six programs for kids to choose from. Kids can pick up the handbook for each program from the visitor’s center and return it when it’s completed.

History of Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas has a rich area history. Fort Jefferson is one of the most popular historical landmarks in the Dry Tortugas. Built to protect the harbor from enemy hands, the Fort was never fully finished or fully armed. It was used for many different reasons such as a deterrent of international invaders, a guardian of the Gulf, a base for Union soldiers in the Civil War, and a coaling station for warships.

The Windjammer Wreck is the site where the wrecked Avanti, also known as the Killeanis located. This Norwegian ship sank in 1907 carrying lumber from Pensacola to Uruguay. The reason that the ship sank is still unknown. Built by a British Company named John Reid & Co. in 1875, it was one of the last tall sailing ships built before steam propulsion became popular. There are two parts to the wreckage site. Each one is around 110 feet long.

Time-lapse photo credit Harun Mehmedinovic on YouTube.com

Summary

If you want to visit a remote location full of rich area history, beauty, marine and wild life, and outdoor activities for the whole family, then the Dry Tortugas National Park is a great place for you to consider. It is a place where you can “get away from it all” and experience nature up close and without interruption. This is one place you and your family will remember and talk about for decades to come.

For more information on the park or to reserve a campsite, call 305.242.7700 or visit the Dry Tortugas National Park page on the National Park Service website.

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