Day Tripping To Dry Tortugas National Park
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
If you’re planning a trip to Key West but the hustle and bustle of Duval Street isn’t really your thing, a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park is a family-friendly adventure you won’t soon forget! However, it isn’t something you decide to do on the fly. In order to get the most out of your day, you’ll want to plan your excursion ahead of time to decide how to get there and what to do and see.
About The Dry Tortugas
Located about 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas is a 100 square mile National Park mostly comprised of open water with seven small islands. One of the larger islands, Garden Key, is about 14 acres and home to 19th century historic Fort Jefferson.
While the fort was never fully finished or fortified, it still fulfilled its purpose as a deterrent to foreign ships that used the trade routes of the Gulf. The fort served many purposes over the next century until preservation work began in 1935 under President Roosevelt and it received National Park designation in 1992 by Congress.
The park’s visitor center is located on Garden Key, which serves as a launching off point for all other park activities.
The Dry Tortugas are only accessible by boat or seaplane. Public transportation departs from Key West via a large Ferry, the Yankee Freedom II; or seaplane charter from Key West Seaplane Adventures. The ferry takes just over 2 hours, and a flight is around 40 minutes.
Park Facilities & What To Bring
This is important – there is no water or food service on the island. Composting toilets are available at the campground. You will need to bring all of the essentials if you’re spending the day at the park:
- Hand wipes or sanitizer
- Bathing suit and change of clothes
- Sunscreen, hat, glasses
What To Do
Dry Tortugas National Park is known for its crystalline waters, stunning snorkeling, and secluded white sand beaches. If you travel to the park via seaplane or ferry, the operator will provide snorkeling gear for your time on the island, as there are no rental services available from the park.
The coral reefs, rare marine life, and historic ship wrecks, combined with the warm, shallow, crystal-clear water, make the Tortugas one of the most exceptional snorkeling and diving spots in the world. And because the ferry and seaplane service carry so few passengers, it’s very easy to find an out-of-the-way spot to have to yourself for the day.
In addition to snorkeling and swimming, visitors can take a break from the sun to tour Fort Jefferson and learn about its rich history while marveling at its construction on an isolated island.
For the adventurous type, the ferry carries a limited number of canoes and kayaks you can borrow and take a 3 mile trek out to Loggerhead Key – named for the abundance of loggerhead sea turtles that call the island home. On Loggerhead Key, visitors can view the historic lighthouse, snorkel the many shipwrecks in the surrounding waters, hike, and view a stunning array of marine and wildlife.
A world away from the vibrant culture of Key West, a day trip to the beautiful and remote Dry Tortugas is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure the whole family will enjoy.
Start Your Dry Tortugas Adventure With Salt Island Seaplanes
Wondering why we can’t just fly you from Naples straight to the Tortugas? It’s because the Park only allows Dry Tortugas service by the operator in Key West, which is Key West Seaplane Adventures. Salt Island Seaplanes takes visitors from the Naples/Fort Myers area to Key West, where you’ll then connect to the Tortugas service. But trust us, Margaritaville isn’t such a bad place for a layover!
Book your flight now, or contact us at 239-263-7258 (SALT) to learn more about private air travel with Salt Island Seaplanes.