Dry Tortugas National Park


Dry Tortugas National Park
100 Grinnell Street
Historic Seaport, Key West Ferry Terminal
Key West, FL 33040

Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson consists of seven small islands full of natural splendor and historical significance. Located about 70 miles off the coast of Key West these secluded and pristine islands are home to gorgeous sandy beaches, a historic fort, and spectacular native birds and fish. Spend a day excursion from Key West lapping up the sun as you lay on the sandy beaches, exploring the coral reef or by taking in an informative historical tour of Fort Jefferson.  Be sure to bring a towel, a change of clothes, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, camera, a book to read and comfortable footwear.  The boat tour lasts a total of  hours and includes equipment needed for snorkeling the coral reef as well as breakfast and lunch.

The Dry Tortugas (Spanish for turtles) were so named after Ponce DeLeon caught over 100 sea turtles there in 1513. These days you can still see those majestic sea turtles as well as dolphin and other tropical wonders. In the years that followed, in the 1600s & 1700s, the islands were used as a base for pirates attacking merchant ships in the gulf. After the War of 1812, the fort was built with about 16 million handmade red bricks to help fight off those pirates and protect trade routes to and from the Mississippi River. The stunning multi-sided fort also later became a prison after the Civil War that once held the infamous Dr. Samuel Mudd convicted for his part in the Lincoln assassination.  Once the fort nor longer was needed as a prison, it became a designated bird reserve and eventually was converted to a national park in 1992 by then President George Bush. 

The Dry Tortugas Ferry Service and seaplane are the main modes of transportation for the public to the Dry Tortugas these days.  The truly adventurous nature lovers may decide to camp overnight at the park and can also arrange their transportation through the ferry service.  The Dry Tortugas are rustic and do not have modern facilities for public use.  Campers are allowed to used composting toilets while staying overnight but must bring their own water and provisions. Visitors who come in only for the day are encouraged to use the facilities on the boat.  The boat is equipped with bathrooms, fresh water showers and a snack bar that provides a variety of options from Margaritas to pizza. Tours board daily at 7:30 and leave by 8am.

During the about 2 hour trip to the Tortugas you can relax on cushioned seating while listening to a naturalist educate you on all that you may see when you arrive and enjoy a small fresh baked breakfast. Spend your time on the ship either in the shaded air conditioned cabin or out on the sundeck enjoying the salt spray.  Upon arrival at about 10:15, complimentary fins, mask and snorkel will be provided. A 40-minute optional guided tour will take place at Fort Jefferson followed by a complimentary picnic lunch buffet back by the boat. You can then spend the remainder of your time exploring the spectacular reef and it's hundreds of marine inhabitants. Fishing is allowed with a current State of Florida saltwater license from the shore.  The boat departs at 3pm and arrives back at the Historic Key West Seaport at 5:15pm.

Parking for the Ferry Service can be found at the City Parking Garage located on Grinnel Street just across from the Ferry at $13 for the day.  There is no free parking available in Key West.