At Dry Tortugas Park, enjoy snorkeling, history, and birdwatching as you explore this amazing bird and marine sactuary. Dry Tortugas Park stretches across seven islands 70 miles out to sea from Key West. It also includes the surrounding waters, and protects the marine life that lives within it boundaries.
Garden Key, one of the seven islands of Dry Tortugas, contains Fort Jefferson. This historic fort from the mid-1800s is the largest coastal fort in the United States. Once used as a military prison, it’s now home to birds who are protected by the sanctuary status of Dry Tortugas Park.
The origin of the name of Dry Tortugas Park comes from none other than Ponce de Leon. Tortugas is Spanish for turtles. There are still lots of sea turtles at Dry Tortugas Park, but centuries ago, before they were hunted by humans, there were even more.
You’ll have the chance to see Sea Turtles if you visit Dry Tortugas Park, and that’s just the beginning. Go snorkeling and see a whole new world of marine life including colorful tropical fish. Also look for porpoise, flying fish, and depending on what time of year, sooty terns who come to the park to nest during the Summer months. During the rest of the year you can spot frigate birds and pelicans.
Whether you plan on doing some birdwatching, snorkeling, touring historic Fort Jefferson, or just relaxing on the beach, a trip out to Dry Tortugas Park is an unforgettable experience!
Dry Tortugas National Park is several islands, but if you make the trip out there, you’ll be exploring Garden Key. Garden Key is the location of Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era coastal fort that is today part of the Dry Tortugas National Park. Park Rangers have an office here, and they maintain the grounds as well as protect the sanctuary.
Fort Jefferson is a wonderful bit of preserved history, and as you can see from the picture visitors are allowed to explore the fort, including walking on the upper parts of the outer wall. This is a view from the wall looking across the interior of the fort and to the seas beyond. The upper wall is accessible by original circular steps built into the fort by the toiling army soldiers who constructed Fort Jefferson in the mid-1800s under incredible conditions. They suffered disease and extreme heat under US Army orders and many died.
Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the country’s most remote parks. The fort was used as a military prison and you can just imagine the conditions for the prisoners and even the guards. In the days when the fort was built, there was no way to get fresh water for the soldiers. Actually, that’s still true: all water must be brought in. Visitors who visit Dry Tortugas Park with a charter company will have plenty of water and soft drinks provided by the crew on their boat.
A Dry Tortugas Charter is easy to book and just about everything is taken care of for you. Book a seat and you get not only an unforgettable trip to America’s most remote National Park, but also everything you’ll need to enjoy your day. The price of admission on a Dry Torguas Charter includes breakfast, lunch, guided tour of the Dry Tortugas Fort, Snorkeling gear, and beverages including bottled water and soda.
You just have to bring your swimsuit and towel! Of course there are a few other extra items you can bring: camera, sunscreen, walking shoes, and even binoculars to view nesting birds on the other islands. In winter, you may want a jacket for the ride out and even for the island if it’s a little windy. If you want to explore the Dry Tortugas Fort, bring some shoes that are comfortable to walk in.
While on the boat or even at the fort, feel free to ask the crew any questions you have, since they have extensive knowledge of the area. Also, on the trip out, crew will ask you whether you plan on doing any snorkeling that day. This is when you will be asked your shoe size and given gear to test before disembarking. During the four-hour visit to the Park, fresh water is available at all times on the dock from your crew. When you get off the boat, put your things on a picnic table or at the beach, and follow the guided tour if your particular Dry Tortugas charter offers one. Your Dry Tortugas Charter will either serve lunch on the boat or at picnic tables on the beach near the docks.