Featuring several small islands, gorgeous beaches, and historical artifacts, Tortugas National Park is one of the world’s most unique eco-attractions.
|Park||Dry Tortugas National Park|
|Things To Do||Picnic, Diving, Discover, Wildlife Watching|
|Hotels Near Banff National Park||The Palms Hotel, Southwind Motel, Many More|
|Camping Location||Garden Key|
Even though it’s one of the least-visited national parks, it definitely deserves more attention for its peculiar features that are hard to find anywhere else.
In this article, we’ll share the best things to do in the park, places to stay, the best time to visit, and much more. Let’s get started!
Tortugas National Park is America’s most remote national park located in Florida about 70 miles from key west.
The Park is made up of numerous islands that feature sparkling blue waters, gorgeous white-sand beaches, historic sites, and colorful marine life that offers some of the most picturesque views you’ll ever see.
The Park is also home to Fort Jefferson, one of the largest 19th-century forts in the United States, and combines history and a pristine ecosystem into one truly remarkable experience.
Nature lovers flock to the park to see its underwater wonders, endless ocean vistas, and a multitude of unique bird species.
Due to its remote location, the park is only accessible through boat or seaplane but the trip is well worth it.
You will never forget the sense of wonder that comes from visiting the place only seen by a few lucky souls.
History of Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas islands were discovered in 1513, by Ponce de Leon who named them “Las Tortugas” after the huge population of sea turtles living in the island’s surrounding waters.
The area became popular due to its treacherous reefs and one of the richest concertation of shipwrecks.
In 1935, Fort Jefferson National Monument was designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the island and marine ecosystems of Dry Tortugas and preserve the Fort Jefferson.
In 1983, the monument was expanded and elevated to the status of Dry Tortugas National Park in October 1992. The Park was established to protect the island and marine ecosystems and regulate public access to the fort.
Best Things to Do in the Park
Despite being a lesser-known natural wonder, the Dry Tortugas National Park offers a wide range of activities to make a memorable day trip. Here are some best things to do in the park:
Explore the Fort Jefferson
Fort Jefferson is the most dominating feature of Dry Tortugas National Park encompassing about 85% of the Garden Key Island.
It is also one of the largest masonry structures in the United States that were built to protect the strategic Deepwater anchorages in North America. The fort was also used as a prison for Union fugitives during the Civil War.
Visitors can either explore the fort themselves or attend a guided tour at 11 a.m. each morning. Regardless of your interest in history, Fort Jefferson is one of the most spectacular views you can witness on the island.
Snorkeling and Diving
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the island is by getting underwater. Around 99% of the Dry Tortugas National Park is underwater and the best way to see this remarkable national treasure is by getting in the water.
The Garden Keys protects Florida’s Keys Reef System, which is the third-largest coral reef in the world. Due to the remote location of the park, you’ll likely discover an abundance of marine than anywhere else in the Florida Keys.
Although there are no chances of getting attacked by marine life, but you may get bumped into potentially dangerous animals like jellyfish, lionfish, and sea urchins, so be careful.
Dry Tortugas National Park has a variety of wildlife both above and underwater. From exotic birds to sea turtles and coral reefs, the park is a paradise for wildlife and bird watching.
More than thousands of nesting seabirds, and myriad songbirds use the islands as a layover during their long journeys.
You’ll have an excellent opportunity to spot some of the rare migratory birds including sooty terns, brown noddies, brown pelicans, and more.
Paddling is another most popular activity at the Dry Tortugas National Park suitable for people of all ages. The ideal time for paddling is in the summer when the sea is calmer with no breeze.
The best places to paddle include Bush Key, Loggerhead Key, and Long Key with designated landing and swimming areas. You have to bring your own kayaks to enjoy paddling in the open waters of the Gulf.
There are limited spots for kayaks on the ferry for campers not for the day-trippers.
Best Time to Visit
Dry Tortugas National Park is perfect to visit year-round.
Summers bring more calmer and clearer water, so if want to get the best snorkeling or paddling experience, visit the park between June to September.
The brief spring season which lasts from late April to early June is also a great time to experience the islands and witness migrating birds.
For those who want to beat crowds, winter is a good time to visit.
Download the official map of Dry Tortugas National Park with clear instructions regarding roads, trails, campgrounds, and main points of interest to plan your trip in advance.
Hotels Near Dry Tortugas National Park
There aren’t many lodging options in Dry Tortugas National Park, but you can find some good accommodation options in Key West.
Here are some hotels nearby to get a good night sleep:
- Margaritaville Key West Resort and Marina
- The Palms Hotel
- Southwind Motel
- Seashell Motel & Key Hostel
- Best Western Hibiscus Motel
Camping at Dry Tortugas National Park is an incredible experience that you won’t forget easily. Camping is only allowed on Garden Key where Fort Jefferson resides.
You can pitch your tent at the gorgeous beach and enjoy star gazing miles away from hustle and bustle of civilization. The camping fee for the individual campsite is $15 per night, and Group Campsite $30.
There are no official camping reservations at the park and sites are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Weather in Dry Tortugas National Park is mostly warm and humid typically ranging from 60 to 90°F.
Two seasons dominate the park most of the year: Summer and Winter. Summer starts from June to November and has warmer temperatures with light winds, clear skies, and occasional severe storms.
The Winters season typically begins in December and runs through April brings colder temperatures with heavy winds and frequent storms. Regardless of the season, make sure to check the latest weather forecast before visiting.
Entry Fee & Passes
The entry fee for Dry Tortugas National Park is $15 per individual, valid for 7-days from the day of purchase.
Visitors under 16 years of age are exempt from paying the entry fee. You can purchase the digital passes on Recreaton.gov and show the PDF when you arrive.
Checklist of Things to Pack
Here are some necessary items you must bring on your trip to Dry Tortugas National Park:
- Bathing suit
- Water shoes & flip flops
- Beach Blanket
- Sleeping bag
- Ground Cover
- Dry bag
- Polarized Sunglasses
- Bug protection
- First-aid kit
How to get to the Dry Tortugas National Park?
There are three ways to get to the Dry Tortugas National Park including ferry boat, seaplane, and private boat.
How much time do I need in Dry Tortugas National Park?
Around 4-5 hours would be enough to explore the beautiful beaches and visit Fort Jefferson.
How is Cellular Service in Dry Tortugas National Park unique?
Cell phone service is nonexistent in Dry Tortugas National Park and there is no wi-fi access at all.