Dry Tortugas National Park is made up of seven islands that cluster together like precious gems in the brilliant Gulf of Mexico waters, some 70 miles off Key West. Five are primarily nature preserves for rare local birds with Loggerhead Key and Garden Key the only two with some development. Garden Key is the main island which is home to Fort Jefferson, a military fort used as a prison in the 19th century. In addition to history and bird watching, visitors can enjoy a wide range of water sports, including kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, and diving among vibrant coral reefs with tropical fish.
Where to Stay: There are no hotels in the Dry Tortugas and many simply enjoy the park on a day trip from Key West, but there are primitive campsites on Garden Key. In this remote location, you’ll be able to enjoy fantastic stargazing far from light pollution.
How to Get There: Dry Tortugas can be reached with your own boat, by catching the ferry or hopping on a seaplane from Key West. The ferry takes about 2.5 hours and if you plan to return the same day you’ll have about five hours on Garden Key. A seaplane charter can get you there in just 25 minutes. If you cruise there on your own boat, you’ll need to pick up a free permit at Fort Jefferson and find out where you can drop anchor.
Good to Know: There are no services here, so you’ll have to bring your own fresh water, food, and anything else you need. If you take the ferry, there are food and other items available like hats, t-shirts, and sunscreen.