Why Dry Tortugas National Park Is The #1 Key West Attraction
Like no place else on earth, the Dry Tortugas offer visitors an adventure they will never forget. If you’re visiting Key West, a trip to this oasis in the Gulf of Mexico is a must. From the pristine clear blue waters to the massive Civil War Fortress, there’s many reasons Dry Tortugas National Park is the #1 rated Key West attraction.
Crystal clear waters & white sandy beach
Located just 70 miles west of Key West, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson National Park are surrounded by crystal blue waters. These warm shallow seas are just perfect for wading, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing or just dipping your toes in. And if you’re one who likes to bask in the sun, the pristine white sandy beach delivers in a big way. Sink your toes in the sand, relax under a shady palm and let the worries of real life melt away.
Home to a variety of vibrant sea life, the waters of the Dry Tortugas offer a snorkeling adventure to people of all ages. Because the water is shallow, you can simply walk right in with your mask and snorkel and start seeing the many tropical fish and marine species that reside here. So whether you’re a novice or an expert, you’re in for an awesome snorkeling experience in the Dry Tortugas.
The largest masonry structure of its kind in the USA, Fort Jefferson was built between 1846 and 1875 and although it’s constructed of 16 million bricks, is considered to be unfinished. It’s here that thousands of civilians, Civil War Soldiers and prisoners lived side by side and where Samuel Mudd was incarcerated for his role in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. A visit here is nothing short of fascinating. You can walk through the fort, step into the cells, see the cannons and learn about the history of this iconic fortress.
For birdwatchers, the Dry Tortugas is a top destination. The islands in this area are home to more than 300 different species, including the sooty tern, which roosts on Bush Key. There are also sea turtles, hence the name Las Tortugas, which was what the island was deemed by Ponce de Leon, when he arrived and spotted more than 60 sea turtles. While visiting the area, you may also be lucky enough to spot bottlenose dolphins; the friendly mammals live in the waters surrounding the cluster of islands.
There are only two ways to get to the Dry Tortugas, by boat or seaplane. If you’re going, go in style and comfort aboard the official ferry, the Yankee Freedom. This spacious catamaran has an expansive deck for sunning or viewing the picturesque scenery as you travel to and from the islands. There are fresh water showers, an air conditioned cabin and you’ll be treated to a complimentary breakfast, lunch and cold beverages. The Yankee Freedom docks for the day at your destination, so you can come back to cool off, eat lunch and relax a bit. And if you’re planning on snorkeling, the crew will provide you with top of the line gear, including a mask, snorkel and fins.