Is Dry Tortugas National Park worth a visit? This is why we say yes
Dry Tortugas National Park is fascinating both with its unique seascape and its history, and it is definitely worth a visit.
Located at the tip of the Flordia Keys is the beautiful Dry Tortugas National Park. It preserves seven breathtaking Dry Tortugas Islands. The most remarkable of these islands is home to the immense Fort Jefferson. These are the westernmost and most secluded islands in the Florida Keys and are amazing for learning about United States military history and diving.
The coral reefs on these islands are the least disturbed of Florida Key’s reefs and are famous for their abundant marine life and scenic surroundings. The park is also home to legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures and ghostly tails from the Civil War and the legacy of the pirates of the Caribbean.
About Dry Tortugas National Park
Although it is one of the most beautiful national parks in America, it is also one of the most difficult to reach. To get there, you need a boat or seaplane. It is also one of the least visited national parks, welcoming only around 63,000 visitors per year.
- Registered at UNSECO: UNESCO 1976 Everglades Park and Tortugas Dry Biosphere Reserve
Today it is a magnificent paradise to explore. Some of the activities include exploring Fort Jefferson, snorkeling, bird watching, camping, scuba diving, fishing, and kayaking. See here for other Florida beaches you’ve never heard of.
Wrecks and treasure
These have long been the waters of sunk Spanish treasure ships. National Geographic says,
“The Strait of Florida was dotted with Spanish treasure ships sailing between Cuba and Florida, a prime hunting ground for pirates. Later, the “wreckers” made a living collecting and salvaging the cargoes of sunken ships. Demolition became so profitable (and regulated) that Key West became one of the wealthiest cities, per capita, during the 19th century.. “
- Advice: On a treasure hunt with a treasure map you picked up on a drunken night at the bar, bring scuba gear
One of the most eye-catching parts of the national park is the massive but unfinished coastal fortress of Fort Jefferson. It is the largest brick masonry structure in the entire Western Hemisphere.
- Number of bricks: Over 16 million
- Third largest American fort: Fort Monroe and Fort Adams are bigger
The fort was originally built to counter piracy in the Caribbean (maybe Captain Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl? – It wasn’t just the English fighting the pirates). To learn more about the actual ship used as the HMS Interceptor in the Pirates of the Caribbean and how to visit and navigate it, click here.
During the Civil War, the Union occupied the fort to prevent the South from using it. During the war, they worked feverishly to improve the security and defenses of the fort.
Some prisoners were brought to the island during the war. These were prisoner soldiers who had been sentenced to forced labor for rebellious conduct and the like. President Lincoln also replaced execution for desertion with imprisonment on these islands for some. In November 1864, there were 583 soldiers and 882 prisoners on the island.
Camping in the park
Accommodation is extremely limited here, and overnight camping is limited to just 8 locations at Garden Key Campground. These sites are primitive and just south of Fort Jefferson. Campsites are allocated on a first come, first served basis and reservations are not possible for 6 person pitches. Despite this, the NPS says: “All campers, once arrived, will be guaranteed a place to camp. “
- Camping: There are only 8 campsites on the islands
Remember, these are primitive campsites, so bring everything including fresh water and food. In addition, all garbage must be done on departure. Facilities include toilets, but there are no showers, electricity, internet or cell phone service.
- To note: Compressed gas canisters are not allowed on the ferry, instead bring charcoal for Gilling
Getting to the park
In addition to bringing your private boat, or going by seaplane, the main way is the ferry. The ferry company is Yankee Freedom which operates high speed catamarans.
The costs include the entrance fee to the national park in the total fee
- Adult day trips: $ 190.00
- Child day trips: (4-16) $ 135.00
- Adult Travel Camping: $ 210.00
- Child: (4-16) $ 155.00
- To note: If camping, the park service will collect a free campsite from $ 15.00 to $ 30.00 per night – depending on group size
See here to book your trip to the beautiful islands and see here for everything one needs to visit the islands.
If you are visiting the Florida Keys be sure to continue to Dry Tortugas National Park! It is a paradise far from the crowds and deep in the Caribbean. Enjoy the stories of the past and the stunning blue waters of this tropical environment.
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