Dry Tortugas National Park
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Tucked away down south, 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park really is a hidden treasure. Comprised of seven islands and their associated coral reefs, this preserve is home to a stunning 19th-century fortress, a lighthouse, and a large population of sea turtles, just to name a few of its attractions. However, due to its remote location -- and the fact that it’s accessible only by boat or seaplane -- the park sees far fewer visitors than many of its more-famous brethren; according to the National Park Service, only about 63,000 brave explorers make the trek annually. (Compare that to just about a million for relatively nearby Everglades National Park.)
Given their remote location, these islands were probably not well populated in precolonial times. But the islands and surrounding water today known as Dry Tortugas National park is, like many other parts of Florida, the historic and ancestral lands of the Seminole Indians. Read more about the indigenous history of Dry Tortugas National Park here.
Though the south Florida islands may call to mind sunshine-filled days and warm, sandy beaches, it’s important to stay apprised of the weather before heading to the Dry Tortugas. During the winter months, between November and April, 20-knot winds and 8-foot wake are not uncommon; though the summer brings largely calmer seas, it’s also the start of hurricane season (June 1-November 30). For current weather observations and more complete details, check the park’s official weather page.
Being as the park is a series of offshore islands, there’s not exactly a gateway town like you’d find at Yellowstone or Acadia. However, Key West serves as a home base and jumping-off point for a majority of visitors and is home to a bustling and vibrant community.
Visitors are drawn to the Dry Tortugas for an array of outdoor activities; boating, paddling, fishing, and swimming are all popular. Snorkelers can enjoy the park’s multitude of coral reefs, and SCUBA divers can explore the nearby Windjammer Wreck -- which, situated in only 20 feet of water, offers some accessibility even to adventurers without tanks. Visitors can also enjoy guided tours of Fort Jefferson and a variety of other ranger-led activities. Check the park’s official calendar for full details.
- Spring 67-86 F
- Summer 74-89
- Fall 79-92 F
- Winter 67-76 F
- Coming soon
- Dry Tortugas National Park Park Enterance Fee: $15
Dry Tortugas National Park Hiking Trails
Although there’s not much in the way of hiking trails at this almost-entirely-aqueous park, there’s no shortage of outdoor exploration and sights to discover!
So trade those hiking boots for a snorkel mask and a pair of fins, and find yourself totally immersed in the Dry Tortugas -- literally.
Things to do Outside Dry Tortugas National Park
They say you shouldn’t swim for a few hours after you eat to avoid cramping up -- so take advantage of the downtime to explore some of the many cultural pursuits and diversions in nearby Key West. Seafood, sunshine, and historic sites await!
RV Rentals Near Dry Tortugas National Park
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Keystone RV Hideout Single Axle 176BH
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RV Resorts & Campsites in Dry Tortugas National Park
Since the only way to access the Dry Tortugas is by water, RV camping on-site isn’t an option -- though the park does allow camping at Garden Key for tent-dwellers. However, the Florida Keys are home to many RV-friendly campgrounds, and the park is accessible from Key West by ferry, charter boat, and hired seaplane. (Check the park’s directions page for full details on scheduling and pricing.)
Campgrounds Near Dry Tortugas National Park
Find the Best Dumpstations Near Dry Tortugas National Park
Dumpstations Near Dry Tortugas National Park
How to get to Dry Tortugas National Park
Unlike most of the national parks, the Dry Tortugas are entirely surrounded by water -- which complicates the whole “getting there” thing considerably. Although you can access the Florida Keys by motor vehicle, you can’t drive to the park itself. (At least not without sustaining serious engine damage.)
The National Park Service lists the primary ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park as follows:
Bring your own boat
Charter a boat or seaplane
Ride a ferry
Fly a seaplane (like, your own)
You can learn more about the available charter options, ferries, schedules, and fares by visiting the park’s official directions page.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park is from February through June. The winter months can have strong cold fronts and windy conditions, and summer coincides with hurricane season. The spring months usually bring good weather and snorkeling conditions, making this a good time to visit the park.
Dry Tortugas National Park is mostly water, with seven small islands. Much of the park is not easily accessible for disabled visitors, but charter boats like the Yankee Freedom have lifts at the dock to help wheelchair users onto the boat. A ramp at the Fort Jefferson dock allows wheelchair users to disembark. Wheelchair users can access the first floor of the fort.
Pets are allowed at Dry Tortugas National Park in certain areas. They are allowed on Garden Key, but not inside Fort Jefferson. They are not allowed on any other keys. The commercial ferry and seaplane that access the park do not allow pets on board, but visitors with personal boats and permitted tour guides can bring pets.
Dry Tortugas National Park covers 100 square miles, or 64,701 acres. Most of that area is water, with seven small islands in the park boundaries as well.
The climate at Dry Tortugas National Park has basically two seasons - wet and dry. The park has humid, rainy summers and dry, mild winters. Hurricane season is from the beginning of June until the end of November.