Dry Tortugas National Park
Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies a cluster of seven islands, composed of coral reefs and sand, called the Dry Tortugas. Along with the surrounding shoals and waters, they make up Dry Tortugas National Park. The area is known for its famous bird and marine life, and its legends of pirates and sunken gold. Fort Jefferson, one of the largest coastal forts ever built, is a central feature. Discovered by Ponce de Leon, the islands provide a unique experience and a variety of remarkable experiences await those who arrive. Whether you find yourself camping, snorkeling, birdwatching, fishing, or just enjoying a view from the top of massive Fort Jefferson, you quickly realize how magical this place can be.
Fort Jefferson, on Garden Key, and Loggerhead are open year-round during daylight hours; closed at dark. Bush Key, Hospital Key, and Long Key are closed-year round and visitors should remain 100 feet offshore of all closed islands. Middle and East Keys are closed April 1 through October 15 for turtle nesting. Pets are not allowed and there is no cell phone tower at the park.
Upon arrival, see the orientation program at the visitor center in Fort Jefferson and take the self-guiding tour of the fort. A boat is necessary to visit areas of the park other than Garden Key/Fort Jefferson.
Seasonality / Weather
Dry Tortugas is in a subtropical climate. Temperatures range from the 50 F to 85 F. April and May are often idyllic. There are essentially two seasons: The winter season (December-March), which can be windy with rough seas, and the tropical storm season (June-November) during which Dry Tortugas experiences both hot, humid weather and calm seas or severe weather events. Due to the ever-changing weather patterns, an accurate weather forecast is recommended before your visit.
Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote parks in the National Park System. Located approximately 70 miles west of Key West it is accessible only by private boats, charter boats, or seaplanes. There are no roads to the park.
Private pleasure boats are welcome, but must be fully self-sufficient. U.S. Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey Chart #11438 is necessary for navigation to the Dry Tortugas.
Public transportation - ferry and seaplane - serves the park from Key West.
Yankee Freedom II: phone 800-634-0939 or 305-294-7009; on the internet at www.yankeefreedom.com.
For seaplane schedules, prices, and reservations, contact: Key West Seaplane Adventures: phone 305-942-9777; on the internet at www.keywestseaplanecharters.com.