Camp and Explore Dry Tortugas National Park

Key West Ferry Terminal, Key West, Florida, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Fishing, Photography, Kayaking, Swimming, Hiking, Diving

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Bathrooms
Beach
Family Friendly
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Remote, breathtaking location with plenty of outdoor activities, history, scenery and relaxation to keep you occupied for days!

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote National Parks you can visit. Located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, FL it is accessible via commercial ferry, sea plane, or private boat.

Our family of 5 camped for two nights in the campground on Garden Key. We snorkeled, swam, explored historic Fort Jefferson, earned a Jr. Ranger badge, stayed up late photographing the stars, woke up early to catch the sunrise, and marveled at the abundance of wildlife on this tiny island.

Both the Yankee Freedom II commercial ferry and the seaplane outfitters provide snorkeling gear for use while you are on the island, but if you want to camp you have to take the ferry as the seaplane won't haul your gear.

It's also a "cart in" camping deal so you don't actually have to carry your bags. Just stow them in the provided carts and haul to the campground. The process of loading and unloading our gear from the ferry was relatively painless. We also had to pack in all of our own water as there is none on the island itself. Not a super big deal, and we actually had quite a bit leftover when it was time to leave.

When the ferry is docked, you use the restrooms on the boat and they also have freshwater showers you can rinse off in. When the ferry leaves, there are composting toilets near the campground. The ferry sells ice for replenishing coolers, and you can even buy lunch if you'd rather eat their food. The only fuel the ferry will let you bring is self-lighting charcoal and each campsite has grills you can use to cook.

Definitely plan to join a ranger program (or 2!) either about the wildlife, or the history of Fort Jefferson. All of the rangers we met and talked to were incredibly excited about the area and full of interesting knowledge.

The best snorkeling we found was in the coral beds off of south beach a good swim away from the fort, or near the pilings. The rangers also told us the coral beds by Loggerhead Key were even more spectacular, but you have to be able to get out there by yourself. It's about 3 miles away from Garden Key & the campground. A few of the other campers brought their own kayaks on the ferry, but none made it all the way out to Loggerhead.

This should definitely be on everyone's bucket list as it was the most amazing thing we have ever done!

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Water
  • Food
  • Self Lighting Charcoal
  • Swimsuit
  • Camera
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We camped for 2 nights and could not have experienced anything better. Our days consisted of sunrise runs on top of the fort, hooking a Goliath Grouper off of the dock, exploring the different keys, snorkeling the reefs and making friends with the resident Crocodile. At night we sat on the mote wall and stargazed at the most epic night skies- not hindered by any cities lights for hundreds of miles. . There's a magical feeling when the ferry full of 200+ people leaves for the day and you are left on this incredible island all to yourself.

6 months ago
6 months ago

Made it to the Fort. No sleeping bag and nearly stayed the night anyway. Though loyalty to a not-as daring friend forced me to abandon the dream of sleeping on the island. I'll just have to go back. Great place and great write-up

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Jess Curren Explorer

Outdoor adventure loving mom of 3 amazing kids and wife to the best husband a girl could ask for. We sold everything in 2013 to travel the United States in our Airstream travel trailer. We bike, hike, backpack, and love to explore new places as a family.

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