Added by Jess Curren
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!
- Sleeping Bag
- Self Lighting Charcoal
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
ReviewsLeave a Review
Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!
More Adventures Nearby
Paddle to Cypress Spring
Florida / Cotton Landing
Starting at Cotton Landing, you paddle about a quarter of a mile downstream until you encounter the spring run to the right/north.
Paddle The Everglades' Wilderness Waterway
Florida / Wilderness Waterway - North
The Wilderness Waterway in the Everglades National Park can be navigated either by kayak or canoe. This is an endurance voyage that typically takes upwards of 10 days if you are solo-canoeing.