One of the most unique things to do in Key West is to visit Dry Tortugas, a Key West national park. This island park stands out because of its unusual land to water ratio: 1 percent land and 99 percent water. To get there, you’ll have to ferry, plane, or take your private boat, but the 70-mile commute from Key West is worth the turquoise water and wildlife sightings.
Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas Key West
Fort Jefferson is the reason that Dry Tortugas National Park exists. The fort was constructed to be an “advance post” for U.S. ships patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, to serve as a monitor and protector of U.S. access to the major shipping routes that run nearby. Fort Jefferson was never fully finished after a 30-year construction period but went on to have a variety of uses until President Roosevelt turned it into a monument. Later still, Congress pushed for it and the surrounding other keys to be designated as Dry Tortugas National Park. Now, Fort Jefferson serves as the entrance and headquarters to the many visitors of the park.
Things to Do at Dry Tortugas Key West National Park
Besides going through Fort Jefferson and learning about its history more in-depth, the natural elements create lots of outdoor activities for all kinds of visitors. The abundance of options makes Dry Tortugas one of the great things to do in Key West with kids.
- Camping: Although the amount of land at Dry Tortugas Key West is limited, eight campsites on Garden Key are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Sleep under the tropical stars, as Dry Tortugas boasts about its nighttime sky views. Since the park is so far from big cities, light pollution doesn’t take away from the twinkling stars. No trash cans are on the island, so all garbage generation is required to be taken with visitors back to the Florida Keys.
- Swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding: Surrounding the islands/keys of Dry Tortugas is tons of coral, shipwrecks, and sea life to discover in the warm waters. Some of the most lively and colorful spots include Little Africa, Texas Rock, and Windjammer. The National Park Service reminds visitors not to touch or bring anything home with you, as Dry Tortugas was built to encourage sea life, and not destroy it. If you bring your own paddleboards and kayaks, you can traverse and explore above the water instead of submerged in it.
- Fishing: If you have a Florida saltwater fishing license, feel free to put your line out one mile outside of the Historic Use area, or fish from shore at the seaplane beach, main dock, or the dinghy beaches (with restrictions).
- Tours and wildlife: Go on a ranger-guided excursion, so you don’t waste any time looking for animals and plants you won’t find without help. Some of the wildlife that you might see include sea turtles, sharks, lobsters, squid, octopus, tropical reef fish, and goliath groupers. Dry Tortugas Key West is a popular destination, especially in the spring for birders.
Key West Inns
If you decide not to camp on the island, return to the Keys by ferry, private boat or plane to sleep in the Keys for the night at The Cabana Inn. While you can’t sleep under the night sky once you return, you can sleep peacefully on a cozy and comfortable mattress, with all the comforts of our Key West Inn. Call us at 866-413-2230 or connect with us online.