Dry Tortugas National Park is quite possibly the most unique park in the NPS system. For starters, it’s in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles west of Key West (and 2.5 hours away by ferry). Then add the fact that it is 95% water with 6 small islands. These islands are nesting grounds for sea turtles in the summer and a stopover for over 200 bird species who migrate through the park. The water is home to a type of coral found nowhere else in the world, a huge number of fish (plus manta rays, jellyfish, conch and man o’ war that we saw snorkeling) and hundreds of shipwrecks throughout the ages. Oh, and the main island is dominated by Fort Jefferson, a massive hexagonal fort made from 16 million bricks in the mid 1800s to control access to the gulf.
Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say nowhere in the park system is remotely like Dry Tortugas.
Our visit there definitely surpassed the high expectations. We rode the ferry over and camped for two nights, so we had lots of time to explore the park compared to the more than 80% of people who come and leave on the ferry the same day. Even so, we only explored the area around the main island. We toured the fort, read up in the Visitors Center, snorkeled around amazing coral, watched pelicans fish, kayaked around the harbor and clocked a lot of time chilling on the beach.
But the ranger told us his favorite parts of the park were all those other spots you could only get to with your own boat. So I think we only got a taste for the treasures of Tortugas. Whatever the case, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Print above courtesy of PurpleMooseBasics.com.