There’s something magical about visiting a nature reserve that’s accessible only by sea or air. It means when you step on shore, the whole world isn’t out there exploring with you! Dealing with crowds on the mainland in peak season is one thing, but when you climb aboard the Yankee Freedom, the Dry Tortugas ferry, you are heading to a destination that only sees about 60,000 visitors per year. Compare that with the millions upon millions of visitors that flock to Key West annually, and you have yourself a quiet little escape. Since its designation in 1935, Dry Tortugas National Park has been delighting adventure seekers and nature lovers from all over the world. If you’re thinking about making the trip on here on the Dry Tortugas ferry,
Dry Tortugas National Park has been designated a National Park since 1935, and has been visited by naturalists, biologists, explorers, and nature enthusiasts from around the world. The Dry Tortugas has been listed as “One of the top 10 things to do in the Florida Keys” by Island Magazine; And the “One of the 10 great places to explore nooks and crevasses” by USA Today. Amazing accolades aside, you don’t need some fancy travel publication to tell you that this is one of those magical places that sneaks its way onto everyone’s bucket list at one point or another. Okay, so you’ve heard it’s beautiful, so once you’ve stepped off the Dry Tortugas ferry, what can you actually do here?
Camping in the Dry Tortugas
Why just come for the day, when you spend the night in paradise? Show up on the dock no later than 6:30am with all your gear (including water) and prepare for one of the most primitive yet tranquil camping trips you’ll ever have! There’s no corner store on the island (hence why you’ll need water), so don’t leave anything behind. Sleeping under the stars in the Dry Tortugas is a popular activity, so be sure to make your reservations on the Dry Tortugas ferry. Because you’ll be camping in a National Park, space is extremely limited.
Much like its neighbor to the north west, the Dry Tortugas is home to some of the healthiest and biologically diverse coral reefs in the world. After thousands of years of calcium carbonate secretion, the coral polyps along the reef that stretches from the Dry Tortugas to Miami make for an oasis for an abundance of tropical fish, sea mammals and marine species. The colors here are elaborate, making it one of the most sought after snorkeling destinations in the world. The Yankee Freedom Dry Tortugas ferry will provide you with snorkeling gear, and the onboard guides will point out all the best snorkeling spots.
The Dry Tortugas is a bird watching haven and if it’s the main reason you’ve made the trip, you won’t be disappointed. A number of rare species call the region home like Roseate and Bridled Terns, Red-Necked Phalarope, Double-Crested Cormorants and Masked and Brown Boobies. The fall and spring migrations bring Shiny Cow Birds, warblers, Caribbean short eared owls and cuckoos. These are just a sampling of the species that you’ll find here, so be sure to bring your camera and a good set of binoculars.
The Dry Tortugas ferry is an attraction unto itself. Though the trip is a mere 70 miles long, there are plenty of sights along the way including the resident bottlenose dolphin pods, sea turtles, various species of shark and playful sea lions. So if the Dry Tortugas is your destination, let the Yankee Freedom be your journey.