Just a few hours from Key West by ferry, Dry Tortugas is a once in a lifetime adventure into a tropical paradise.
This destination is really an experience. It’s not accessible by land, only boat or sea plane. There’s no WiFi, no communication, no food or drink (except for what you bring yourself). It really is a step back in time, which you must experience first hand.
So for a brief history lesson: The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, situated in the Gulf of Mexico. The Spanish founded the islands in 1513, and Fort Jefferson was later used as a prison during the Civil War. For any history buffs interested, there is a plethora of information on the island, as well as some great books about the Dry Tortugas.
After spending the day at Fort Jefferson, I am even more in awe of the islands than ever. Their beauty is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the ability to truly relax makes it the perfect day trip. If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Dry Tortugas, here are five tips to maximize your stay and, ultimately, find your paradise.
Grab A Picnic Table
Weather you’re visiting for the day or camping, seating is very limited. So if you have food, gear or anything you don’t want to lug around the entire island, claim a picnic table early in the morning. There are bathrooms, so if you want to change into swim gear after you arrive, leave a change of clothes at the picnic table.
Spend 10 minutes In The Historical Shop
Once situated on the island, head into the historical shop. There are always rangers and bookshop workers on duty who can educate the curious, and point thrill seeks in the right direction. The rangers can tell you a bit about the fascinating prison history of the fort, and how it has become such a high-profile destination. They can also tell you about the distinct wildlife. If you collect National Park souvenirs or are looking to buy postcards, you can grab all of that in the bookshop.
Climb To The Top Of The Fort
The best place to survey the landscape and take in the amazing view is at the top of Fort Jefferson. Bring walking shoes! There’s a bit of rough terrain on the top, so best to leave the flip flops down near the picnic tables.
Snorkel Off The Edge Of The Fort
Catch a glimpse of some amazing fish in the crystal blue water. Sometimes you can even spot a manatee. But be warned: sharks do occasionally appear in the waters near the fort. Just let them be and do not harass them.
Ditch Your Phone
There’s really no chance of getting a signal on the island, so my suggestion is to ditch the phone entirely. If you have a camera, bring that instead and capture the beauty and mystery of the fort. Editing can wait til later. Really experience the island; worry about the photoshop later.
For anyone seeking a tropical hideaway within reach of Key West, Dry Tortugas should be on your bucket list. If you’re more a winter weather traveler, never fear. Be on the lookout for my blog post on Alaska coming next week.