A Trip to the Dry Tortugas
Magnificent Frigatebird flying over the Dry Tortugas
The Dry Tortugas National Park can lay claim to being the most remote national park in the entire U.S. park system. Situated on tiny Garden Key and six other equally diminutive islets, seventy miles west of Key West, Florida, it is only possible to access it by boat or seaplane and you will need a permit to visit, even if you row your own dingy. We visited via the Dry Tortugas National Park Ferry and found it to be an excellent choice. I confess that when I heard the price of the trip, I thought that it was overly expensive, but after completing the day long outing, I now think that the price/value equation was about right, particularly since ample breakfast and lunch and a very good introductory tour of Fort Jefferson are included in the price of the trip.
We checked in at the ferry pier in Key West at seven thirty in the morning and boarded the Freedom III catamaran at eight. The vessel was clean and the crew were friendly and efficient. An adequate breakfast was served buffet style shortly after departure. The weather was good and we had a smooth ride out to the park. We arrived at the park pier mid-morning and took the hour long tour of Fort Jefferson offered by one of the members of the ferry crew. After the tour, we wandered around the fort a bit more, had a very adequate buffet lunch aboard the Freedom III, and then turned to the birds. It was early summer and nearby Brush Key was closed to visitation because the terns were nesting. There were, however, plenty of birds in the air and on Garden Key and we photographed several new (for us) species. Mid-afternoon, we re-boarded the Freedom III and returned to Key West, arriving about five-thirty. The ferry lands in the old Key West port area and we dined at one of the local pubs before returning to our hotel. All in all, a wonderful day full of new experiences.
Fort Jefferson on Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida