Dry Tortugas National Park Trip

Posted Feb 22 2022 in Destinations

Heading on a boat trip to Dry Tortugas National Park? Check out this article to learn how to rent a boat and discover everything you need to know about the park. From boating environment and regulations to land entertainment and on-the-water activities.

Located west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, the park consists of seven islands and numerous protected coral reefs and marine sanctuaries. 

Keep on reading to start planning your boat trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park now:

Explore Dry Tortugas National Park by boat

Sailing

If you want to enjoy life on a boat and savor the wonderful views of nature, then a boat trip to Dry Tortugas National Park will not disappoint. Simply getting to the remote park is a sailing adventure on its own. But exploring what the area has to offer for boating lovers will surely mark a voyage of a lifetime. 

While the national park is absolutely breathtaking, admiring its beauty from the comfort of your boat is something no sailor should miss out on. 

Snorkeling and scuba diving

The waters of Dry Tortugas National Park are a protected marine sanctuary with loads of snorkel areas. The park is surrounded by deep-water reefs and wrecks, bursting of marine life. 

The wonderful underwater sceneries and wild biodiversity make it the perfect destination for snorkeling and scuba diving adventures. Swim near coral gardens, seagrass, starfish, queen conchs, and schools of colorful tropical fish. Or even spot dolphins and turtles in their natural habitat.

Divers of all levels can have fun at Dry Tortugas National Park. Beginner enthusiasts can submerge at the scenic reef spots near Fort Jefferson. While experienced snorkelers and divers can explore the South Coaling Dock Ruins. 

Beach fun

For those sailors who want to get off their boat to enjoy some beach activities, Dry Tortugas offers the perfect conditions. Go sunbathing, swimming, or have a picnic on the beautiful Garden Key and Loggerhead Key beaches, with calm shallow waters and wonderful ocean sceneries. 

Make sure not to leave any trash. Have in mind there is no lifeguard on duty, so stay within your swimming abilities, keep a close watch on children, and be wary of strong currents. 

Fishing in Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is a great fishing destination. Fishermen are always pleasantly surprised by the abundance of fish and sea life in the area. Some of the fish you can catch are grouper, snapper, tuna, sailfish, and more.

Remember, fishing is permitted only in certain areas in Dry Tortugas National Park. Florida Saltwater fishing license is required. Spearfishing and lobster fishing is prohibited. "J" hooks are not allowed, use "circle hooks" instead.

Last but not least, bring enough food and water supplies for the duration of your trip. Do not depend solely on catching your meals.

Learn more about Dry Tortugas National Park

How much does it cost to go to Dry Tortugas National Park?

Dry Tortugas National Park is very accessible. The entrance fee costs only 15$ per person and is valid for 7 days. Local and international guests under 16 can visit the national park for free. 

What to bring on a boat trip to Dry Tortugas National Park?

Whether you decide to stay on the boat or get on land to explore Dry Tortugas National Park, there are a few things you need to include in your packing list:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunglasses
  • Towels
  • Dry clothes
  • Sweatshirt or summer jacket
  • Comfortable footwear
  • Camera
  • Plenty of drinkable water
  • Food and boat snacks

If you want to stay overnight in Dry Tortugas National Park, bring your own camping equipment and a tent.

How long should a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park be?

You can fit Dry Tortugas National Park in a day trip by boat. But the boat ride is quite long and might take most of your free time, leaving you with less time to roam the park. There are many things to see and explore on the water and on land. For that reason, sail.me would advise you to have more than 2 or 3 days for Dry Tortugas National Park on your itinerary. 

How to get to Dry Tortugas National Park?

Located 70 miles (112 km) west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is very remote. There is no public transportation. The park is accessible by boat rentals, charters, private boats, seaplane, or daily concession ferry. The on-the-water trip from Key West to Fort Jefferson takes around 2-3 hours. 

How can I bring my equipment to the park?

Due to limited ferry capacity, if you want to bring diving equipment or kayaks, you need to make arrangements in advance. Seaplane does not carry equipment. The best way to get to Dry Tortugas National Park is to rent a boat or charter a yacht. That way, you could have all the gear, stacked up on the private vessel. 

Can you bring pets to Dry Tortugas?

If you love taking your pets on boating adventures, we have good news for you. Dry Tortugas National Park is allowing pet visitors and you can rent a pet-friendly boat with sail.me for your trip there. 

There are several pet regulations when visiting the park: 

  • Pets are permitted on Garden Key camping area
  • Pets are permitted outside at Fort Jefferson
  • Pets are NOT allowed inside Fort Jefferson
  • Pets are NOT allowed on any other key in the park
  • Pets must be on a leash and attended to all times
  • Pet waste must be collected and disposed of by the owner

Please check for rule changes or any temporary regulations before your boat trip to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Can you stay overnight at Dry Tortugas National Park?

Staying in your boat at Dry Tortugas National Park overnight is possible. 

However, there are a few rules in place that you need to comply with:

  • Overnight anchoring is allowed in Fort Jefferson, but ONLY in the area of sand and rubble bottom (within 1 nautical mile of the harbor light)
  • Overnight anchoring is NOT allowed at any other location in the park
  • Once anchored, your boat must NOT block any designated channel

If you want to spend the night on land, you can stay at the camping areas. 

Note that reservations are only possible for large groups of people. Tents are required for an overnight stay, so make sure to bring your own tent and supplies. There are wheeled carts on the dock you can use for transporting your camping equipment.

Can you rent a boat, kayak, or watersport gear at the park?

Rentals are not available on the park premises. Make sure to charter or rent a boat with all the necessary equipment before you head to Dry Tortugas National Park. Supplies are also not available for sale, so make sure to pack enough food, water, and supplies in advance. You would be able to get diving equipment on selected diving sites.

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