Dry Tortugas National Park: What We Saw From Seaplanes to Turtles!!

Dry Tortugas National Park
Our journey: Fort Jefferson, sea turtles, snorkeling, and stars at Dry Tortugas National Park.

Imagine soaring over crystal waters aboard a seaplane, then diving into an underwater realm where sea turtles glide alongside you—this was our reality at Dry Tortugas National Park.

Just a stone’s throw from Key West, we found ourselves engulfed in the park’s serenity and historical intrigue. We’ll take you through our personal highlights, from the imposing walls of Fort Jefferson, where history whispers through the bricks, to the quiet nights camping on Garden Key, under a canopy of stars.

Our encounters with the park’s wildlife, like the elegant White-tailed Tropicbird, and the thrill of discovering vibrant coral reefs, made this trip unforgettable.

Peek into our logbook as we share the essence of Dry Tortugas, a place where every view and every breath underwater tells its own story.

Close to Key West, FL

Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. This national park is home to some of the most amazing experiences and natural wonders in the country. From snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles to exploring the historic Fort Jefferson, there is something for everyone at Dry Tortugas National Park.

key west

Dry Tortugas National Park is composed of seven small islands, all part of the Florida Keys. These islands are home to incredible marine life and coral reefs, making it ideal for snorkeling and diving. Visitors can also swim with sea turtles, explore the wrecks of sunken ships and visit the picturesque Fort Jefferson.

The park is also home to some incredible bird-watching opportunities, as well as plenty of wildlife on lands such as deer, raccoons, and armadillos. It’s a great spot for kayaking, fishing, and camping too. Boats are available to rent in Key West if you don’t have your own vessel or want to take a guided tour out to the park.

Take the Seaplane to get to the Dry Tortugas National Park 

seaplane dtnl

If you’re looking to add a little excitement to your trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, consider taking the seaplane! The seaplane ride is about an hour long and gives you breathtaking views of the Florida Keys. Once you land in the park, you’ll be able to explore all that it has to offer.

The seaplane flies from   Key West International Airport and takes you out to Fort Jefferson, which is the main attraction of the park. The cost of the seaplane trip is usually around $400 roundtrip. You can also schedule a seaplane ride from Miami International Airport for most of the same cost.

Once you get to Dry Tortugas National Park, you’ll be able to explore all that it has to offer, including snorkeling and swimming in its crystal-clear waters, camping on its beaches, bird watching, and exploring Fort Jefferson. It’s a great way to spend an unforgettable day in paradise!

You can even get your own boat! 

Dry Tortugas National Park is home to some of the most amazing scenery and wildlife in the world. But one of the best things about this park is that you can even get your own boat!

private boat DTNP

There are plenty of companies that offer boat rentals in the area, so you can explore the park at your own pace. We rented a small boat for a day and had an incredible time exploring all the nooks and crannies of the park.

We even got to see some of the rarest wildlife in the world, including sea turtles, stingrays, and dolphins. If you’re looking for an amazing experience, definitely consider renting a boat and exploring Dry Tortugas National Park for yourself!

Magnificent Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson is a large, imposing fort located on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park. The fort was built in the early 19th century to protect the strategic harbor of Key West from foreign invasion. Today, the fort is a popular tourist destination, with its massive walls and fascinating history.

Fort Jefferson DTNP

The fort is named after Thomas Jefferson, who was President of the United States at the time of its construction. It was designed by Simon Bernard, a French military engineer. Construction began in 1846 but was halted due to budget problems and the outbreak of the Mexican-American War. Work on the fort resumed in 1858, and it was finally completed in 1861.

During the American Civil War, Fort Jefferson served as a Union prison for Confederate soldiers and political prisoners. Among its most famous inmates was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of aiding and abetting John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and journalist Horace Greeley.

Today, Fort Jefferson is open to visitors who can explore its massive walls and learn about its fascinating history.

Camping at Garden Key

If you’re looking for an amazing camping experience, look no further than Dry Tortugas National Park. This beautiful park is located in the Florida Keys and is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the state.

Garden Key DTNP

We camped at Garden Key, which is one of the two main islands in the park. The campsite was basic but had everything we needed, including a picnic table and a fire pit. The best part of camping at Garden Key was definitely the views. We were surrounded by crystal clear water and lush vegetation, and we even saw a few dolphins swimming by our campsite!

If you’re looking for a unique camping experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we highly recommend Dry Tortugas National Park.

Fishing in Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is world-renowned for its spectacular fishing. The park’s waters are home to various game fish, including tarpon, bonefish, permit, and barracuda. anglers of all skill levels can find success in the park, making it a perfect destination for a family fishing trip.

fishing DTNP 1

While there are many charter companies that offer guided fishing trips in the park, there is also plenty of opportunity for those who want to fish on their own. Several marinas in the area offer rental boats, and there are several public docks where you can cast your line. No matter how you choose to fish in Dry Tortugas National Park, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Sea Turtles

One of the most amazing experiences we had while exploring Dry Tortugas National Park was encountering the sea turtles! We saw several different kinds of turtles, including loggerhead sea turtles and green sea turtles. It was incredible to see these creatures up close and to learn more about them.

Sea Turtles DTNP 1

We also had the opportunity to feed the turtles, which was a neat experience. Overall, we were just amazed by the beauty and grace of these creatures and it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! 

We also learned about the threats that sea turtles face, such as plastic pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction. All of these are very important issues to be aware of and to actively work towards protecting these species.

Coral Reefs and Amazing Marine life 

When we think of Dry Tortugas National Park, the first thing that comes to mind is the amazingly clear turquoise waters. And for good reason, the waters here are some of the clearest in the world! But what many people don’t realize is that Dry Tortugas is home to some of the most amazing marine life on Earth.

One of the highlights of our trip was snorkeling around the coral reefs. We saw so many colorful fish and coral formations. It was truly a magical experience. Another highlight was swimming with sea turtles. We saw dozens of them just chilling in the water and it was really cool to get up close to them.

If you’re looking for an incredible nature experience, Dry Tortugas National Park is definitely worth a visit!

300 hundred species of birds

There are over three hundred different species of birds have been identified in Dry Tortugas National Park. This is an amazing place for bird watching, as there are so many different types of birds to see. The different types of birds include herons, egrets, pelicans, sandpipers, and gulls. 

birds DTNP

There are also many different types of songbirds, such as warblers and sparrows. This is a great place to see a variety of birds, and you are sure to spot something new each time you visit. 

Other parks with a variety of birds include Everglades National Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Big Bend National Park. Each park is home to different species of birds, so it’s important to research before visiting any of them.

The elegant White-tailed Tropicbird

White tailed Tropicbird DTNP

The White-tailed Tropicbird is a beautiful bird that can be found in the Dry Tortugas National Park. This bird has a white body with black wingtips and a long, graceful tail. The White-tailed Tropicbird is often seen flying high above the water in search of fish. These birds are excellent swimmers and can often be seen diving into the water to catch their prey.

White-tailed Tropicbirds are also known for their loud, melodic calls. Their songs can be heard both day and night, often echoing across the Park. These birds breed in large colonies and can be seen nesting in the Dry Tortugas’s mangroves and other coastal areas. The White-tailed Tropicbird is an important part of the Dry Tortugas National Park’s ecosystem and plays a vital role in maintaining its balance.

Guided Tours 

guided tours DTNP

Dry Tortugas National Park is home to some of the most amazing natural wonders in the world. From the majestic coral reefs to the unique dry tortugas themselves, there is so much to explore in this special place.

One of the best ways to experience all that Dry Tortugas has to offer is by taking a guided tour. There are many different types of tours available, each offering a unique perspective on this amazing park.

We highly recommend taking a tour led by one of the park’s expert guides. They will be able to show you all the best sights and tell you fascinating stories about the history and ecology of Dry Tortugas.

There are also several boat tours available that depart from Key West. These are great if you want to explore the outer reef and see some of the larger animals that call this area home, such as turtles, dolphins, and rays.

Whatever type of tour you choose, exploring Dry Tortugas National Park is an unforgettable experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime!


Exploring Dry Tortugas National Park was an unforgettable experience. We were able to witness some of the most incredible natural wonders and take part in a variety of activities that allowed us to make the most out of our time there. 

From kayaking around the islands, snorkeling with sea turtles, and camping on Garden Key, we enjoyed every moment spent exploring this amazing park. If you ever get the chance to visit Dry Tortugas National Park, don’t hesitate! It’s an adventure you won’t soon forget!

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