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As you probably know by now, I am a big fan of the Florida Keys. I go down to the Florida Keys as often as I can, even if it is just for lunch at Hog Heaven on a sunny afternoon. Over the years, I have spent MANY a weekend in the Keys, most specifically, Key West. While many would argue that Walt Disney World is the happiest place on earth – and I really can’t contradict that too much because I also love Disney! – I would have to say that for me, the Florida Keys is MY happy place. Where else can I drive within 3 short hours and experience a totally different environment? A place where no one rushes, no one cares, and you can waste away the day sipping mojitos, eating Key Lime pie and relaxing in a sun-drenched paradise? Nowhere, folks. Nowhere else that I have ever been has quite the same feel to it as Key West. As soon as I cross the Seven Mile Bridge, I immediately feel relaxed and at peace…and so happy! During a trip to Key West in 2015, I was treated to an experience quite unlike any other during my previous and subsequent visits to my favorite island…I took a Sea Plane to the Dry Tortugas! I thought that I had lost the files from that trip, but I miraculously stumbled upon them while recently cleaning up my One Drive file storage! So, of course…I have to tell you Why You Should Visit the Dry Tortugas in Key West.
Why You Should Visit the Dry Tortugas in Key West
Our amazing day began with an adventure I have wanted to do for a very, very long time! We took a sea plane to the Dry Tortugas! I will begin by saying, let me be up front and say that this was not a cheap trip…I was in Key West for work and the price of transportation was covered by my client. I priced the kind of sea plane we took and it was roughly $350 a person, round trip. You can find more info on taking a sea plane excursion here. There are less costly alternatives, which of course are much more popular. The Yankee Freedom III costs about $180 round trip, which includes a continental breakfast of fresh fruit, freshly baked bagels, doughnuts, cereal, orange juice, and coffee as well as lunch. They also have a full bar, snacks and regular meals to purchase. The nice thing about taking the ferry is that you can go sit in the air conditioned cabin at any point during the day, and have access to those aforementioned food and drinks…if you take a sea plane, you have to take everything with you, and don’t really have any options once you are dropped off.
However…the views you get while flying over the pristine waters between Key West and the Dry Tortugas? IT IS SO WORTH IT.
I was able to take photographs of the Keys like I have only seen in magazines! We even saw school of fish, sting rays and sharks swimming beneath us because the sea plane flies so low.
If you are a nature lover, a history lover, or just looking for a really spectacular place to snorkel that you wouldn’t normally have access to, I highly recommend the Dry Tortugas for a day excursion. You can also find Dry Tortugas day trip excursions through TripAdvisor.com for $178.99!
Once you arrive at Dry Tortugas, you are presented with what seems a very small structure…with a very formidable entrance. Of course, this is Fort Jefferson. If you are familiar with military history, or just South Florida history, then you probably know that Fort Jefferson is It is the largest brick masonry structure in North and South America, and is composed of over 16 million bricks. The building covers 16 acres, which is quite honestly almost the entire island.
Fort Jefferson found its way into American history due to its proximity to Florida, and almost became a light house point. In 1845, the Dry Tortugas became a national military reservation…despite the fact that there was no fresh water and it being 68 miles off the coast of Key West. You can read about the detailed history of Fort Jefferson here, but I think the major point of interest is that at one time during the Civil War, Fort Jefferson was used to house over 800 prisoners of war!
Fort Jefferson has a long history of being built, occupied and put to use, then abandoned…over and over and over again! It’s quite interesting to learn how often the United States tried to make use of this structure until President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the area as Fort Jefferson National Monument in 1935. The entire Dry Tortugas, including Fort Jefferson, was declared a national park in 1990.
As a national park, you are allowed to camp at Fort Jefferson, though I can imagine it would be a little frightening to be stuck out there all on your own without a way to get back to the Keys, should something happen. I didn’t have cell service while I was there, and as it is not an inhabited island, there isn’t a hotel or office you can go to if you need help!
As you can see, it’s very isolated – but breathtakingly beautiful!
Fort Jefferson offers free guided tours of the fort, but you are also able to just wander on your own through the fort and the surrounding grounds. After taking the tour, I strongly encourage you to spend some time on the beach.
While the Florida Keys are not known for having nice beaches – most of them are man made and leave a lot to be desired – the beach is just BEAUTIFUL in the Dry Tortugas, and because you can only reach the island by sea plane or ferry, the beach is never really crowded.
The area is known for its amazing waters and snorkeling – just be sure to bring your own gear, as you won’t find any for rent on the beach!
You can find out more about the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson at FloridaKeys.com.
Why You Should Visit the Dry Tortugas in Key West
If you are considering taking a vacation to the majestic Florida Keys, I hope that you will take a moment to read the blog posts I’ve written about the Keys over the last few years. Whether you are a local to South Florida, or coming in from another area, I promise you won’t be disappointed in our lovely chain of islands! They have everything you could hope for in a tropical vacation; there is fishing, diving, romantic bed and breakfasts, a lively nightlife scene and a fantastic foodie scene down in Key West. The Florida Keys are rich in culture and history, and are not to be missed if you are in the South Florida area!